JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley got to the point quickly.
"It was a game of missed opportunities," Bradley said Sunday afternoon moments after the Jaguars' three-game winning streak ended with a 27-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills at EverBank Field.
That was the first thing Bradley said to the media following a game in which the Jaguars rallied, scraped and clawed throughout the second half, and the first-year head coach pretty much stayed on topic throughout.
The Jaguars (4-10) despite playing without four injured starters – running back Maurice Jones-Drew, wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, safety Johnathan Cyprien and left guard Will Rackley – had chances to win a fourth consecutive game and a fifth in six games since a Week Nine bye week.
They just couldn't quite capitalize.
"We had some opportunities in the game to capture and we didn't play like we were capable of playing – whether it was a fumble, interception, things like that that took place," Bradley said.
The Jaguars, after taking 10-3 lead, trailed 20-10 at halftime after allowing the Bills 140 first-half rushing yards. The Bills (5-9) finished with 198 yards rushing as a team, with Fred Jackson rushing for 80 yards on 17 carries and C.J. Spiller rushing for 67 yards on 13 carries.
The Jaguars hadn't allowed a team to rush for more than 100 yards since the bye.
The Jaguars rallied in the second half, tying it 20-20 when tight end Marcedes Lewis caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Chad Henne with 13:50 remaining.
Jordan Todman rushed for 73 of his game-high 109 yards in the second half, but two red-zone turnovers cost the Jaguars significantly.
First, rookie running back Denard Robinson fumbled on the Bills 1-yard line after a 24-yard run. The ball went through the back of the end zone for a touchback that gave the Bills a first down at their 20-yard line.
The second came with 3:15 remaining, when Henne passed to wide receiver Mike Brown in the corner of the end zone. Brown was running a corner route on the play. Henne said later he saw Brown held on the play and Brown said he also believed he was held.
No penalty was called and cornerback Stephen Gilmore settled under the soft pass for an easy interception.
The Jaguars regained possession shortly after the two-minute warning, but three plays netted a loss of five yards, and Henne's final pass of the game was incomplete to Brown with :53 remaining.
Bradley said while the Bills controlled the second quarter, scoring the final 17 points before the half, the Jaguars responded well in the third and fourth quarter. Bradley said he felt after tackling too high in the first half, the Jaguars improved in that area in the second half.
"The challenge in the second half was to come out and compete like we were capable of competing," Bradley said. "We posed that challenge to our guys. The effort was good, but that competitive spirit that we're used to being around just felt like it wasn't quite the level we need it. The second half I did feel it. We had some guys step up."
Bradley also emphasized afterward that there were missed opportunities on defense as well as offense.
"That's what we have to clean up," he said. "We went back to seeing more of those things occur than maybe what's taken place before."
HIGH AND TIGHT
A season-long issue hurt the Jaguars on Sunday.
Robinson, a rookie fifth-round selection from Michigan, has struggled with ball security issues at times this season. His third fumble of the season cost the Jaguars a chance to pull to within three points on their first drive of the second half.
On first-and-10 from the Bills 25-yard line, Robinson cut through the middle of the Bills' defense for a 24-yard gain. As he neared the end zone, he reached the ball toward the goal line, where he was hit by cornerback Aaron Williams.
The ball bounced through the back of the end zone for a touchback.
"That was really our effort in OTAs and training camp," Bradley said. "It was one of those things we challenged him with, was the ball high and tight. When you get that close to the end zone that's a natural reaction, to try to reach out and score. We don't do that. We keep it high and tight throughout.
"I challenged him on it when he came off the field. I said, 'Hey, don't miss this opportunity now. Look what you did as far as trying to extend the ball.' It's all about the ball. He'll learn from it."
Mike Brewster sustained a fractured left ankle, and with Rackley already out with concussion symptoms, McClendon played throughout the second half.
Linebacker Geno Hayes sustained a knee injury in the first quarter and returned. He left later and returned again.
The Jaguars also were without Jones-Drew and wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. Shorts missed with a groin injury and Jones-Drew missed with a hamstring injury, while Rackley missed concussion symptoms and safety Johnathan Cyprien missed with a thigh injury.
1.Todman: "I was happy for the opportunity. You learn a lot through repetition and playing with that workload, you learn more about what you need to do and what you have to do to be ready. Any opportunity they give me, I'm blessed to have it."
2.Todman: "The more you do it, you feel comfortable. In the second quarter, you've kind of got a flow. You're more confident in the second half."
3.Todman: "It's football. Stats are there, but they're not that important."
4.Henne: "There were too many opportunities. We're down in the red zone and had a fumble and an interception at the end there. We hurt ourselves."
1.Guard Jacques McClendon played his first snaps for the Jaguars, replacing Mike Brewster, who sustained a fractured left ankle playing in place of Will Rackley. McClendon committed two false-start penalties, but Bradley said overall he played well.
2.The Jaguars as a team rushed for 159 yards on 25 carries. It was the fourth consecutive game with more than 100 yards rushing for the Jaguars after not reaching that mark in the first 10 games of the season.
3.Rookie wide receiver Ace Sanders' 12-yard touchdown reception in the first half was his first NFL touchdown. "It felt good getting in the end zone. All of the thanks goes to the O-line there. They really just escorted me to the end zone. It felt great."
4.Tight end Marcedes Lewis' fourth-quarter touchdown reception was his third consecutive game with a touchdown.
5.The Jaguars faced first-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter and ran a toss play to Todman on first down. The play lost four yards and Henne's interception came two plays later. Bradley said the absence of Jones-Drew caused the Jaguars to believe testing the outside was their best option in short-yardage Sunday. "We didn't have a MoJo-type back in there at the one-yard line," Bradley said. "We'll look at it and evaluate it."
WHAT'S NEXT:The Jaguars will play host to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, December 22 at 1 p.m.