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Quick thoughts: Packers 24, Jaguars 20

Quick thoughts: Packers 24, Jaguars 20

Oehser …

1. This was an impressive effort.Head Coach Doug Marrone has avoided praising much about the Jaguars lately, and he was in no mood to discuss moral victories – or improvement – after Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. But Marrone has praised the Jaguars' effort throughout the season – and effort was particularly strong Sunday. Most observers expected the Jaguars to lose by a wide margin Sunday. But this game was anything but a blowout – and the young Jaguars' effort, enthusiasm and desire was a major reason. "We just came to play today," Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson said. "We had a lot of energy and a lot of effort. Guys just came out there ready to roll. We didn't want the [cold, windy] weather to be an excuse for us. We were just jacked up, pumped. It was my first time at Lambeau Field. We were ready to go, trying to get a win." The result was the Jaguars' best performance since the season's first two weeks and was the Jaguars' most physical effort of the season. They lost Sunday because the Packers have quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a better roster. They didn't lose because the Packers "let down." And they sure didn't lose because of a lack of effort. 

2. This as an impressive defensive game.The defensive statistics weren't great; the Packers finished with 395 yards overall – the eighth time in nine games this season the Jaguars have allowed more than 350 yards. But for a second consecutive week this defensive effort not only felt better than the statistics, it felt good enough to win. The Jaguars forced the Packers into three and outs on two of their first three possessions and held one of the NFL's best offenses scoreless in the first quarter and third quarters. Nearly a quarter of the Packers' total yards came on one play – a 78-yard touchdown pass from Rodgers to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on the first play of the second quarter. The defense also forced two huge third-quarter turnovers – a forced fumble by cornerback CJ Henderson and an interception by cornerback Sidney Jones IV – that led to 10 second-half points and a Jaguars lead and limited Green Bay to one second-half touchdown. The Jaguars' defense has been criticized – fairly in most cases – often this season. Criticism of the unit Sunday should be kept to a minimum.

3. Luton wasn't great Sunday, but he wasn't bad.Score this one an incomplete for Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton – and considering the conditions at Lambeau Sunday, Luton played OK during his second NFL start. "I thought overall he did well," Head Coach Doug Marrone said of Luton, who completed 18 of 35 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown with an interception. Marrone was right. While Luton's statistics weren't as impressive as his 304-yard, one-touchdown debut the week before, he was playing against a better defense than the Houston Texans last week – and he was playing in difficult, blustery conditions. Rodgers played far better, but he has a career's worth of experience playing windy games in Lambeau. "I'm still learning," Luton said. "You always have to be on your toes and be locked in every play. You can't get lazy with your eyes. You can't get lazy with your feet. You have to be ready at all times." Luton's lone giveaway Sunday came when tight end Tyler Eifert slipped to set up an easy interception and his game-tying third-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Keelan Cole had big-time velocity. Was he great Sunday? No. But he played more-than-well enough to stay in the starting lineup in the coming weeks.

Sexton…

1. These guys came to play. Credit Marrone and his staff for getting the most from this team against the odds Sunday. The two-touchdown underdogs played inspired on both sides of the football, setting the tone with the running game and a run defense that bottled up Packers running back Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones all afternoon. It isn't easy to play at home in 80-degree weather when you've lost seven in a row – let alone play in the cold and windy conditions in Green Bay – but the Jaguars weren't intimidated by the weather or Rodgers and the 6-2 Packers. Marrone and his staff not only ignored the "no-chance" noise all week but managed to keep the team focused as well. I think the best way to present the way the Jaguars played on Sunday was the way Marrone fought for a pass interference call midway through the fourth quarter. His team fought the Packers equally well. 

2. This Jaguars defense isn't great, but they're making enough plays to win.Interceptions, forced fumbles, big tackles on third down and one late in the fourth quarter … yeah, actually that's pretty good. The defense is still too leaky in coverage and doesn't get nearly enough pressure on the quarterback, and some young guys took bad angles to the running back allowing yards they shouldn't have gotten, but for a second consecutive week they gave the quarterback back the football with a chance to win the game. "They put us in a position to win and we just didn't execute," Luton said in the postgame locker room. Credit Henderson and Jones for takeaways and rookie nose tackle DaVon Hamilton with the key stop on third and one to set up the final drive. Defensive end Josh Allen put some pressure on and forced a holding penalty or two and linebacker Myles Jack was all over the field yet again. This unit needs more pieces and needs the pieces it has to play better. But the unit is at least giving the Jags a chance. 

3. The offensive line was really good – until it mattered the most. I was impressed with the way the Jaguars' offensive line held the pocket for Luton, who was sacked just once until the final 90 seconds of the game. Then, he was sacked twice to kill any chance for the Jaguars to pull off the upset. "I thought they played really well until that final drive," Marrone offered after the game. "We gave up too much pressure and so we couldn't get it done." Rookie running back James Robinson had another big day, running for 109 yards; there were bigger holes that could have been even more, but he missed them. This offensive line has played remarkably well this season, especially the last two weeks with the rookie quarterback behind them. But on Sunday, with the game on the line, it collapsed; more alarming, it was the young tackles that got pushed backwards. The Jaguars are counting on left tackle Cam Robinson and right tackle Jawaan Taylor holding the line when the game is on it. On Sunday, they didn't.

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