The Jaguars fell behind early. It never got better.
After winning their first two preseason games in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion, the Jaguars fell behind by 10 points at halftime before losing to the Baltimore Ravens, 48-17, in front of an announced 60,502 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Thursday night.
"That was a tough way to lose, to play that way," Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey said. "It may be exactly what we needed. Hopefully, they don't like it and respond to it."
Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert completed 11 of 21 passes for 117 yards and was sacked once, while rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon was impressive for a second consecutive week, catching four passes for 72 yards.
The Ravens had five touchdown drives of 80 or more yards, and outgained the Jaguars 571-258 for the game. The Ravens also had 32 first downs to 16 for Jacksonville.
With the Jaguars' defensive starters playing into the second quarter and most of the offensive starters playing into the fourth, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco completed 27 of 36 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
Wide receiver Torrey Smith caught eight passes for 103 yards, and while he didn't score, his speed and big plays set up Ravens scoring opportunities throughout.
Jaguars running back Rashad Jennings rushed for 57 yards on 13 carries, the third consecutive game the fourth-year veteran has played well with running back Maurice Jones-Drew holding out.
"This is not a taste we want in our mouth," Jennings said. "We know what kind of unit we have. That's what we're talking about now, how we're going to respond."
PLAY OF THE GAME
For the Jaguars, there weren't many highlights aside from the play of Blackmon and Jennings, and there certainly were few defensively. But early on, the play of the game for the Jaguars may have come with the Ravens on offense. With Baltimore facing 3rd-and-7 at the Jaguars 7, the secondary got strong coverage and forced Flacco to hold the ball. Jaguars defensive tackle Terrance Knighton took advantage of the opportunity, reaching Flacco and twirling him to the ground for a sack. It was the first sack for Knighton since undergoing offseason eye surgery, and it forced a Ravens field goal.
The Jaguars allowed the Ravens some big yards early, but forced a punt on the first drive and stopped another drive that reached the red zone. Knighton had a big play with a sack. That forced a Ravens field goal, which was the only scoring of the period. Blackmon had three catches for 45 yards in the period, but the Jaguars were 1 of 4 on third down.
The Ravens took a 10-0 lead with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to veteran Anquan Boldin with 12:24 remaining in the second quarter. At that point, the Ravens had 179 yards to 63 for the Jaguars. The Ravens extended the lead to 13-0 before a late Jaguars drive ended with a 25-yard field goal by kicker Josh Scobee. That made it 13-3 at halftime.
If the first two quarters were about the Jaguars hanging on, the third was about the Ravens pulling away. Flacco made it 20-3 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Vontae Leach with 9:12 remaining, then Tyrod Taylor passed eight yards to LaQuan Williams for a 27-7 lead with 3:55 remaining in the quarter.
The Ravens continued scoring in the fourth quarter, with Bobby Rainey's 48-yard pass from Taylor pushing the lead to 41-10. Antonio Dennard had cut the Ravens lead to 34-10 with a 45-yard interception return with 10:31 remaining and Richard Murphy's 13-yard run cut the lead to 41-17, but the Jaguars never cut the lead to less than 17 after the first touchdown drive of the third quarter.
"The one thing we did early is we kept putting ourselves in long yardage situations, negative plays on first down whether they were losses or penalties. It's hard to overcome against a good football team."
"You have to learn from it. You don't want to have this feeling."
STAT OF THE GAME
Flacco completed 27 of 36 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The Jaguars sacked Flacco twice, but overall, he had too much time to pass and took advantage of it with a lot of open receivers on crossing routes. The Ravens were 10 of 16 on third downs.
OFFENSIVELY . . .
The Jaguars seemed close a lot, especially during the first half, but struggled to stay on the field and converted just 5 of 13 third downs for the game. Mularkey afterward said Gabbert made a lot of good throws, but also said he would like to see the second-year quarterback let the plays come to him a bit more in the red zone. Blackmon continued to show signs of being an elite receiver, and Mularkey said the rest of the receivers need to do what he's doing – i.e., make the catches in tough situations when the ball is thrown to them. The Jaguars also ran well for a third consecutive preseason game.
DEFENSIVELY . . .
The Ravens played an up-tempo offense in the first half, and with Flacco having a lot of time to throw on most plays, the Ravens dominated statistically. The five touchdown drives of 80 or more yards is obviously a concern, and linebacker Paul Posluszny said afterward the unit clearly didn't play to its expectations. Taylor finished 7-of-9 passing for 139 yards, and even third-team quarterback Curtis Painter completed 3 of 3 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars were without starting cornerback Derek Cox and linebacker Daryl Smith, but as Posluszny said, this is a game that will force the unit to focus on its flaws and try to improve based on what they see.
The game pretty much turned early, with the Ravens taking control with a solid performance by their offensive line and from Flacco. The Ravens led 3-0 after the first quarter, and after a 5-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Boldin, Baltimore never trailed by less than 10.
The score is going to produce a lot of panic and a lot of criticism. That's fine, and that's the nature of the beast. But remember, this is the preseason and this is a young team that's going to have hiccups. We could hammer the pass rush and the secondary, and it's obvious the defensive line has to get more pressure with its front. The Jaguars didn't blitz much, and I suspect that's because you don't want to show much of that in the preseason, even in the third preseason game. If you want to find a positive aside from the continued quality play from Blackmon, look at the performance of Gabbert. It didn't match the first two weeks, certainly, but he didn't show nerves in the pocket and didn't seem to lose his mechanics. Mularkey said overall he made a lot of good throws, and played well except for needing to be patient in the red zone. For Gabbert, this was more a step sideways than backward, and that's a positive on a night when not a lot of those jumped out.
Jaguars tight end Zach Miller sustained a lower leg injury in the second quarter and did not return. Defensive end Aaron Morgan sustained an ankle injury in the second quarter and also did not return. Defensive end George Selvie sustained a knee injury in the second half and did not return. Tight end Matt Veldman sustained a knee injury in the fourth quarter that initially appeared serious.
*Offensive tackle Eugene Monroe remained out for a second consecutive game. He sustained a hit to the head eight days ago, and is in the team's concussion program. He will be tested again Friday, Mularkey said this week.
*Miller and cornerback Rashean Mathis each played for the Jaguars for the first time Thursday. Mathis had been out rehabilitating after knee surgery last December, and Miller had been out with a pectoral injury.
*Also out for the Jaguars Thursday: fullback Brock Bolen (knee), guard Will Rackley (ankle), linebacker Daryl Smith (groin), guard Drew Nowak (foot), cornerback Derek Cox (hamstring), defensive end Austen Lane (foot), cornerback Ashton Youboty (knee), cornerback Leigh Torrence (concussion program), defensive tackle Odrick Ray and guard Jason Spitz (foot).
*With Monroe out, right tackle Cameron Bradfield moved to left tackle and Guy Whimper started at right tackle. Will Middleton started in place of Cox at cornerback and Kyle Bosworth started in place of Smith at outside linebacker.
The Jaguars have Friday off and will return to practice at the Florida Blue Health and Wellness Practice Fields Saturday. They play the Atlanta Falcons in Jacksonville Thursday.
No one's going to say that was pretty. Keep it in perspective. It's the preseason and this wasn't out of hand in the first half. Still, the Ravens had five drives of more than 80 yards, and it's impossible to paint that positively. The Jaguars had momentum after two preseason games. This game doesn't make it a horrible preseason. Not by a long shot. But in the third preseason game, this wasn't the performance they wanted. As Mularkey and players said, the long-term effect of this game will be how the Jaguars respond. Time will tell.