JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' loss to the Arizona Cardinals and forward to Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts
1.Reviewing the preview.When previewing Jaguars-Cardinals, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to make plays downfield, pressure Blaine Gabbert and get ahead early. The Jaguars didn't do the first or third, and they didn't do the second enough. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles on Sunday didn't complete a pass more than 10 yards downfield, with at least two catchable deep passes – to running back T.J. Yeldon and to wide receiver Keelan Cole – dropped. While the Jaguars pressured Gabbert and forced a fourth-quarter sack/fumble that became a touchdown, the former Jaguars quarterback hurt the defense with his mobility and several big second-half throws. The Jaguars rallied from a 13-point deficit for a 17-16 fourth-quarter lead, but never could get the edge to allow the defense to play in a frenzy. When the Jaguars can't get there, games are dicey – and Sunday's dicey-ness resulted in a loss.
2.As I saw it. The Cardinals loss hurt not because the Cardinals weren't capable, but because the Jaguars lost a game they could have won. The loss had a similar feel to a Week 4 overtime loss to the Jets in that the Jaguars' defense keyed a second-half rally that fell short in a game that felt like it could go either way. The biggest takeaway from Sunday was that a trend that has grown more obvious by the week became even more prominent: the Jaguars' running game is stagnating and the passing offense isn't productive right now to get defenses out of the box. Something needs to happen to change that – and so far, the Jaguars haven't found a way to get that done.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. Up next for the Jaguars: the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars beat the Colts in Indianapolis in October, and this matchup still favors the Jaguars because their defensive line should be able to pressure Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett. But while the Colts are struggling, they have remained competitive and had a very real chance to beat Tennessee this past week – and the way the Jaguars are playing offensively, no game is guaranteed. The Jaguars have several winnable games down the stretch, and those games should help catapult them into the playoffs. But for that to happen, they need to win the "very winnables." Sunday's game falls into that category, and that makes it a huge matchup at the 'Bank.
1.Reviewing the Preview. Last week I wrote "The question is whether or not Bortles can move the Cardinals off the line of scrimmage with his arm so that Fournette can find running room behind an offensive line that might still be in recovery mode." He could not, but it wasn't entirely his fault. That offensive line did a poor job protecting him, which gave him precious little time to find a receiver down the field. A note to those who think Bortles is the problem: he isn't – or at least he isn't alone. Do you realize that on the occasions on which he had time to throw he was looking at Dede Westbrook, who was playing in his second NFL game; undrafted rookie Keelan Cole, who lest we forget played for Kentucky Wesleyan last season; and undrafted Jaydon Mickens, who spent last season on the Raiders' practice squad and is primarily a punt return man? Opponents will take Marqise Lee away and take their chances with that crew. The offensive line better play better – and we must understand that his receiver corps is a shell of what it was supposed to be this season.
2.As I saw it. The Jaguars missed an opportunity Sunday to stay with the Patriots and Steelers atop the AFC, but do they really belong there? Both of those teams have elite quarterbacks, the kind who can put a team on his back when the sledding gets tough. We knew – and still know – that the Jaguars are an incomplete team with a specific formula for winning and a small margin for error when they go off script. They're still 7-4 and in first place in the AFC South; they still see the Colts, Texans and 49ers in the next five weeks, which means they're still in great shape to win 10-plus games and make the playoffs. Who wouldn't have signed that deal if I had offered it up in August? Exactly – no one would have. So, take a deep breath. December is going to be crazy – and in the NFL, crazy is fun.
3.Looking ahead, briefly.I watched Sunday's Colts/Titans game in the press box before the game in Arizona and saw nothing that changed my opinion of Indianapolis. This should be a game in which the Jaguars can run the football, pressure the quarterback, create turnovers and win. But the Colts are going to sell out to stop the run which means Lee, Westbrook and Cole have to make catches instead of drops. If they do, the Jags should stay in a first-place tie with the Titans atop the AFC South.