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Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' 40-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6 and forward to Sunday's game against the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville …

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview: When previewing Jaguars-Cowboys, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to stop Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, establish the threat of the run offensively and get quarterback Blake Bortles reestablished. The problem with those thoughts: they didn't anticipate the Jaguars not handling Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott's mobility, nor did they anticipate the overall struggles of the Jaguars' entire offense. While Elliott rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, he didn't dominate Sunday; it was Prescott's 82 yards rushing and two first-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Cole Beasley that defined Dallas' offense. And while Bortles passed for just 149 yards, the entire offense behind a beat-up, ineffective line produced just 204 total yards on 47 plays. Bortles wasn't great Sunday, but much of the offensive struggles stemmed from the inability to establish a running game that entered the season as a focal point but has struggled in the wake of injuries to running back Leonard Fournette, the offensive line and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. This isn't the offense the Jaguars envisioned, and it showed Sunday in a big way.

2.As I saw it: This was as complete a loss as you can imagine – and one of those rare one-sided games when the score reflects what happened on the field. The Cowboys outgained the Jaguars 378-204 – and it felt as if Dallas dominated more than that. As Head Coach Doug Marrone emphasized Sunday and again Monday, this was not a case of one area not performing. This was a case of a struggling offense combining with a surprisingly weak defensive performance – and being supplemented by a difficult day on special teams. One major concern: the offense appeared so depleted by injuries that there were no options – and little hope once Dallas took a double-digit first-quarter lead; the lack of weapons in the passing game and lack of protection made that lead seem more insurmountable than should be the case in a league that favors offense. The other major issue: A Jaguars defense that is built to be a team strength looked even more uncertain than it did in an uncertain performance the previous week in a loss to Kansas City. The second concern feels bigger than the first, but both are problems.

3.Looking ahead, briefly: Up next for the Jaguars: the Houston Texans. What always was an important AFC South home game has taken on a must-win feel. If the Jaguars win Sunday, they will be assured of at least a share of the division lead heading to London to play the Philadelphia Eagles to close the second quarter. If they lose, they will be out of first place on a three-game losing streak – and it will be hard not to see that as a crushing, season-defining stretch. The positive this week for the Jaguars is this is a winnable game. The Texans have won three consecutive games, but they're not dominating teams and the offense is struggling in the red zone. The issues are that Texans' defense enters the game playing at a high level, and Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is mobile enough to create similar issues to those created by Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott the last two weeks. This is difficult matchup. Then again, all matchups will be difficult if the Jaguars play as they did in Dallas.

Sexton …

1.Reviewing the preview: I was confident the Jaguars would control the Cowboys and the NFL's 25th-ranked defense. Even though we knew the Jaguars would struggle playing without their best offensive player, without an impact tight end and with an injured offensive line without its' top two left tackles, I believed the defense would return to form and set the tempo for the Jaguars. I wasn't worried about the offense because I thought they could score enough points and lean on an overwhelming defensive display. Obviously, the preview was built on my misconception of the matchups and it was way, way, way off base.

2.As I saw it: The Jaguars were whipped up front Sunday. The Cowboys' offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, which gave Prescott and Beasley the time to eat away at the middle of the defense. Prescott threw for 150 of his 180 yards and both touchdowns and Beasley caught six of his nine passes for 79 yards and both touchdowns in the first half and everything was made possible by the Cowboys' domination up front. Additionally, the Dallas game plan was well thought-out, using the Jaguars' aggressiveness against itself as bootlegs, waggles and misdirection got the visitors chasing Elliott one way as Prescott went the other. The game was over in the first half because the Jaguars had no answer for the quarterback and the wide receiver.

3.Looking ahead, briefly: Sunday becomes a must win for the Jaguars when they face the Texans. The good news for them is their defensive line has a chance to regroup against an offensive line that has allowed its quarterback to be hit 66 times in six games this season, the Houston running game isn't very dynamic and Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey loves the challenge of playing against Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The Jaguars' defense SHOULD – I emphasize SHOULD – look more like itself on Sunday. I don't know what to say about the offense other than it would help if Fournette can play and perhaps Ereck Flowers can step in and hold the line at left tackle against the Texans' incredible pass rush. We shall see…

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