JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' 24-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 12 and forward to Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville
1.Reviewing the preview. When previewing Jaguars-Bills, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to run effectively, make Bills quarterback Josh Allen play like a rookie and get something – anything – from their passing offense. The Jaguars turned in their best running performance of the season, which allowed them to rally from a two-touchdown, first-half deficit – and the performance of running back Leonard Fournette bodes well for this offense's future. But the Jaguars failed to force Allen into mistakes, and the passing offense struggled for a second consecutive week. Allen not only passed for a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter, he did not commit a turnover and his 14-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Bills a 21-14 lead they never relinquished. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw two interceptions, and the inability of the passing offense to generate a threat of downfield production hamstrung the entire offense after halftime.
2.As I saw it. The Jaguars for a third time in as many weeks lost a game they could have – even should have – won. Yes, the ineffectiveness of Bortles and the passing offense hurt immeasurably – and that ineffectiveness forced a change at both offensive coordinator and quarterback this week. But even with the struggles in the passing game, the reality is the Jaguars likely would have won Sunday had Fournette not left the sidelines and been ejected with Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson for fighting. Fournette was having his best game of the season and was playing like the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft with a 5.3-yards-per-carry average and two first-half rushing touchdowns. The Jaguars faced first-and-goal at the 1 with the game 14-14 when he was ejected. Considering how Fournette was playing, it's hard to imagine he wouldn't have scored to put the Jaguars ahead by a touchdown. Instead, penalties and sacks forced the Jaguars backward and kicker Josh Lambo missed a 42-yard field goal. That didn't technically end the Jaguars' chances, but momentum was gone. And so were the realistic hopes of a victory.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. Up next for the Jaguars: the Indianapolis Colts. What a difference two months make. Remember? The end of September? The Jaguars were 3-1 leading the AFC South and the Colts were a struggling toward a 1-5 start. The Jaguars now have lost seven consecutive games; the Colts have won five consecutive games and look like a serious wild-card possibility with a bright future. The positive for the Jaguars is they absolutely can play with the Colts. If not for a few mental lapses defensively, the Jaguars could have – and probably should have – won in Indianapolis early this month in what instead was a 29-26 Colts victory. The negative for the Jaguars is that the Colts are a confident team with the motivation of a potential playoff push. The Colts also are a team with a quarterback – Andrew Luck – who not only has returned from a career-stalling shoulder injury, but who is playing near a Most Valuable Player level. The Jaguars have potential to play the spoiler Sunday. But they'll have to do play to their potential to do it, which is something they haven't done in far too long.
1.Reviewing the preview: Sunday's game was as straightforward as it could get: The Jaguars had to run the football, make Allen play like a rookie and get something from their often-ineffective passing attack. The Jaguars ran for 173 first-half yards, after which the Bills clogged the running lanes in the second half and held them to 53 yards rushing. That's where the passing attack was supposed to step in, but it didn't. Bortles in recent games has played as poorly as he has since 2016, with the passing game contributing only 107 yards Sunday and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett getting fired Monday morning. Allen reminded no one of former Bills great Jim Kelly, but the Bills rookie looked good in the pocket and weathered the rush; he completed a 75-yard touchdown pass and ran for 99 yards with a touchdown. The Jaguars' defense looked nothing like the team that dominated Allen's fellow rookie, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, in September; for that matter, it looked nothing like the defense that shut down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for three quarters last week. Guess I nailed it, huh? The problem is I thought they could do all three.
2.As I saw it: The Jaguars battled back from a 14-0 hole and were on the verge of taking the lead and the momentum in the third quarter – until Fournette went rogue. That sequence with the fight, ejection, missed field goal and ensuing Bills touchdown robbed the Jaguars' sideline of oxygen; most players were shell-shocked. I would quietly ask equipment man Jimmy Luck to take the captain's "C" from Fournette's uniform this week; his selfishness cost the Jaguars the chance to win. He is clearly their best offensive player and will someday be worthy of being an offensive captain; right now, the message must be sent that the best interests of the team must be first. That wasn't the case Sunday.
3.Looking ahead, briefly: The Jaguars' next five opponents are all playing for something. The Jaguars are playing for pride – and they're doing it without three starters on the offensive line, without their starting tight end, without the scatback around which they built an entire package – and without their offensive coordinator. They must be able to lean on the defense Sunday against a Colts team that scored 29 points in the first half of the team's recent meeting before being shut out in the second. The Jaguars are playing for pride. It would be big if they could derail the 6-5 Colts at TIAA Bank Field.