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Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth

BackandForth

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars’ 24-18 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday and forward to the team’s Week 8 bye week this week

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview: When previewing Eagles-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to get ahead early, contain the Eagles’ run-pass-option offense and find a way to run – somehow. The Jaguars took early leads of 3-0 and 6-3, but the defense allowed three touchdowns – including touchdown drives of 95 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter. And while the defense played well enough to register four sacks and its first two takeaways since a Week 5 loss to the Chiefs, the most glaring statistic of the game again was either the Jaguars’ inability to run or the inability to try. Jaguars running backs carried just eight times for 18 yards, including six carries for 11 yards for newly-acquired running back Carlos Hyde. The Jaguars also threw on their final 31 offensive plays. The team’s 246 second half yards and three trips into the red zone suggests the approach was successful more often than not. Still, if the Jaguars are to end their four-game losing streak they likely must find a way to be more of the running team they envisioned entering the season.

2.As I saw it: This was a noble effort for the Jaguars Sunday, albeit an unsuccessful one – and you do wonder if we will remember this loss as the one that essentially ended the Jaguars’ playoff chances. When the Eagles took a 17-6 lead in the third quarter, the game had all the signs of ending in one-sided fashion in favor of Philadelphia. But the Jaguars’ offense turned in an impressive 75-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to wide receiver Dede Westbrook. After the Jaguars pulled to within six, 24-18, it appeared that defensive tackle Malik Jackson had forced and recovered a potential game-turning fumble. The play was reversed, and the Jaguars’ final drive ended when Bortles threw three consecutive passes after facing second-and-2 at the Jaguars 48. Considering the injuries all over the offense and in the secondary, it was an impressive show of guts in the second half. But it was still a loss – and one from which it will be tough for this team to recover.

3.Looking ahead, briefly. Up next for the Jaguars: a midseason bye week – and to hear Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone and several players tell it, it’s a perfectly-placed week off. Marrone talked extensively in the wake of the Eagles loss about taking a hard look at pretty much everything. Injuries and an accompanying struggling running game have cost this team its offensive identity, and repeated offensive mistakes have contributed to the current four-game losing streak. The defense has played well for the most part, but the unit allowed three touchdown drives Sunday; that helped prevent the Jaguars from having a chance at a second-half comeback. It’s hard to find hope for the second half of the season. Can the eventual return of running back Leonard Fournette help that much? Will he even return in time to find out? Stay tuned.

Sexton…

1.Reviewing the Preview: I thought the Jaguars had to find some way to get their defense started in London, which meant sacks and turnovers. Any chance of winning revolved around playing great defense and giving an offense that was stuck in neutral the chance at a short field. The Jaguars got after quarterback Carson Wentz, created takeaways and generally played good defense. The only trouble is they couldn’t hold up after Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole’s second-quarter lost fumble or after the punt team pinned the Eagles inside their five-yard line in the third quarter. The Jaguars played much better on defense, which is reason to believe they’ll have life in the second half of the season. But if they’re going to save their season, they must close the door on teams. They couldn’t do that at Wembley.

2.As I saw it: Bortles took a lot of heat last week and he delivered in London. The throw to Cole, that Cole inexplicably fumbled, was big-time throw with a chance to build on a narrow lead. The play was the game’s turning point and was 100 percent on a receiver who during the current four-game losing streak has devolved into a guy who looks like he played at Kentucky Wesleyan. Bortles also answered the Eagles’ third-quarter momentum with a pair of drives that came up short and ended up as field-goal attempts. To be fair, he was throwing to tight David Grinnage, running back Carlos Hyde and wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. – none of whom were part of the plan when the preseason ended. Bortles also had converted backup guard Josh Walker playing left tackle and trying to hold up against the Eagles’ pass rush. Bortles did more with less in London. If the Jaguars can find a way to run the ball in the second half of the season, they might get something going.

3.A look ahead, briefly: The running game is the fulcrum on which this season will swing. I don’t want to put too much on Fournette, whose hamstring has been in bubble wrap for all but a few moments this season, but if he can carry the ball 15 times a game and rotate with Hyde and TJ Yeldon it might open the play-action for which Bortles is well suited. When Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nate Hackett call 31 consecutive passes with the game still in the balance, something is terribly wrong. The running game is the foundation of everything the Jaguars have built on both sides of the ball over the last 24 regular-season games. If it reappears, they have a chance. If it doesn’t, get ready for more frustration and a return to the top of the NFL Draft.

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