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Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Cowboys 40, Jaguars 7

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 40-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday …

Oehser …

1.This was bad from the start – and surprisingly, it started with defense. The Jaguars’ loss to Dallas was troubling on many levels. The Jaguars essentially were out of a game by halftime for a second time in as many weeks and the offense struggled again – but most concerning on Sunday was the performance of the NFL’s top-rated defense. The Jaguars entered Sunday knowing the offense was hurting. They also entered knowing a victory was needed following a loss at Kansas City last week. This was a chance for the defense to keep the Jaguars in a game – and possibly win it. Instead, the unit had one of its most difficult days in Doug Marrone’s tenure as head coach and Todd Wash’s tenure as defensive coordinator. The Cowboys, the NFL’s No. 25-ranked offense – and a team averaging 16.6 points a game this season – scored on their first four possessions and scored three first-half touchdowns. The Cowboys had 251 yards and 17 first downs at halftime. The talk afterward was of communication issues more than effort, and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott continued a disturbing trend of mobile quarterbacks really hurting this defense. Whatever the issue Sunday, this is a defense with a long-stated goal of greatness. Sunday was disturbingly far from that.

2.The offense was what was feared. The dominant Jaguars storyline entering Sunday’s game was just how an injured offense would manage to score points. The answer was it didn’t – at least not with the game in doubt. The Jaguars’ offense was down to its third left tackle (Josh Walker) and was without two of its top three running backs, with Leonard Fournette still out with a hamstring injury and Corey Grant out for the season with a foot injury. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is out until at least December with a core muscle injury. The Jaguars in the first half looked like an offense without viable options, producing 64 yards and just three first downs with T.J. Yeldon rushing for 22 yards, quarterback Blake Bortles scrambling for 16 and evading real – and perceived – pressure and the wide receivers managing just 21 yards on three receptions. There was reasonable worry about this offense before the game, but it struggled even more than it was reasonable to expect.

3.So, what now? That question must be asked after a performance such as Sunday’s. The Jaguars are 3-3, meaning they’re tied for first with Tennessee and Houston the AFC South. There will be talk in the locker room Monday about a 24-hour role, and the talk by Wednesday will be of what lies ahead. That’s how it is in the NFL. But this was a disturbing, confidence-shaking loss – and it came in the wake of a similar loss in Kansas City last week. This game was more disturbing than Kansas City because the Chiefs are a very good offense. It made sense that they would score points on the Jaguars’ defense. Few expected the Cowboys to score as often and as easily as they did Sunday – least off all the members of the Jaguars’ defense. This is still a team capable of winning. It’s a defense capable of playing at a high level, and defensive end Calais Cambell on Sunday talked confidently of believing in his guys. Captain Telvin Smith talked with his usual defiant confidence “of steadfastly believing” in his “guys.” Still, Sunday’s game against Houston feels like more than a normal home game now. It feels like a must-win game – and a must-make-a-statement. We’ll see if that happens. But we’re at the point now that it must.

Sexton …

1*.*The Cowboys offensive line dominated the game in the first half as Dallas built an insurmountable 24-0 lead. Left tackle Tyron Smith looked like Hercules in stonewalling Yannick Ngakoue and matching Calais Campbell's strength and power play after play. I can explain the Jaguars struggles on offense, I can't explain how the NFL's No. 1 defense could be so thoroughly beaten by the League's 25th ranked offense other than to say it started up front. Campbell told me in the locker room after the game he couldn't remember this defense ever being beaten so thoroughly. That makes two of us. 

2.The absence of Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant and Austin Seferian-Jenkins has removed the threat of the run, play action and the two back offense that we expected to see this season. They're left trying to run the ball without a power back, a blocking tight end and their first two options at left tackle and it isn't going very well. That leaves Blake Bortles to throw the ball all over the field to a group of receivers that honestly isn't ready to carry a team. It's a bad formula. The return of Fournette better be on the horizon because that at least is something to hope for.

3.Halloween is still more than two weeks away but the Jaguars injury report is going to look downright scary this week with Jalen Ramsey on it. He was noticeably dragging his leg in the second half and with DeAndre Hopkins and a hot Houston team up next in a must win game...well...it would be frightening to have to play without him next Sunday.

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