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Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Texans 20, Jaguars 7

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 20-7 loss to the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field in downtown Jacksonville Sunday …

Oehser …

1.The No. 1 story. We’ll begin at quarterback; the Jaguars changed quarterbacks Sunday – and when that happens, there’s nowhere else to begin. What we know is Head Coach Doug Marrone pulled starting quarterback Blake Bortles 4:10 into the third quarter after Bortles’ second lost fumble. We know Bortles had struggled three consecutive games. We know backup quarterback Cody Kessler was OK Sunday and led one touchdown drive, and we know he wasn’t great aside from that. We know the Jaguars’ offense needs something, and we know Marrone said that was why he pulled Bortles. What we don’t know is whether this is the end of Bortles as the Jaguars’ starting quarterback; Marrone on Sunday called the position open – and said that was true everywhere on an offense playing so poorly. Marrone when speaking to the media focused more on the team’s turnover issues, and said benching Bortles wasn’t fair considering how the entire offense was playing. That makes it possible Bortles could start against Philadelphia Sunday. Bortles last season had one of the more remarkable comeback stories in recent NFL memory, quarterbacking the Jaguars in the AFC Championship game after briefly losing his starting position in the preseason. Recovering from Sunday would dwarf that story.

2.Turnovers, mistakes and more. Sunday for the Jaguars was a case of early frustration that never got better, with an offense that entered the game severely diminished by injuries repeatedly making things worse early with preventable mistakes. Bortles began with a first-drive lost fumble that led to a field goal by Texans kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn. The first of two first-quarter drops by wide receiver Keelan Cole cost the Jaguars a first down near the Titans 30 on the next possession, and Houston drove immediately for another field goal. The Jaguars converted just one of their first five third downs, with wide receiver D.J. Chark running a third-down route a yard short of a first down early in the second quarter. Rookie punter Logan Cooke followed with a 26-yard punt that set up a 60-yard Houston drive ended with an easy touchdown run by running back Lamar Miller and a 13-0 lead. The Jaguars committed two more turnovers – another first-drive fumble by Bortles and an interception from Kessler that went through the hands of running back T.J. Yeldon. “We can't do [expletive] until we stop turning the ball over,” Marrone said. “Period. That's just how it is.”

3.The Jaguars are frustrated, and that frustration went beyond Marrone and into the Jaguars’ post-game locker room. Several media members reported shouting between players at the beginning of the post-game “open-locker-room” period – and Jaguars players during their post-game comments spoke of keeping what happens in the locker room in the locker room. Considering Sunday was a third consecutive loss for a team that started the season 3-1 and entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, frustration is understandable and expected. How to keep that from consuming and further damaging the season is a question that will be asked often this week. “Frustration is a part of the game,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “We’re emotional people and this is an emotional game. At the same time, I think that these guys have a different kind of heart. Losing sucks. You want to stack wins. We’re stacking losses. That’s not who we are and not who we want to be. I do believe we will get it fixed. We have no choice but to get it fixed and it starts with just taking it one day at a time. Nobody should be happy losing. If you’re not upset, you can’t love this game.”

Sexton…

1.Why not? The Jaguars have now been outscored 57-0 in the first half of three consecutive losses. It was a combination of things on Sunday against Houston, but without many options Marrone pulled Bortles in the third quarter in favor of Kessler. The move made sense; Bortles’ two fumbles in Jacksonville territory led to 10 Texans points. But it wasn’t all on the quarterback, who got little help from an offensive line that missed blocks or couldn’t handle Houston pass rushers J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. Jaguars receivers also flat-out dropped passes that should have been caught. Putting Kessler in down 20-0 was the smart move considering there was no reason to expect the Jaguars to score 21 points Sunday. Kessler gave the Jags a spark leading to a touchdown and was driving them late in the fourth quarter, but whether he continues as the starter remains to be seen. With an offense as unproductive as this one is right now, he probably should.

2.Simple doesn’t equal success. Marrone and defensive coordinator Todd Wash this week talked at length about making things simpler for the defense. It didn’t appear to help as the Texans used max protection and schemed things up to keep the Jags at bay. Most troubling was the inability of the front to control the line of scrimmage. Houston’s offensive line isn’t very good, quarterback Deshaun Watson has been hit more than any other quarterback in the NFL, and the Texans were playing without Zach Fulton – who is perhaps their best offensive lineman. If the Jaguars couldn’t get pressure and create turnovers against that line, how can we expect them to be able to do it against the Eagles in London? The Jaguars needed to create turnovers like the Texans did to help their struggling offense; instead, they have gone 10 quarters without forcing a single turnover and are last in the NFL with only five takeaways – this after getting 33 last season. The Jaguars’ defense isn’t what we thought they were – and we thought they were dominant.

3.They blew it. The Jags knew they were playing for first place after the Titans’ two-point conversion failed in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in London Sunday. The last few weeks have been difficult, but it would have been easier to look in the windshield in first place in the AFC South instead of the rearview mirror heading to London in third place, where they find themselves now.

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