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Sexton-Oehser quick thoughts: Vikings 25, Jaguars 16

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JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 25-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at EverBank Field Sunday …

Oehser …

  1. This loss was about missed opportunity – and at this point, that can't be a surprise. The Jaguars on Sunday for a sixth time in as many weeks had a real opportunity to win. They led 16-12 as the fourth quarter began, but a defense that hadn't allowed a touchdown in the first three quarters then allowed touchdown drives of 62 and 54 yards. Just as troublesome was an offense that twice failed to score on fourth-quarter drives that began with the Jaguars trailing by two points. That sort of squandered opportunity has been a recurring storyline for the last month as the season has gone from a disappointing 2-7 to a disastrous 2-11. NFL games are often decided in the final half of the fourth quarter; the Jaguars have failed during that time in recent weeks.
  1. Special teams, special teams, special teams … at this point, there's little to say about this unit. The Jaguars' special teams have had at least one hurtful, memorable play in each of the past eight games – that's all eight games of the current losing streak. The Jaguars on Sunday allowed Cordarrele Patterson a 53-yard kickoff return that set up a first-half field goal for the Vikings. The Jaguars had allowed a long punt return that either resulted in or set up a score for five consecutive games before that – and they had a three-game streak of losing a fumble on a punt return during the first three games of the losing streak. The special teams also on Sunday: had a 41-yard missed field goal by Carson Tinker, had a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on tight end Alex Ellis, allowed a partially blocked punt and had a 61-yard field goal by Myers blocked with :22 remaining. Special teams are not the only reason the Jaguars lost Sunday, but you can't have performances like these and win close games.
  1. Marqise Lee continues to be the best story on the Jaguars' offense – and he continues to be the Jaguars' best offensive player as well. This has been a developing storyline much of the last two months, with Lee turning in big offensive plays on nearly a weekly basis. Lee, who missed most of his first two NFL offseasons with hamstring and knee injuries, entered this past offseason with the goal of staying healthy – figuring health would allow his natural talent to shine. That's just what has happened. Lee on Sunday made two spectacular catches, including one up the right sideline for 34 yards on which he athletically kept his body in bounds for a leaping reception.  His five-reception, 113-yard performance was his second 100-yard game of the season and the second of his career – and he continues to be a major reason for hope for this offense moving forward.

Sexton ...

  1. The Jaguars defense played pretty well again this week. At one point, they had not allowed their opponent to score a touchdown in 15 consecutive drives. They had a brilliant moment when Sen'Derrick Marks made the stop on fourth-and-goal to end the first half, they forced the fumble on the goal line in the fourth quarter and they were all over the running game of Minnesota. Two things though … first, they gave up big plays in the middle of the field. Sam Bradford connected on passes of 44 and 41 yards on each of his first two drives, which ended in field goals. On the touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, he kept picking apart the secondary, and in particular, going after Tashaun Gipson Sr.. It seemed as if whenever he needed yardage, he could find it in the middle. Second, Gipson is culpable in this one also, the back seven was below average tackling today. Too often the defender threw his shoulder into the back of the runner or receiver or dove at his legs and never used his arms to bring the runner to the ground. Why can't defensive backs use their arms and wrap up? Too many leaky yards were earned today by a Vikings unit that benefited from sloppy tackling. This is a talented defense that has lots of young players getting better game by game. Cleaning up some of today's mistakes will be the difference between that climb continuing over the final three games of the season or not.
  1. The problem is the defense wears down with an offense that can't stay on the field. The Jags ran just six plays for exactly zero yards and controlled the clock for only two minutes and 47 seconds in the fourth quarter before the Vikings put the game away with Sam Bradford's touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph with  2:17 to play. Zero yards in the first 12 minutes and 43 seconds of the quarter. That isn't winning football.
  1. I've told anyone who will listen that Marqise Lee is about to explode on the scene. He's open nearly every play, and today he posted his second career 100 yard game. He's a top competitor in the mold of a Tony Boselli - must be the Southern Cal way. He doesn't just want to beat you…he wants to humiliate you, and he knows he has the speed to do it. Blake Bortles is already a Pro Bowl player, and Blake Bortles is a proven playmaker. How much better can the offense get if Lee is as good as he is playing right now? The question is whether or not he has a quarterback who can get the ball to him. Blake Bortles doesn't have the laser arm that cuts through the air to hit him on the run, though the touchdown throw to Bryan Walters teased us with what might be possible. I have zero doubt about the Jaguars receiving corps…it's very talented.

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