JACKSONVILLE – They created this situation themselves.
No one around the Jaguars would tell you different. They remain in a hole when it comes to the 2016 season, and the way they played in Weeks 1-3 is the reason. Because of that, Sunday's game at Chicago has the same feel as their final game before their recent Week 5 bye.
That's a dire feel, a critical feel.
That game turned out to be a victory over the Indianapolis Colts in London, and the pregame theme that week was the same as this week's pre-game theme – that the Jaguars simply must win this game to maintain hope of having the sort of season they believed possible when the season began.
Yes, we're throwing around the phrase "must win" again.
That's what happens when you lose three games to start the season, and that's what happens when you start 1-3 despite three of four games at home.
When those things happen … yes, you must win after that. And you sure can't lose too often.
The Jaguars are very capable of doing that Sunday. Not only has their defense in recent games looked like an improving unit capable of continuing that trend, they are coming off their most efficient offensive game of the season. No turnovers. A few big plays. A strong running game. Those are all things that had been missing in the first three games of the season.
They also are playing a team that is struggling, with the Bears having won one of their first five games and allowing 25.2 points per game.
Yes, this is a game the Jaguars can win Sunday. It's one they need to win.
Here are 10 things they must do to do that:
1)Protect the ball. This is about quarterback Blake Bortles. He committed seven turnovers in the season's first three games. The Jaguars started 0-3. He did not commit a turnover in Week 4 against Indianapolis. The Jaguars won. That's no coincidence. Bortles must protect the ball.
2)Hit the big ones. This is also about Bortles. The Jaguars' offense had a knack for the big play last season. They have had less of a knack this season. There have been some opportunities in the last few games. Bortles needs to hit them.
3)Move the quarterback.The Jaguars' offense had success in Week 4 with Bortles moving outside the pocket and running when pressured. Look for the Jaguars to game plan to make those things happen more often. It's not an ideal long-term formula for a quarterback but it's the one that's working now.
4)Run.T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory combined for 100 rushing yards in Week 4. Jaguars running backs hadn't approached that number in the first three games. The Week 4 victory was no coincidence on that front, either.
5)Pressure Brian Hoyer.The Bears' starting quarterback isn't strong-armed. He's not elite. But he is very capable. The Jaguars learned that much when Hoyer started for the Texans at EverBank Field last season and threw three touchdown passes with no interceptions. The Jaguars that day couldn't pressure Hoyer when it mattered. That performance must not be repeated.
6)Defend Alshon Jeffery.Hoyer has been criticized for not utilizing Jeffery enough. Jeffery, a 1,000-yard receiver in 2013 and 2014, probably won't stay underutilized. He's too strong, too big and too good. He remains easily the Bears' go-to, must-stop offensive player.
7)Emphasize Allen Robinson.The Jaguars can't do this enough. When the offense has been effective this season -- which hasn't been often enough – it usually has been because defenses can't defend the Pro Bowl wide receiver. That has been a trend this season. The Jaguars need to take advantage of it.
8)Get interior push defensively.Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson has been consistently disruptive this season – so much that he has performed above expectations. That's impressive for one of the NFL's most high-profile free-agent acquisitions. He needs to continue that. The guess here is he will.
9)Stop the run.This is key every week, but it's particularly important and difficult this week. Bears guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton may be the best tandem in the NFL and rookie Jordan Howard has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the last two games.
10)Play to your potential. The Jaguars look like an ascending defense. They're a capable offense – the season's first four games notwithstanding. They should be better than 1-3. It's time to play like it.