LONDON, England – We're past the point of analyzing and breaking it all down.
The time for talking this out, figuring this out and searching for new "reasons" for what's going on seems to have passed, too – and in many ways there hasn't been too much new to figure out about the Jaguars in recent weeks.
The Jaguars traveled to London Thursday night/Friday morning, and they did so knowing there are one or two areas that need immediate attention. They're the same areas that have hurt the Jaguars throughout the season:
They need to close games.
They also need to rush the passer better.
Those two issues are intertwined on some level, and the two issues in recent weeks have come to define the Jaguars thus far this season.
This team has been close to winning games four times this season only to lose when it couldn't close – i.e., when it couldn't make plays in the fourth quarter. It's not all on the inability to rush the passer, but having more of that ability sure wouldn't hurt.
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley hinted about more pressure this week. He spoke again of needing to close, of needing to focus for 60 minutes. All of that will be worth watching Sunday.
With that in mind, here are 10 things the Jaguars must to do beat the Bills at Wembley Stadium in London:
1)Pressure the passer and …Somehow, some way, the Jaguars must do it. The Jaguars have tried to do it so far this season mostly with four down linemen. Because they aren't getting much production from the Leo pass-rusher position, that approach hasn't worked. Can the Jaguars get home with four? So far, that hasn't happened much, so …
2) … blitz if necessary.Bradley said this will be a huge consideration this week. He didn't pound his chest and vow to blitz more; that's not his way. But to listen to him this week is to have a pretty strong belief that there will be more looks with five or six rushers than previously this season. That's risky, but it's probably a necessary risk.
3)Feed Julius Thomas …The veteran tight end caught seven passes for 78 yards and a touchdown last week, and that was with a couple of early drops – and at least one late miscommunication with quarterback Blake Bortles. The miscommunication is part of the process of Thomas and Bortles learning one another. The Jaguars must and will work through that; Thomas' presence and production is too important to not have him be a key part of the plan.
Images of the Jaguars' final practice before they take off for London to take on the Buffalo Bills.
4) … and A-Rob and Hurns, too.Wide receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson have been the Jaguars' most effective weapons, and the offense has leaned heavily in their direction. Nothing wrong with that. These guys are talented, gutsy and productive. They're also the team's biggest hope right now.
5)Keep a clear head.This is about Blake Bortles. Bills head coach Rex Ryan's defenses are confusing, exotic and can be difficult on a young quarterback. Bortles may throw an interception or two. He must stay calm, stay in the offense and trust his reads.
6)Run, run, run.The Jaguars haven't been able to do this enough, with T.J. Yeldon's game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 4 the team's lone 100-yard rushing game of the season. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said this week the run has been a priority. It needs to be. Defenses are starting to respect Bortles and the passing. That should create rushing opportunities. This won't be easy against the Bills' run defense, but it must be done.
Images from Wednesday's practice as the Jaguars prepare for London week.
7)Make Wembley home …or at least a second one. The Jaguars will be playing a home game in Wembley Stadium every year for a long, long time. One-sided losses to San Francisco and Dallas the past two seasons haven't made Wembley feel very homey. It's time to start changing that.
*8)Make the make-ables. *Jason Myers' missed extra point last week didn't cost the Jaguars the game because they were down by double digits. But this area remains a concern. This team has little margin for error. There will be games this season when three points matter. There may be games when one point matters. Making makeable kicks has to start being something routine.
9)Affect the quarterback?We mentioned this already? OK.
10)Close.We mentioned this, too? That's OK, too, because it's everything at this point. The Jaguars have improved this season. They're competitive. They've been close in the fourth quarter. They have had momentum in the second half of games, and they have rallied to lead in the second half of games. They have done a whole lot well – or at least a whole lot better than the last two seasons. What they haven't done is win. At least not enough.