This won't be the best of games by which to judge the Jaguars secondary, but their performance against the lowly San Francisco 49ers this Sunday must be the first step toward significant improvement.
Three weeks ago, the Jaguars went to Arizona with the league's number one pass-defense. Since then, the Jaguars have allowed 865 yards and six touchdown passes, and have fallen from first to eighth. That's not what you want with Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Peyton Manning and the playoffs on the near horizon.
The opposing quarterback this Sunday is rookie Alex Smith, who's thrown no touchdowns against nine interceptions, is averaging 4.81 yards per pass attempt and carries a 24.7 passer rating. In other words, it's not likely the Jaguars can regain much of its lost confidence by stoning Smith, but improvement has to begin somewhere and there are only three opportunities remaining.
"We had a couple of explosive plays in the Arizona game, we had one against Cleveland and one against Indianapolis. We hadn't allowed any explosive plays," Terry Cousin said in explaining the Jags' decline. "No reason for concern," Cousin added. "Just be aggressive and get our hands on people, jamming and playing press coverage."
In other words, the Jaguars have to regain the physical aspect of their game that disrupted the rhythm of their opponents' passing games earlier in the season. They need for Kenny Wright to be the free-agent steal he was for the first 10 games of the season, and they need for Rashean Mathis to return to the form that saw him intercept passes in overtime against the Jets and Steelers.
Keep your eye on the Jaguars secondary this Sunday. You can't win in the playoffs if you're not playing solid pass-defense.
Here are 10 things the Jaguars have to do to beat the 49ers.