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Time to stop the run

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Tim from Edmond, OK:
I hope those throw-it-downfield, abandon-the-running-game fans are really happy. We had a 45-yard touchdown pass and lost the game. Fred Taylor had eight rushes for 15 yards? How can you follow up a game like the Jets game with one like this at home?

Vic: I'm looking at the play-by-play sheet and I don't think it was a play-calling problem. The Jaguars had a false-start penalty in three of their first four possessions, and the one possession that didn't include a penalty ended on the first play when Byron Leftwich was sacked and forced to fumble. On the Jaguars' fifth possession they had a holding penalty. Nothing will take you out of your running game faster than penalties or lost yardage. Falling behind will do it, too, and that's exactly what happened in the second quarter. I'm sure the Jaguars went into this game with a run-the-ball game plan but circumstances prevented them from executing it.

Jack from Jacksonville:
Charlie Weis, Romeo Crennel, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Joe Andruzzi, David Patten, Matt Light, Kevin Faulk, Tyrone Poole, Randal Gay, Rodney Harrison; and the Patriots are still the team to beat in the NFL?

Vic: Are you sure about that?

Steve from Denver, CO:
I'm from the Jacksonville area; what an ugly game. This game was, by far, the worst game I've ever seen. I just want to ask you what is the NFL record for penalties in a game?

Vic: Three teams are tied at 22: Brooklyn and the Chicago Bears in 1944 and San Francisco in 1998.

Cory from Jacksonville:
Do you think there's any hope for winning the division or is a wild card our only hope?

Vic: The Colts are in a soft stretch of schedule, which makes the tough stretch of schedule the Jaguars are in even more demanding. Two games behind at the quarter pole of the season, I think the Jaguars are facing a situation in which they almost have to win the next two games to stay in division title contention. That means beating Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, a tall order, for sure. The Colts play San Francisco and St. Louis, then Houston on the Jags' bye week. If the Jags don't win the next two games, logic would dictate that they would be reduced to playing for a wild-card berth. Beginning with November, however, the schedule toughens up considerably for the Colts. They go to New England and Cincinnati and host Pittsburgh in November. They come to Jacksonville, host San Diego and play at Seattle in December. The Jaguars could make up ground in the second half of the season, but they can't fall any farther behind.

Sharon from Port Charlotte, FL:
These guys get paid way too much to not show up on Sunday. It's always about the money, right?

Vic: You're absolutely correct. There's no excuse for "not showing up." They get paid handsomely to give a professional effort and, yes, it's about the money; they are professionals. It bothered me when, after the game, Byron Leftwich said "we didn't show up today." I know that's nothing more than rhetoric, but it still bothers me. I don't believe fans have a right to expect the team to win, but they have every right to expect an intense and professional effort. Not showing up is not acceptable.

Connor from Jacksonville:
How do they expect to have next week's game not blacked out with a performance like that?

Vic: If ticket sales are going to depend each week on the team's performance in the previous game, then this isn't going to work. I understand your disappointment, but fan bases are built on faith and loyalty, not on wait and see.

Scott from Jacksonville:
Any explanation for the inconsistency? We ran the ball 30-plus times last week and this week we ran it 12 times.

Vic: Jack Del Rio said in his postgame interview that football is a team game and no one group should have to bear all of the blame. Be that as it may, the Jaguars' problems on their offensive line are spilling over into every aspect of their game. I see some other things that aren't optimum, but the situation on the offensive line is primary because opponents are seeing the Jaguars' inability to protect the quarterback and they are sending everyone. Byron Leftwich has become shark bait and it'll continue that way until the Jaguars block it and beat it.

Mike from Burbank, CA:
Fred Taylor said of Denver, "they wanted it more." How can a visiting team ever want it more? Are we having a defeatist attitude problem or are we having an inadequate personnel problem?

Vic: Again, it's rhetoric, but I share your irritation. I don't think the Jaguars have an attitude problem. I know Byron Leftwich wants to win. I know Fred Taylor, Mike Peterson, Maurice Williams, Jimmy Smith, Marcus Stroud, Rashean Mathis, to name just a few players, are deeply dedicated to winning. Do I think there's a personnel problem? Yes, I do, and I don't think I have to tell you where it is.

Jon from Jacksonville:
After a quarter of the season has come and gone, this team is in the bottom rung of the league in both rushing offense and, surprisingly, rushing defense. I know the knock of the last few weeks has been on the offensive line but there's been a downward trend with the defensive front seven dating back to the last two weeks of last season for giving up a lot of yards on the ground. Not surprisingly, in those last six games the Jags are 3-3. Am I reading too much into the stats?

Vic: You are not. In fact, you've put your finger on my hot button. We all knew the potential existed for an issue at left tackle. We knew Mike Pearson was in a comeback from major knee surgery and there were no guarantees. We knew that a rookie, Khalif Barnes, might hold the key to the Jaguars' performance up front this year and that his development would probably take time. What we didn't expect was for the Jaguars to be ranked 29th in the league against the run through the first four games of the season. Anyone who's read this column religiously knows how much it bothered me last season that the Jaguars fell apart against the run in the last two games of the season. They've allowed two 100-yard rushers already this season, which means four 100-yard rushers in the last six games. That trend has to stop right now. It all begins on defense with stopping the run. Don't tell me about the pass-rush. Don't tell me about blitzing or cover two or any of that other sexy stuff until you can stop the run. The Jags are number two in the league against the pass. That's great, but your opponents won't have to pass if you don't stop the run. There's no excuse for this trend when you have two Pro-Bowl defensive tackles. I'm going to interrogate Jeff Lageman about this on Wednesday's "Jaguars This Week" radio show. Jeff studies the tape intensely and I'm going to ask him why this team isn't stopping the run. This is not about a personnel issue.

Donna from Jacksonville:
Instead of everyone looking at all the bad that happened in the game, look how well Stroud and Henderson were used on both defense and offense. Do you think they will be used that way in the upcoming game against the Bengals?

Vic: You're kidding, aren't you? You're being sarcastic, right? Here's what I'd like to see: I'd like to see Marcus Stroud and John Henderson stopping the run. If they do only that, it'll be enough.

John from Atlantic Beach, FL:
Could you tell us what the round green stickers were on all the NFL teams` helmets? There was some writing on them but looking at them from the stands I couldn't make it out.

Vic: Sunday was "Hispanic Heritage Day" in the NFL and the stickers bore the words "Futbol Americano."

Ryan from Alpharetta, GA:
I have never written to you before, Vic, but after watching Sunday's game I keep getting more and more frustrated watching Ephraim Salaam play. Every time I see him he is either getting beat or getting penalties. Time to go with the rookie yet?

Vic: At some point, it'll be time to go with Khalif Barnes, but you have to be careful about these things, as I said last week. Barnes is expected to become a long-term fixture on the Jaguars offensive line. You don't wanna ruin the kid's confidence by putting him into a game before he's capable of having success.

Mike from Jacksonville:
I'm a Byron fan. I was surprised by both of Byron's picks on deep balls. Both were off the mark and more catchable by the defender. That's not like Byron. Is the pounding he's taking hurting his accuracy?

Vic: Those throws weren't about a lack of accuracy. Those throws, in my opinion, were desperation heaves. They were born of frustration. I have no doubt he regrets them because he's too mentally tough to give into despair.

Jordan from Lincoln, NE:
I remember during the offseason Plaxico Burress wasn't "worth" big money but now he looks like one of the elite wide receivers in the league or at least a valuable deep threat. Do you think the Jaguars regret not going after him?

Vic: Only if Burress can pass-block, too.

Joel from Orange Park, FL:
I enjoy your analysis during the pregame shows. You were about to make a point about our offense not matching up against Denver's defense and you got sidetracked by the conversation. I feel your point may have provided a pregame clue to what we witnessed and I'm not sure you got a chance to express it. I would like to hear what you wanted to say. Would you repeat it, please?

Vic: I didn't like the way the Jaguars matched up on offense against the Broncos defense. The Jaguars were number 10 in rushing going into the game, but Broncos middle linebacker Al Wilson is a tackling machine and I thought the Jaguars would have difficulty blocking him and they did. The Broncos were going to be without their two starting cornerbacks, which should have made them vulnerable against the pass, but the Jaguars were 23rd in passing and I had doubts the Jaguars could give Leftwich enough time to exploit the Broncos' secondary. I didn't, however, expect the Jaguars to give up 188 yards rushing. I thought the Jaguars matched up well on defense.

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