SAN DIEGO, California – This was big … really big – and important. That was the pre-game Jaguars storyline:
A game they needed to win …
A game they believed they would win …
A season-defining moment …
The first two? Yeah, a pretty good argument could be made about those. We'll see about the last one, and that speaks to the importance and critical nature of what the Jaguars did at Qualcomm Stadium on a sunny Southern California Sunday.
The lost to the San Diego Chargers 38-14. And it was never much closer than that.
How big was the loss? How troubling? Big, because the Jaguars really could have used this one – and because they were really confident entering the game. But it was troubling because of the one-sided nature of the loss, and that was evident in the post-game locker room.
"It was pretty embarrassing," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said.
The Jaguars trailed 35-0 before two fourth-quarter touchdowns. They trailed 21-0 at halftime. They didn't stop the run early. They didn't stop big plays enough at all. They committed three turnovers. They committed too many penalties. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny called the result shocking.
"That's the hard part about this one: coming into this game we had full confidence that we were going to come in here and play really, really well," Posluszny said. "To have this result, it's extremely frustrating."
Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley called it "obviously not one of our better showings."
"We'll recover," Bradley said. "The character of this team doesn't change. We just didn't have a very good day. We'll count on the character to bring us back. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves or point the fingers."
Bradley continued, "There are games like this that take place in the NFL. Not that it's acceptable, but we'll draw from this and learn from this. There's too much pride in this locker room."
How big was the loss? How season-defining? That remains to be seen. Sliding to 0-2 and facing what appears close to a must-win situation at EverBank Field against unbeaten Baltimore next week is tough. Really tough. For a young team trying to find itself and the confidence that goes with such self-discovery, one more loss to start the season … well, it wouldn't be good.
Sunday was substantially less than good, too.
The Jaguars believe they're better this season than recent seasons, and there were indications last week against Green Bay that that was true. But indications are one thing and proof is a whole lot better.
Yes, the Jaguars needed proof of their beliefs Sunday, and that's what made Sunday disappointing and concerning.
That proof didn't happen on the field and now the Jaguars must keep believing without it. And there remain questions after Sunday, particularly because so much went wrong early and so much kept going wrong late.
Bortles struggled throughout, throwing two key interceptions and losing a fumble in the second quarter. The first interception led to a San Diego touchdown and the second cost the Jaguars a chance at one.
The run game struggled for a second consecutive week, although opportunities were limited once the Jaguars fell behind 21-0 early in the second quarter.
The defense struggled to stop the run – in a big way. This is a team that prides itself on stopping the run, and that pride got tested early when the Chargers rushed for 58 yards on an easy 75-yard drive that ended with a three-yard touchdown run by running back Melvin Gordon. That set the tone and it was never really close after that.
"You could have never told me that would happen," defensive tackle Roy Miller III said.
There were more details of non-good things Sunday, but the overriding theme in the locker room afterward was the Jaguars thought this kind of game was behind them. To see that it wasn't was disappointing.
Was there good that happened for the Jaguars Sunday? Probably, but whatever was good didn't feel good because of all that went wrong.
"We just felt like we were past this, situations like this … missed assignments that result in touchdowns," Posluszny said. "Games this lopsided … we just felt like we were past all this. We have to take a hard look at this and say, 'This is not acceptable by any means. We are not doing this. We need to have drastic improvement.'"
So, was Sunday a season-defining moment? We'll see. Whatever the record after two weeks, the NFL is a long season and a lot can happen in 14 weeks.
But was this one the Jaguars needed to win? And was it one they believed they could win? Yes, it was both of those – and for it not to be close from the start made the loss really disturbing and really painful.
And it made it feel really, really big.