LONDON – This was close to must-win stuff, international style.
This was the biggest game of the season, the biggest game of the Stache’s career and the Jaguars’ biggest game across the pond to date.
That’s a lot of “biggest,” and it made Sunday a tough loss. A tough, tough loss.
“It sucked, man,” Jaguars rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II said after the Jaguars’ 26-3 loss to the Houston Texans in front of 84,771 at Wembley Stadium Sunday afternoon. “We didn’t execute at times. We didn’t make the plays we needed to win. It was no fun.”
This was the first answer at Minshew’s postgame presser. It was also the last. When the media hesitated before the next question, Minshew didn’t. He thanked the media and left.
Really, there wasn’t much more to say.
The Jaguars struggled offensively throughout Sunday – and while the defense scraped to stay close, momentum changed permanently when the Jaguars failed to score on the second half’s opening drive.
A pass interference against wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. negated a big gain to the Texans 4 …
A botched field-goal attempt gave the Texans possession at the 50 …
The Texans turned that into a field goal and a 12-3 lead – and though the game wasn’t technically over, it sure felt like it and sure played out that way.
“We just didn’t get it done,” running back Leonard Fournette said. “That’s all.”
How big was Sunday? Really big on many levels.
The Jaguars had a chance for a third consecutive victory to move to 5-4. It was a chance to move very much into the postseason conversation. Considering all this team went through in the first eight games – starts of 0-2 and 2-4, the loss of starting quarterback Nick Foles 11 plays into the season, the Jalen Ramsey brouhaha, injuries at linebacker and tight end …
Well, considering all of that, Sunday was a chance to enter next week’s bye feeling as good as they have all season.
They missed that chance, and wide receiver Chris Conley was absolutely right when he said afterward: “We have no margin for error left.”
“The tiebreaker [from a head-to-head sweep over the Jaguars] goes to Houston right now,” Conley said. “We’re going to need some help. But really, we have to win games. We have to win games that are tough like this when things aren’t ideal. When things don’t start fast, we have to be able to recover.”
Sunday’s game was big beyond the record. The Jaguars had a chance for their first victory of the season over a contending team, with their previous four victories against teams with a combined seven victories entering Sunday.
This one also had a postseason feel, which made it by far the biggest of the games played at Wembley the past seven seasons. The Jaguars didn’t play up to the moment.
Head Coach Doug Marrone talked afterward of Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson as a Most Valuable Player candidate, and the Jaguars’ inability to turn pressure into sacks hurt big-time in the first half. It hurt, too, that the Jaguars couldn’t stop the Texans running game to the tune of 216 rushing yards.
Those were the defensive hurts. What hurt offensively was that Minshew – who played so well so often in his first seven starts in place of Foles – had perhaps his rookie-est game yet, He passed for 307 yards, but he also looked confused by a depleted Texans secondary and never managed any of the magic that had fueled two months of Minshew Mania.
So, what now? Where do the Jaguars go at quarterback?
That question looms along with a lot of other questions in the wake of Sunday’s loss. Marrone as expected was asked after the game about his upcoming decision about who will start at quarterback in the Jaguars’ next game, at Indianapolis on November 17. That’s the date Foles, the Week 1 starter, is eligible to return from injured reserve.
Marrone, also as expected, said he has yet to decide. He said he won’t decide during the next 48 hours and that he anticipates deciding around next Sunday, the day before the Jaguars return from the bye.
The thought here is Sunday made it easier to go away from Minshew to Foles. The Jaguars signed Foles as a free agent for a reason, because of his late-season clutch play and leadership in adversity. The Jaguars would appear to need that.
But the thought here, too, is it’s still a brutally tough decision and that a nod to Minshew wouldn’t be a bad nod – or even all that surprising.
That remains an issue for another day. The Jaguars’ biggest issue Sunday was they played poorly in what felt like a must-win game. And because of that, they didn’t win and didn’t come close.
And that made Sunday tough o