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View from the O-Zone: No place for smiles


KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Jaguars lost Sunday. Again.

That overshadowed all else – including any near-miss, oh-so-close storyline.

The Jaguars weren't listening to any of that after a 19-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday. Yes, they could have won. They perhaps should have won, particularly if you look at a lot of meaningful statistics.

They actually lost just one key statistic, but they lost it in a big way.

They lost the turnover ratio, 4-0.

That was the difference between a remarkable, memorable victory and a third consecutive loss. That made the losing locker room Sunday a frustrated place.

It also was a place that for the most part was in no mood for smiles.

"We had four turnovers, and when you do that in any game in the NFL, it's hard to win," Head Coach Gus Bradley said after the Jaguars outgained the Chiefs 449-231 and produced 25 first downs to 10 for Kansas City. "We did it at critical times."

Because of that, an otherwise remarkable day was wasted. The Jaguars rushed for a season-high 205 yards in new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's first game, and the offense under Hackett looked improved.

The day was equally remarkable defensively.

Time and again, turnovers put the Jaguars' defense in difficult situations. Time and again, the defense responded. The Jaguars allowed just one touchdown Sunday. They allowed just one first-down conversion on 14 opportunities.

But they lost, and because they lost, there were no smiles from the leaders of the Jaguars' locker room. There was no self-adulation or talk of improvement being enough.

"We have to find a way to get the W,'' middle linebacker Paul Poslusnzy said. "That's the only thing that mattered. We played well. You can say, 'We held them to this' or 'We held them to that,' but we didn't get the most important thing done."

Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was equally pointed. Yes, the offensive improved in the wake of a series of brutally difficult games, but improvement isn't enough in professional football.

"It's about wins and losses in the National Football League," Beachum said. "It's not about a step forward and it's not about finding positives. It's not about any of those things. It's about winning and losing. It's the National Football League. You have to grow up. We have to find ways to win games."

What else to say about this one?

One is that the Jaguars' offense clearly was improved. Hackett's focus on committing to the run paid off in by far the team's most productive rushing day of the season, and that gave the offense balance it previously had approached only sparingly this season.

Another is that the defense put forth a far better effort than 10 days before in Tennessee. It would have been reasonable to call effort into question in Nashville.

In Kansas City on Sunday that wasn't close to true.

And what of Blake Bortles, the Jaguars' third-year quarterback whose storyline pretty much defined the pre-game lead-up this week?

He indeed looked better and more comfortable at times in Hackett's first game. At other times, he still struggled. His first-half interception was a bad play, and he missed wide receiver Allen Robinson on what could have been a huge first-half play.

Credit Bortles for this: however he has performed this season and throughout his career he has carried himself with class. He did so again Sunday, and said he thought Hackett did a good job getting the offense balanced – and a good job getting Bortles in situation in which he could succeed.

Mostly, though Bortles agreed that the turnovers and the loss overshadowed all.

"It's something we always talk about, taking care of the ball," Bortles said. "We didn't do a good job of that. … If you look at the stat sheet and minus the turnovers, there's no way you'd say Kansas City won. Unfortunately that's part of the game and we have to find ways to be better.

Where do the Jaguars go from here? It would obviously take a miracle of historic proportion to get this team in the playoffs. So, the answer to that question – where the Jaguars go from here – remains that they must do what they can to improve quickly. They must move on – in this week's case to EverBank Field for a home game against Houston – and try to win one game. Or at least play better.

They must hope the quarterback takes Sunday and builds on it. They must hope the offense takes another step, and that the defense puts forth another winning effort.

They must find it within themselves to not quit on a season that began with high hopes and now seems lost far too soon.

If they can't find those things within themselves they will be a lot more silent post-game locker rooms. And there won't be a lot of smiles the rest of the way, either.

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