INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s mathematics and miracles now.
Quarterback Nick Foles didn’t say as much Sunday afternoon, nor did other Jaguars players in an understandably quiet road locker room. No, Foles and teammates put the best spin possible on an un-spinnable day. Still, here’s reality:
The Jaguars on Sunday played a second consecutive “must-win” AFC South game. They lost in one-sided fashion for a second consecutive game – this time to the Indianapolis Colts, 33-13 in front of 61,986 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“They got after us pretty good,” Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said after the Colts turned a three-point game at halftime into one that never felt close after that.
The score reflected the game.
It didn’t feel close. Because it really wasn’t.
Few Jaguars played well. Not Foles in his much-anticipated first appearance since Week 1. Not a run defense that now is officially a liability. Running back Leonard Fournette? He didn’t have a chance to play well and was tight-lipped after essentially being omitted from the offense.
No, this was as forgettable as it gets – except you can’t forget losses as important as this.
Especially when those losses come in performances as difficult to watch as this.
“We just didn’t execute,” Foles said.
True. After an optimism-fueling 34-yard touchdown pass from Foles to wide receiver DJ Chark gave the Jaguars a 7-0 first-quarter lead midway through the first quarter, the offense failed to score on nine consecutive possessions. By the time Foles threw a second touchdown to Chark, the game was long since over.
Foles was a major postgame storyline because the Jaguars’ story Sunday was supposed to be how his return from a Week 1 broken clavicle breathed efficiency into the offense and hope into the team.
It felt that way early, then it didn’t. Because it didn’t, Foles’ postgame theme was learning from mistakes, staying together as a team and not trying to win six games and get back into the postseason in one week.
“That’s life and that’s football and that’s just sort of how it goes,” Foles said, adding: “I have to play better. Absolutely. We lost. That’s ultimately a lot on the quarterback.”
Foles remained calm during the post-game presser, emphasizingthat he was “going to be a broken record” in terms of approach.
“We’re going to watch the film, we’re going to improve, we’re going to communicate and we’re going to keep getting to know each other – and we’re going to go through this together,” Foles said. “This is a tough game. We got our butts beat pretty good.
“That’s a good team. We’re a good team. We’re not where we want to be, but we will get where we want to be if we continue believing in each other.”
Don’t look for Foles to change. His football philosophy is unflappable, honed in pressurized playoff runs with Philadelphia the past two seasons. His leadership in adversity was one reason the Jaguars signed him last offseason, and without question he will be a strong leader in the coming weeks.
That’s the positive from Sunday – and there were positiveselsewhere in the Jaguars’ locker room.
“It’s how we respond,” cornerback A.J. Bouye said.
Defensive end Calais Campbell agreed.
“They kicked our butt. How are we going to respond?” Campbell said. “That’s football. … When we play to the level we’re capable of playing, I don’t think there’s anybody who can beat us. We still have the opportunity to win six games. We just have to play good football.
“We have to find a way to get a ‘W.’ The rest will take care of itself.”
That attitude perhaps gives the Jaguars some hope. But there arerealities about this team right now that don’t get solved by camaraderie and strong postgame comments.
One is ineffectiveness on offense. The Jaguars managed just one field goal in a pre-bye loss to Houston, so they have 10 meaningful points in two critical games. Fournette, after leading the AFC in rushing through eight games, has rushed for 63 yards in the last two games. On Sunday, he got eight carries and the Jaguars had a franchise-record low nine rushing attempts.
More concerning is the run defense. The Jaguars on Sunday allowed 264 yards rushing. Two Colts running back – Marlon Mack and Jonathan Williams – rushed for more than 100 yards, the first time in Colts history two players had done so in one game. That was the second consecutive game the Jaguars allowed more than 200 yards rushing, and the third such gamethis season. That means there’s a problem that must get fixed fast for the Jaguars’ to have any chance of saving the season.
The question, of course, is whether any such chance really remains. Players remained confident that one does.
“This won’t be the last of us, that’s for sure,” wide receiver Chris Conley said.
Maybe, but it’s about mathematics and miracles now.
And midway through November, that’s not a good place to be.