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View from the O-Zone: 'Not the way we want to play'


JACKSONVILLE – This wasn't what could have been. Of that there is no doubt.

The Jaguars lost to the Tennessee Titans, 37-16, in front of 61,709 fans on Sunday. What began as a celebratory, unbeaten, giddy day at Everbank Field in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma ended in disappointment.

And because of that, a day that began with a chance to establish an early hold on the AFC South ended with Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone saying things coaches say after tough one-sided losses to division rivals.

"We're looking forward to obviously cleaning this thing up and getting back to work," Marrone said.

It ended with players saying things they say after tough losses, too.

"We'll be fine," Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee said.

Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. echoed that, saying "We'll be fine."

"We can't put our heads down," Fowler said. "It's just a little adversity we have to get over. We've been through that for a long time. It's nothing new to us. It's time to go back to work."

Before we get into Sunday's details, know this:

Lee, Fowler and the others who spoke calmly and without panic Sunday? They're right. Sunday is not the end of the Jaguars' hopes for 2017. And it doesn't mean the regular-season opening, 29-7 victory at Houston was a fluke.

The Jaguars are the team that beat the Texans.

They're also the team that lost to the Titans.

That's because the Jaguars aren't elite and they're not awful. Through two games they're 1-1. They are tied for first place. They have strengths that revealed themselves in encouraging, muscle-flexing fashion in Week 1.

They also some concerns that revealed themselves Sunday.

That didn't make Sunday fun, but it's normal. It's also expected considering what we knew about this team entering the season. A few NFL teams this season look like they're going to struggle all season, and a few that look like Super Bowl contenders. Then there are 20-some-odd teams somewhere in the middle.

That's where the Jaguars look right now: in the middle.

Here's the thing about being in the middle. NFL teams crawl out of 1-1, in-the-middle starts every season. Teams will crawl out this season.

The Jaguars can be one of those teams.

And while Sunday was no doubt disappointing, remember: the Titans are favored by many to win the AFC South for a reason. They showed why at times on Sunday, rushing for 179 yards and protecting quarterback Marcus Mariota with an offensive line that not unexpectedly was superior to the Texans offensive line allowed 10 sacks to the Jaguars in Week 1.

The Titans are a better team right now than Texans. They showed it Sunday.

As for the Jaguars, they showed for a while Sunday why they have a chance to be better this season. For a quarter and a half, they played how they want to play. They ran. The defense was stingy. The teams were tied 3-3 in the second quarter, and deficits of 6-3 at halftime and 9-3 midway through the third quarter were hardly insurmountable.

But this Jaguars team is a team that's going to have to play to a formula to have success. The formula will be about winning close games, playing smart, playing good defense and running effectively.

Turnovers and penalties don't fit that formula. The Jaguars committed three of the former and 10 of the latter Sunday. The turnovers led to six points, and the penalties created bad down-and-distance situations that this team – and many others, for that matter – will struggle to overcome.

"That makes it tough to call plays, tough to execute plays when you are playing from behind the chains like that," said quarterback Blake Bortles, who completed 20 of 34 passes for 233 yards with a strip-sack lost fumble and two interceptions off deflected passes. "I think it was a bit of a combination of both. We were never really able to get anything rolling."

Said Marrone, "That's not the way we want to play."

No, the final quarter and a half wasn't how the Jaguars want to play. They fell behind 16-3 and it felt over. When they fell behind 23-3 shortly thereafter, it was over. This is a team that must grit its way to victories, and it's hard to grit from 20 down.

So, what do we know after two weeks? This is not a great come-from-behind team. It doesn't have elite quarterback play, and it's probably not going to be good when forced into obvious passing situations. Few teams flourish in that situation; this Jaguars team certainly doesn't.

 The Jaguars must get leads. They must get into situations where they can rush the passer. They must play to their formula.

They played to it in Week 1, and the result was a memorable victory.

The things that went right a week ago didn't go that way Sunday, so Sunday at wasn't celebratory or giddy. And it wasn't what could have been. Of that there is no doubt.

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