ARLINGTON, Texas – This one hurt, and this one was bothersome. Really bothersome.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone made that clear – quickly – in the wake of a 40-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in front of 90,737 at AT&T Stadium Sunday, and Marrone wasn’t alone.
Marrone called the performance “poor.”
Defensive end Calais Campbell called it “ugly.”
And Marrone talked pointedly with urgency about the need to do something – whatever it takes – to not see anything that poor and ugly again any time soon.
“Obviously a poor performance starting with me,” Marrone said after the Jaguars’ second consecutive loss turned a promising 3-1 start into a 3-3 start that feels decidedly unpromising.
Marrone’s post-game comments continued in that vein: “We’ve got to coach better. We’ve got to play better. I don’t think there’s anything where you can say, ‘We’ve got to build on this or build on that.’ Right now, we’ve got to get back and get to work.”
Marrone talked of a complete loss, one that involved coaches, players – everything – and he took “full responsibility” for the performance.
“I will get this team right,” he said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us and we’re going to have to grind this thing out.”
Quarterback Blake Bortles called the performance pretty much “a waste of a day and a trip.”
“It’s tough to describe,” Bortles said when asked the level of disappointment in losing a second consecutive road game in one-sided fashion. “It’s not by any means what we expected to do or were planning on doing. Give them credit: they played well. We played, once again, pretty bad.”
The Jaguars lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 30-14, a week ago. They trailed 20-0 at halftime, but that game was against a Chiefs team that entered the game undefeated and leading the NFL in scoring.
The Cowboys entered the game 2-3 and 25th in total offense. They were averaging 16.6 points a game entering the game and scored on their first four offensive possessions Sunday.
“We’ve got to look in the mirror and figure out how to win a ballgame,” Campbell said. “This was ugly. It wasn’t pretty at all. When you lose like this, everybody’s got to look themselves in the mirror and see what we can do better: each one of us. This is as ugly as it gets.
“This is the NFL. You’ve got to put it behind you, learn from it and use it as motivation. But we’ve got to figure out what we can do this week to win the next game.”
Make no mistake: This was that kind of loss.
Disturbing. Confidence-shaking. And darned sure not to be ignored or sugarcoated.
If Marrone’s post-game comments had a theme, that was it. He spoke pointedly, sticking to the main point in most of his answers.
“There are no excuses,” Marrone said. “We’ve just got to do a better job. We’ve got to take a good look at ourselves. We’ve got to put the responsibility on all of us, starting with me, and pull your bootstraps up and let’s go.”
This indeed was that kind of loss in every sense – one so one-sided it’s difficult to know where to begin when analyzing it.
The offense struggled mightily – and while struggles were to be expected from an offense best by injuries at every position, more was needed Sunday than a second consecutive scoreless first half. The Jaguars last week against Kansas City struggled with turnovers and missed opportunities in the first half; against the Cowboys the offense’ 64 first-yard were paltry enough that there were no opportunities to miss.
But it was the Jaguars’ defense that undoubtedly raised the most concern Sunday.
This was a defense that entered the game ranked No. 1 in the NFL in yards allowed. It is not a defense that expects to allow scores on four consecutive first-half possessions, particularly to a team that entered Sunday’s game scoring 16.6 points per game.
The Cowboys had 24 points at halftime Sunday, and the game essentially was over by that point.
That doesn’t make the season over. The Tennessee Titans’ loss to the Baltimore Ravens Sunday means the Titans, Jaguars and Texans are all 3-3 atop the AFC South. That means the goals for the season are still very much attainable.
But the Jaguars understandably weren’t talking in that vein early Sunday evening. They instead were in a vein not of talking about the playoffs, or the Super Bowl – but of simply winning a game.
They were talking in a vein of getting whatever is wrong, righted, and figuring out how to fix the communication issues suddenly plaguing what is supposed to be an elite defense but that right now is not.
Mostly, they were talking in an urgent vein, the vein of a team bothered by a poor performance and an ugly loss. After what happened at Jerry’s World Sunday, that was the right vein.
Make no mistake about that.