LONDON – London called – and this time, the news wasn’t good. So … uh-oh.
Philadelphia Eagles 24, Jaguars 18.
Maybe it’s not fair to depend on the Jaguars’ London Edge to provide a lift every season, but this team urgently, critically – and yes, a little desperately – needed a victory on Sunday.
When they didn’t get, it meant a lot of dire post-game talk from a team that fought hard enough to win Sunday – but made just enough mistakes to lose a fourth consecutive game.
“We have a strong group of guys in that locker room who aren’t going to stray and who aren’t going to point fingers at each other,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. “I think it will make us stronger.
“We’re going to need it. We’re going to have to get going in the second half of the season.”
Head Coach Doug Marrone agreed.
“We’ve got a lot to do,” Marrone said. “We’ve got a lot to do in a lot of different areas. It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job, obviously. Obviously, my message is not getting across. I’m responsible for everything that goes on, so it’s my responsibility. We’ve got the bye. We’re 3-5. We’re going to take a real good look at a lot of things.
“The first thing I’ll look at is where I need to improve and what I need to do to get this team focused and playing the way they have the potential to play.”
Here’s what happened Sunday:
The Jaguars, reeling from a three-game losing streak that felt longer, lost to the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles in front of 85,870. It was the Jaguars’ fourth consecutive loss after a 3-1 start to the season – and it was also their first loss at Wembley after three consecutive victories in the International Series.
But there was more to this one than those details.
The Jaguars played well on both side of the ball Sunday – in spots. The defense created two turnovers – but failed also allowed two long second-half scoring drives. The offense had one of its best drives in a month during the second half and produced 245 second-half yards – but also settled for field goals on two fourth-quarter red zone trips.
“Guys were locked in and ready to play,” Bortles said after completing 24 of 41 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. “We had a lot of missed opportunities, and we have to make more plays.”
It was frustrating, and frustration was the watchword in the post-game locker room. Again.
The three-game losing streak on which the Jaguars entered Sunday wasn’t just a three-game losing streak; they had trailed 57-0 at halftime in losses to Kansas City, Dallas and Houston – with Bortles getting benched for backup Cody Kessler in last week’s home loss to Houston.
A 3-1 start with Super Bowl hopes had become a 3-4 start with a serious question at quarterback, and even more serious questions about a frustrated locker room.
That’s what happens when promising seasons go shockingly bad, and what slip-sliding teams need are really big victories. What they don’t need are fourth consecutive losses.
Even ones in which they fought gallantly – and very nearly won.
“If you told me we’d be 3-5 at the bye week at the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have believed you,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I didn’t think there would be any chance. It’s not pretty. It is what it is. We’ve got to wear it. This is what we’ve earned.
“At the end of the day, it will take all of us collectively to put our heads down and claw our way out of us and earn what we believed we deserve.”
The ultimate fallout of Sunday’s game remains to be seen. The Jaguars already had dug themselves a hole; now it’s a serious one. They’re already 0-2 and in third place in the AFC South pending the afternoon’s games, and the offensive issues – Bortles’ struggles, an equally struggling offensive line, a lengthy injury list that’s now leaking over to the defense – still aren’t “fixed.”
Now, they’re 3-5 after an 0-4 October. They can still find their way out of this hole, but the NFL season is only so long. And time is running serious short.
“Surprised? Very surprised? I’m taken aback – whatever word there is,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Malik Jackson said afterward.
The Jaguars get to feel that way as they return to Jacksonville because their fight wasn’t quite enough. And because the injuries are continuing to mount. And because the defense, while good, made just enough mistakes. And because the offense, while better than the last three weeks, just wasn’t potent enough.
Mostly, they get to feel that way because when London called Sunday the news wasn’t good for a change. Uh-oh.