Here's what we learned from a 14-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Some of it's good and some of it's bad, but here it is:
- Marcedes Lewis lives.The Pro Bowl tight end had easily his best day of the season Sunday. He still had catches he could have made turn into incomplete passes, but he recovered from those early setbacks and was a big reason the Jaguars' passing offense showed solid signs of life in the second half. Most importantly, he was a factor and the Browns had to account for him. Good for him. A lot of people have doubted his effort and desire, and little could have been sillier. He has had a rough year. On Sunday, he made progress.
- The defense misses Terrance Knighton.The Browns rushed for 148 yards, and this was without Peyton Hillis. Hard to imagine that happening without the absence of Knighton, who typically ends interior runs fairly quickly. He gives the defense a presence in the middle it just can't replace when he's not there.
- Defensively, points aren't always everything.Despite allowing just 14 points, defensive players were unhappy with their effort Sunday. Rightfully so. The Browns ran far too easily in the second half, and without a clutch interception by Dawan Landry, the game probably isn't close enough at the end to make time outs and the like an issue.
- The defense can't do it all.Despite its shortfalls, the defense only allowed 14 points. The offense once again didn't reach 21 points – a plateau it hasn't reached yet this season – and for the fourth time this season, it couldn't surpass 10. There is just a limit to how many games you can win doing that and the limit is very, very low.
- The defense misses Rashean Mathis.He may have been the player fans loved to criticize, but forget all of that: Mathis was playing very good corner for the Jaguars this season, and without him, Jacksonville's secondary suddenly looked substantially more vulnerable.
- Blaine Gabbert may be making progress.No one's throwing the guy a parade after Sunday, least of all Gabbert, who was the first to say he needed to get the ball in the end zone on the final series. But with Gabbert the idea is to see progress by the end of the season, and there were signs of progress Sunday. He threw for over 200 yards, and not only did he make the 17-20-yard passes that he already had shown he could make, he did a nice job checking down in the right situations. Subtract a few drops, and not only does he has a bigger day statistically, but the Jaguars probably win.
- Gabbert still has a ways to go.You can't mention the progress without the need for more. He looked good in spots, but also continued to have more errant throws than you'd like. There also was a play when he could have stood in better in the face of a blitz. There was progress made and progress remains. That's the nature of the beast with a rookie quarterback.
- The offensive line is benefitting from continuity.They played as a unit for the fourth consecutive game Sunday, and it showed. The line probably had its best pass-protecting game, with the only sack a play late in the game in which Gabbert tried to throw the ball away and instead threw the ball 15 yards behind him.
- The pass rush isn't quite elite.We probably knew this already, but after a run of five consecutive games with at least two sacks, the Jaguars struggled at times Sunday to generate pressure without blitzing. Colt McCoy had too long to throw in spots, and that seemed to allow Browns receivers time to get open downfield. It didn't happen the entire game, but on a few key drives, the Browns just moved too steadily and that allowed them to maintain momentum in important situations.
- The post-season is . . .well, we hate to say it, but it just isn't realistic. It's mathematically possible, but the Jaguars are 3-7 with six games remaining and trail the Texans by four games. We said throughout last week that the injury to Texans quarterback Matt Schaub didn't matter unless the Jaguars won Sunday. They didn't, and still haven't won back-to-back games this season. You don't do that, and you don't deserve to talk post-season.