JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 20-10 loss to the Denver Broncos at EverBank Field Sunday …
1. This season is truly stunning.We're talking about the Jaguars' 2-10 record through 12 games. Observers are surprised. Media is surprised. How surprised are players? Linebacker Telvin Smith said following Sunday's loss – the Jaguars' seventh in as many games – that absolutely no way did he anticipate this. "If you had asked me in Preseason Week 2, 'What is your record going to be?' I would have never said 2-10,'' Smith said. "I would have bet my salary this season that we wouldn't have been 2-10."* *
2. The Jaguars will have double-digit losses. Again.Sunday's loss ensured the Jaguars will have double-digit losses this season. That's six consecutive seasons with that being true. Sigh.
3. The Jaguars will miss the postseason. Again. Yes, this has been obvious for more than a month, but Sunday's loss made it official: the Jaguars will miss the postseason for the ninth consecutive season. Double sigh.
4. The frustration is real.That's especially true for wide receiver Allen Robinson, who was penalized in the fourth quarter when he removed his helmet while complaining about a non-interference call. The non-call came after Robinson appeared to be contacted by cornerback Aqib Talib on a key fourth-and-4 play. It was hardly the first time Robinson this season appeared to be contacted before the arrival of a pass with no call from the official. It was a costly penalty, but considering how often this has happened … well, his frustration is understandable.
5. The turnover margin remains the key.The Jaguars are now minus-18 turnovers for the season. That remains worst in the NFL – and the statistic remains the No. 1 season-defining statistic for the Jaguars this season.
6. This defense is good.We have been learning this by the week, but it gets clearer each week, too. The Jaguars aren't going to the postseason – and they're not coming close – but the foundation of a good defense is being built.
7. No, we mean the defense is really good.The Jaguars held the Broncos to 1-of-13 on third downs. They allowed the Broncos 206 total yards. They now rank No. 4 in the NFL in total defense. This isn't a perfect defense and it still needs to rush the passer better and force turnovers, but it's playing at a high level.
8. This is a beat-up team.We knew this going into the weekend, and we learned it even more Sunday. Running back Denard Robinson left the game with an ankle injury, and linebacker Dan Skuta (elbow), tight end Neal Sterling (hip) and cornerback Peyton Thompson (ankle) also sustained injuries. Oh, and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue re-aggravated an ankle injury and did not return. The injury list already was long. It's getting longer.
9. This team hasn't quit.The Jaguars have played their best defense of the season during the last five weeks. Running back T.J. Yeldon and Ngakoue both played through injuries Sunday. Teams that have quit don't do those things. The Jaguars aren't getting the quality of play needed to win in a lot of areas – quarterback chief among them – but this bunch hasn't quit.
10. Special teams remain an issue.This area didn't allow a huge return Sunday for the first time in five games, but it did allow returns of 19 and 22 yards – and the 19-yarder was compounded by a 15-yard penalty on tight end Alex Ellis for hitting returner Kalif Raymond out of bounds. Ouch. Again.
11. Blake Bortles' struggles have reached a new level.The Jaguars' third-year quarterback threw a pick-six for the third time in four games. All have been costly – as pretty much always is the case when quarterbacks have interceptions returned for touchdowns. He committed three turnovers, and though one in the first half came on a bobble by Robinson, Bortles' turnover total is now 19 for the season. You can't win with that kind of play from the quarterback.
12. Bortles struggles are defining the season.This has been obvious for a while, too. Bortles on Sunday called the season "the biggest nightmare possible." Bortles is nothing if not candid, and you can see the season wearing on him. It has become tough to watch and tough to analyze. It's just rough.