JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 31-25 loss to the San Diego Chargers Sunday …
1.The red-zone matters …What had been a season-long talking point has become a full-fledged issue – and obvious weakness – for the Jaguars. They entered Sunday's game near the bottom of the NFL scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and it had hurt them at various times throughout the season. Never had the problem been as obvious or glaring as it was Sunday.
2…. no, it really, really matters.The Jaguars moved effectively throughout much of the game, producing 420 yards and 20 first downs. They also had seven plays of more than 20 yards. But they moved inside the Chargers 20 four times and managed just one touchdown. That's too many opportunities squandered against a quarterback as good as Philip Rivers. Speaking of which …
3…. Rivers is really good.Remember how we spent the entire week leading to the game talking about Rivers, and talking to Jaguars players about Rivers? There's a reason. Twelve years into his career, and even playing with a depleted group of skill players, he's still a really tough out.
4.It's not just red zone hurting the offense.The Jaguars' one touchdown on four red-zone trips got a lot of post-game attention, but a season-long habit of stalling in opponents' territory continued Sunday, too. The Jaguars moved past the 50 eight times. They scored two touchdowns and four field goals, but still left too many points on the field.
Images from the jaguars Week 12 matchup with the San Diego Chargers.
5.The red-zone matters on defense, too. As much as we've discussed the Jaguars' offensive red-zone woes, the defense struggled in this area Sunday, too. The Chargers drove inside the Jaguars' 20 five times, scoring four touchdowns. That's efficiency. That wins games.
6.The task just got tougher.All the talk of the postseason? Of maybe winning the division? Well, the Jaguars aren't absolutely, definitively out of either the wild-card or division race. But the task is a whole lot tougher now than it looked Sunday morning.
7.Rashad Greene is a factor on punt returns. The rookie didn't have the impact Sunday that he did a week ago when he returned a punt 63 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown in a victory over Tennessee. But he did return three punts for a nine-yard average. When he fields a punt, he's a threat.
8.Allen Robinson plays hard.Whether it's fighting 50-50 ball or running after the catch, the second-year wide receiver plays every play with intensity. It's just one reason he's on his way to being a core player.
9.Ryan Davis has trouble covering Antonio Gates.This has been true of a lot of defenders for the last decade. It's really true of defensive ends 25 yards downfield.
10.Paul Posluszny can really play the run.This goes for the entire defense, but Posluszny was dominant at times against the run Sunday. He registered a team-high 11 tackles, including three for losses. Jacksonville limited San Diego to 79 yards rushing on 26 carries.
Setting the scene as the Jaguars prepare to face the San Diego Chargers
11.Blake Bortles is still growing up.Growing pains are part of the deal with a young NFL quarterback, and Bortles without question is still experiencing some. He had a solid statistical game Sunday, throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. The interception was by linebacker Monti Te'o at the end of the first half and set up a touchdown, but Bortles' red-zone struggles were the primary offensive issue. They hurt in a big way. A really big way.
12.Bortles is still the guy.He has thrown for 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions this season, and he continues to show improvement. A lot of it. The short-term mistakes are frustrating, but even considering his red-zone struggles Sunday, there's as much good as bad. That's worth remembering in the tough times.
13.Julius Thomas is starting to play like Julius Thomas.The Jaguars' top offseason free-agent signee, Thomas missed the first four games with a hand injury – then struggled statistically as he and Bortles worked to gain chemistry. On Sunday, the two looked more in synch than in any previous game this season, with Thomas catching nine passes for 116 yards and a touchdown.
14.Jason Myers is …Honestly, this is tough to answer, isn't it? Just when you think the Jaguars' rookie kicker is gaining consistency – and just when he converts all four field goals, including a 51-yarder – he misses his fourth extra point of the season. Myers has a better percentage on field goals this season – 84.6 percent – than he does on extra points, on which he is converting 83.3 percent.
15.T.J. Yeldon needs more touches.The rookie rushed nine times for 36 yards, but considering how the run offense struggled after some early success, it made sense to go more pass heavy. What didn't make as much sense was Yeldon getting no red-zone touches. Some of this was Bortles checking to passes on red-zone plays that called for a run-pass options, but somehow Yeldon needs to get more opportunities near the goal line.
16.There's still a ways to go.The playoff talk was fun, but this is still a team with growing up to do on offense – and still a team that needs more playmakers on defense. The Jaguars are closer. There's no doubt. But there's also no doubt they're not quite there yet.