JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned in the Jaguars' 29-26 loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Sunday …
1.The fade is real. Remember? Late September? The Jaguars were 3-1 and as good as any team in the NFL… or so we thought. The Jaguars now have lost five consecutive games. The only NFL teams with similar losing streaks? The 1-8 Oakland Raiders and 1-7 New York Giants, both of whom also have lost five consecutive games. Wow.
2.The Jaguars are in last place. The Jaguars not only were 3-1 entering October, they were alone in first place in the AFC South. When the Jaguars were 2-0 in mid-September, they entered a home game against the Tennessee Titans with a chance to take a two-game lead in the division. The Jaguars (3-6) now are in last place in the South behind Houston (6-3), Tennessee (5-4) and Indianapolis (4-5).
3.The playoff hopes are all but over. The Jaguars' 3-6 record makes it tough to make the postseason. Four teams that have started 3-6 have made the postseason: the 1994 New England Patriots, the 1995 Detroit Lions, the 1996 Jaguars and the 2012 Washington Redskins.
4.The defense is not elite. It's time to put that away. That talk was for last season. And the offseason. The Jaguars' defense on Sunday allowed four first-half touchdowns and 306 first-half yards. The defense was better in the second half, but also got a couple of breaks with dropped passes by Colts receivers.
5.The communication struggles are real … Sunday's first half was defined by Colts tight end Eric Ebron's Hall-of-Fame level performance, but also by Jaguars defenders such as linebacker Telvin Smith, cornerback Jalen Ramsey and safety Barry Church looking at teammates and one another after a slew of blown coverages. This defensive backfield thought continuity would be a plus this season. That hasn't been the case.
6. … really, really real. The communication issues are worth mentioning twice, because it was a major problem Sunday. Ramsey appeared to be in the wrong defense on two big first-half plays – including a 53-yard first-drive touchdown reception by Ebron – and Church was among multiple players who appeared confused before Ebron's 12-yard second-quarter touchdown. Luck had six passes of 20 or more yards. As Head Coach Doug Marrone said afterward, "When guys were open early on, they were wide open."
7.Church is struggling mightily … The veteran strong safety was replaced by Jarrod Wilson briefly in the second quarter Sunday. It has been a tough month for the veteran leader.
8. …. and communication is a concern at linebacker, too. Smith and Myles Jack were considered perhaps the top young linebacking corps in the NFL before the season. Missed assignments at the position this season have hurt and hurt again Sunday.
9.Leonard Fournette matters. The second-year running back didn't produce huge numbers Sunday, but his presence helps this offense. A lot. The Jaguars essentially scored one significant offensive touchdown in October with Fournette out all four games. They scored three significant touchdowns Sunday. The difference is real.
10.Fournette looks healthy. At last. The second-year running back on Sunday returned from a hamstring issue in impressive fashion. After missing the last four games, Fournette produced 109 yards on 29 touches and scored a receiving and a rushing touchdown in the same game for the first time in 16 NFL regular-season games.
11.Bortles has had a decent couple of weeks. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles hasn't committed a turnover since returning to the starting lineup after being benched in the second half of a week loss to the Houston Texans. His performance Sunday – 26 of 38, 320 yards and two touchdowns – was his best performance since a four-touchdown performance in a Week 2 victory over New England.
12.Josh Lambo is human. The Jaguars' kicker on Sunday missed a field goal for the first time this season – wide left from 52 yards late in the third quarter. Lambo converted later from 55 yards, and here's the thing: when you need your kicker to be perfect from 50 yards and out to rally, you're asking too much.
13.The offensive line is beat up. When Ereck Flowers rotated with Josh Walker Sunday, Flowers became the Jaguars' fourth left tackle of the season. Walker played through a foot injury and Flowers left with a knee injury. Center Brandon Linder on Sunday also sustained what appeared to be a significant knee injury. The line struggled with health through the first half of the season. It will only get tougher now.
14.It's about pride now. The Jaguars aren't technically out of the postseason, but that won't be motivation now. Can this team stay together? Can it stay focused? Can it stay motivated? No one expected to hear those questions about this team in mid-November, but that's this team's reality.