JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 23-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field Sunday
1.The Jaguars are still in it.Yes, despite the loss on Sunday the Jaguars aren't out of this thing – and oddly, the loss to the Falcons didn't change the Jaguars' playoff scenario too, too much. They need to beat New Orleans Sunday and Houston in Week 17. They also need the Tennessee Titans to beat the Texans Sunday and for the Titans to beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7. If all of that happens, the Jaguars will win the AFC South title. That's a real long shot, but it was a long shot before, too.
2.The Jaguars need help from Mike Mularkey.That's right, the Jaguars' former head coach (2012) is the interim head coach of the Titans. So, the Jaguars need Mularkey's team to win its final two games. Small world, this NFL …
3.The defense struggles to rush the passer. We keep learning this and learning this. And learning this. And learning this. It really hurt Sunday, with the Falcons converting third-and-long after third-and-long after third-and-long in the third and fourth quarters. Those conversions didn't lead to touchdowns, but they helped the Falcons control the clock – and the game – in the second half.
4.The defense struggles to rush the passer.Yeah, it's important enough to mention twice. You just worried before this one that Matt Ryan was good enough to beat you if you didn't pressure him. You were right.
5.Luke Joeckel is fine.Wha-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a-t? OK, the third-year left tackle struggled early on Sunday, but he has played fine much of this season. That's true despite Twitter Roar to the contrary.
6.The offense isn't a juggernaut yet.We saw signs of this last week, believe it or not. Remember the first half of the 51-16 victory over the Colts? The offense didn't score a touchdown. The offense started slow again on Sunday before recovering for three really good drives – and then struggling again in the fourth quarter. Remember, this is an improving offense, but it's still a young one. There are going to be stops and starts as it grows.
7.Blake Bortles is still young …This wasn't Bortles' best game – not by a long stretch. He narrowly missed Julius Thomas on a potential first-half touchdown, then narrowly missed Allen Hurns on a long pass down the middle that might have been a touchdown – or at least put the Jaguars in great position – on the final drive. Those are the throws that win games. Bortles didn't quite make them Sunday.
8. … Blake Bortles is still young …Yeah, this is worth breaking into two parts. Bortles' interception in the red zone late in the first half was an absolute killer. Facing first-and-goal at the Falcons 1-yard line with :11 remaining, the Jaguars had at least three plays to try for the touchdown. Instead, Bortles was intercepted in the end zone by Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael, who returned it to set up a field goal on the final drive of the half. Credit Bortles for chasing down Ishmael on the play – and for leading a comeback early in the second half. Still, that interception was a 10-point swing.
9. … but he's still improving.Let's keep some perspective on the Bortles-bashing. This was far from his best game, and the interception hurt. But he still has 31 touchdowns with 14 interceptions this season, and he still passed for 297 yards and a touchdown with one interception Sunday. That "bad game" is still worlds better than his "bad games" last season. He must continue to improve, but he's a long way from a disaster.
10.Poz is tough. Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny played Sunday with a club protecting his broken right hand. He led the team in tackles and also had an interception. He didn't fend off blocks as well as he wanted, but the Jaguars' defense held the Falcons to five yards on 17 second-half carries. That's a big-time effort on that front.
11.The Jaguars missed running back T.J. Yeldon.Backup Denard Robinson rushed 14 times for 28 yards and fumbled twice in the second half. Not Robinson's best day.
12.Marqise Lee needs to be on the field.Somehow, some way. There's too much talent not to play him now that he's healthy.
13.Rashad Greene is a find.The rookie wide receiver returned two punts for 17 yards, but whenever he touches the ball on a punt return it feels like he has a chance to break one. The energy he provides for special teams is real.
14.Julius Thomas is a core player.Well, we sort of knew this before, but the veteran tight end continues to look better and better in this offense. He caught six passes for 79 yards Sunday and he's a force on third downs.
15.EverBank Field rocks.It sure did Sunday.
16.Allen Robinson should be in the Pro Bowl.He makes contested, spectacular catches as consistently as any receiver in the NFL, and his numbers merit a trip to Hawaii.
17.The Jaguars are still in it.Um … go Titans, right?
Gameday images of the Jaguars Week-15 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.