JACKSONVILLE – What We Learned from the Jaguars' 31-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday …
1.The Jaguars are sick of this.If anything was to be drawn from the Wembley postgame locker room, it was this: There was a decided edge to the comments. Not that losing was ever acceptable, but this was different. You heard it from Head Coach Gus Bradley. You heard it from players, who had seen and heard from an angry Bradley at halftime. It's hard to know if it was embarrassment, or just being worn out on losing. Whatever it was, it felt different. We'll see where it goes.
2.Gus Bradley wants urgency.Bradley was angry enough at halftime that players were still talking about it afterward – and most said the anger was well-deserved. Bradley was a bit more pointed than normal after the game, saying, "It's time we take another step. It's time that we get it done, and get it done by playing consistent football from the first snap to the end." Simply improving isn't enough anymore and it hasn't been for a while. The Jaguars need to reach a higher level than they have thus far this season. Bradley made that clear after the game Sunday.
3.It's not all on Blake Bortles …The Jaguars' rookie quarterback has taken the brunt of the blame and more than his share of criticism in recent weeks – and yeah, deservedly so at times. But this loss wasn't on him. There was a lot that went that went wrong, but this time it was a lot beyond Bortles.
4…. but Bortles still needs to improve.We won't slant this to say Bortles played great. He completed 22 of 37 passes for 290 yards and no touchdowns with an interception, so statistically he was OK. But at first glance, he appeared to struggle with footwork at times – and with accuracy because of that. That's to be expected from a young quarterback, but it still has to improve.
5.The special teams struggles remain real.This was a topic last week, and it's a topic again this week. Last week, special teams allowed a tipped punt and a blocked punt. This week, wide receiver Ace Sanders' muffed first-half punt return was a huge momentum-changer. The Jaguars aren't good enough yet to overcome such mistakes. Then again, few teams are, which leads to …
6.The Jaguars need to win the turnover battle.As one-sided as this game felt, it didn't feel that way until mistakes started happening. A first-quarter muff by Sanders … A second-quarter lost fumble by running back Denard Robinson. One play (Sanders) led directly to a Dallas touchdown; the other (Robinson) gave the ball away in Dallas territory. Killers.
7.The Jaguars need Robinson to run.Robinson rushed for 60 yards on 15 carries after averaging nearly 110 yards the last three games. His yardage drop-off coincided with the offense suddenly struggling to stay on the field for the first time in a while. That in turn hurt the defense. And leads to …
8.This defense needs the offense to play well.It's no coincidence the defense struggled on a day the offense did, too. The offense hadn't scored a whole lot of points in recent weeks, but they had played well enough to give the defense a break. That didn't happen enough in the first half, and partly as a result of that, the Cowboys got on a hot streak and took the Jaguars out of the game.
9.Dez Bryant is good.He's as elite a big-play receiver as there is in the NFL right now. He showed it in a big way in the second half, and as much as any single player has done against the Jaguars this season, took control of the game. The Jaguars don't have a player who can do that yet. It showed.
10.The Cowboys' offensive line is, too.You had a bad feeling about the matchup of the Cowboys' offensive line and the Jaguars' defensive line early. That was when DeMarco Murray rushed for 23 yards on the game's first play. A 17-yard screen on the ensuing play didn't make the Jaguars feel any better. The Jaguars' defensive line got things calmed down for a while, but the Cowboys' offensive line was a huge factor all day.
11.The Jaguars need to learn to play better at Wembley.Yes, the Jaguars' two opponents in Wembley – the San Francisco 49ers last season and the Cowboys this season – have been very, very good. Still, the Jaguars are going to be playing games in London for a while. They need to start performing better there.
12.Brandon Linder matters.The Jaguars' running game had been improving in recent weeks. They didn't improve Sunday. The absence of the rookie right guard wasn't the only reason, but it was noticeable.
13.Tyler Shatley has potential.The rookie replaced Jacques McClendon at right guard in the second half, and teammates said he played well.
14.There's still growing up to do.A huge part of this team's issue remains youth. You see it in the inconsistency and the little mistakes that can become big ones. It's tiresome to keep talking it but there are rookies and young players learning the details and subtleties of the game. They need to get better. Unfortunately, it takes time.
15.The Jaguars' need a bye.Boy, do they …