JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 23-20 loss to the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sunday
1.The Jaguars are in first place …The Jaguars are 2-2 and tied for first place in a suddenly strange AFC South. The Jaguars beat the Houston Texans, 29-7, in Week 1. The Tennessee Titans beat the Jaguars, 37-16, in Week 2. The Texans beat the Titans, 57-14, Sunday. Go figure.
2. … but this was an opportunity lost.Jaguars players were unanimous afterward that this was an opportunity that got away. They rallied from a 10-point deficit to force overtime, but had a late go-ahead touchdown by running back Leonard Fournette negated by a hold on wide receiver Arrelious Benn. The team than had a major field-position edge through much of overtime only to allow the Jets to flip the field and win. This was a tough one to accept.
3.Special teams matter I.This one could have gone differently if a couple of special teams plays had gone differently. First, kicker Jason Myers missed a 52-yard field goal well wide right in the third quarter. Those points loomed large at game's end …
4.Special teams matter II.If Myers' miss loomed large, a punt by Jets punter Lachlan Edwards in overtime loomed doubly so. With Edwards punting from the Jets 25 with 2:20 remaining, the Jaguars seemed likely to get possession with a chance to drive for a game-winning score. Instead, Jaguars returner Marqise Lee appeared to lose track of a ball that sailed further and wider than expected. It bounced away from Lee to the Jaguars 5. When Benn was penalized for a block in the back, the Jaguars took possession at their 3.
The Jaguars traveled up to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets in Week 4.
5.Special teams matter III.When the Jaguars failed to get a first down after Edwards' 70-yard punt, punter Brad Nortman – who twice pinned the Jets inside their 10 in overtime – punted to the Jaguars 47. Jeremy Kerley returned the punt seven yards and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty on linebacker Paul Posluszny – the first such penalty of the 11-year veteran's career – gave the Jets a first down on the Jaguars 25. Chandler Catanzaro's 41-yard field goal won it for New York three plays later.
6.The Jaguars are gritty.No, the Jaguars didn't play well enough much of the game. But this team looked done in the fourth quarter facing a 10-point deficit with the Jets at the Jaguars 14. Linebacker Myles Jack returned a fumble 81 yards for a touchdown and the Jaguars clawed back into the game. It wasn't enough, but it was fight. And it was grit.
7.Blake Bortles isn't "over the hump."Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles looked good and very improved in a four-touchdown, no-interception performance against Baltimore a week ago. He looked equally improved on the first series Sunday, completing four of five passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. He went 11 of 30 for 98 yards and an interception after that. He wasn't helped by a late drop by Lee, but Bortles looked inaccurate as the passing game stalled.
8.Every play matters.Duh, right? But this game goes the other way if any of a handful of plays go the other way. One of the most notable plays was the dropped pass by Lee that would have moved the Jaguars into field-goal range in overtime. Instead, the Jaguars were forced to punt.
9.The run defense must get fixed.The Jaguars allowed 256 yards rushing Sunday and the Jets averaged 8.0 yards per carry. Those are losing numbers. The primary issue was defenders getting out of their gaps, which in a gap-control defense such as the Jaguars run often leads to long gains. The issue usually is quickly fixable. But 256 yards? Eight yards a carry? That must get fixed.
10.Fournette is really good …The rookie continues to be the offensive focal point, and a major early-season theme continues to be how much better the offense looks with him than without him. He rushed for 86 yards Sunday, caught passes for 59 more and had a 10-yard first-quarter touchdown reception. He continues to be as good as advertised.
11. … and managing his touches is difficult.Fournette had 24 carries and five receptions. He also was targeted with another pass. That means he was the focal point of 40 percent of the Jaguars' offensive plays. That's a lot and somehow it doesn't feel like enough.
12.This team can rush the passer.The Jaguars registered five sacks Sunday and lead the NFL with 18. Yannick Ngakoue registered two to bring his season total to four. Calais Campbell registered one and has 5.5 for the season. Yes, they can rush the passer. Can they stop the run and be efficient enough offensively to allow that pass rush to close games? That question could define the season.