JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 26-19 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, Sunday
1. The Jaguars are competitive – frustratingly and disappointingly competitive …The Jaguars have played contending teams in each of the last three games. The Chiefs, Texans and Lions all could be on their way to the playoffs, and the Jaguars could have – maybe should have – won all three games.
2. ...But they're finding ways to lose.Entry No. 1 was not meant to say the Jaguars are good enough. They are not. They're not winning those competitive games and in the NFL – particularly in Year 4 of a rebuild – you must win. Close is not acceptable. Close is not good. Close is losing.
3. The Jaguars won't have a winning record this season.That became finalized Sunday when the Jaguars slipped to 2-8. They haven't had a winning season since 2007, the last year they made the postseason. That's too long, but that's the way it is.
4. Marqise Lee is good. Really good.
5. Marqise Lee may be the Jaguars' best offensive player.This perhaps isn't fair to Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson, who continues to be the team's best red-zone threat – and who has continued to be productive despite teams defending him against the deep pass. But Lee has been the Jaguars' most-dynamic player in the last month and a half. The third-year wide receiver's rare athleticism is starting to turn into big, impact plays. A lot of them.
6. Pick-sixes hurt.They really hurt, and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles continues to learn this. When safety Rafael Bush returned an interception for a touchdown early in the third quarter Sunday, it was the second consecutive week an opponent had intercepted Bortles and returned it for a touchdown. It cost the Jaguars big-time a week ago in a 24-21 loss to Houston. It cost big-time in a seven-point loss Sunday. That's the thing about pick-sixes. They almost always cost. Big-time.
7. Bortles is tough …Bortles has been criticized a lot this season, and much of it has been deserved. But there's no questioning his toughness. Bortles played through a shoulder injury Sunday to turn in one of his better performances of the season. He's still struggling, but he played well enough on two drives to lead two touchdown drives and put the Jaguars in a position to win in the fourth quarter.
8. … but accuracy remains an issue.Bortles didn't have the glaring deep misses he had a week ago, but he continues to struggle with accuracy. His pick-six interception came on a pass that was behind Lee and too high. The ball caromed off Lee's hands and became a huge play for Detroit. That followed a play on which Bortles underthrew Allen Hurns on a deep ball. Bortles is completing a higher percentage of his passes than in years past, but big plays are being left on the field – and turning into big plays for the opponent.
9. The Jaguars' defense is good.No, the Jaguars' defense couldn't come up with the fourth-quarter stop Sunday when the Lions used eight minutes to drain the clock. Still, this unit is good – and it's giving the Jaguars a chance to win most weeks. The defense allowed just one touchdown Sunday. That's supposed to be enough to win.
10. Abry Jones is good.The fourth-year veteran has replaced the injured Roy Miller at nose tackle. He has played well enough that the Jaguars haven't missed Miller nearly as much as many anticipated – and well enough for the Jaguars to hold the Lions to 14 rushing yards on 21 carries Sunday.
11. Special teams are a real problem. The Jaguars have made huge special teams mistakes in five consecutive games. It started with three consecutive games with lost fumbles on punt returns. It has continued with three consecutive games allowing long punt returns. On Sunday, Lions wide receiver Andre Roberts' 55-yard punt return allowed the game to be tied at halftime despite the Jaguars dominating total yardage. The Jaguars aren't good enough to overcome huge negative special teams plays every week. Then again, few teams are that good.
12. The Jaguars can get a lead and force a takeaway.The Jaguars broke two really long streaks Sunday, taking their first lead in more than four games and forcing their first turnover in more than five. At least we can put those statistics away for a while.
13. The offensive line can pass block.The Jaguars allowed 122 sacks over the last two seasons, and the line was a major issue both seasons. This year's sacks total is 19 through 10 games. There is a lot wrong with the Jaguars this season. Pass blocking is not one of them.
14. Mental mistakes remain an issue.This team is hurt seemingly every week by an avoidable, costly penalty. On Sunday it was veteran defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks jumping offside on fourth-and-2 from the Jaguars 46 with 2:34 remaining. Aarrrghh!!! Enough already.