JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 25-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at EverBank Field Sunday …
1. The issues are what they are.The Jaguars have lost eight consecutive games – with the last six losses coming in strikingly similar fashion. They have had opportunities to win all six games against six contending teams – yet somehow, someway they lost all six. NFL games are usually decided by a series or two – even a play or two. When you can't win close games, you're going to struggle. Big-time.
2. The special teams struggles aren't just struggles.Special teams has been an issue for two months, but never had it been quite the issue that it was Sunday. A 53-yard kickoff return allowed. A holding penalty. A 41-yard missed field goal. An illegal block. A delay-of-game penalty … on the kicker. A partially blocked punt. A roughing-the-punter penalty. An illegal touched kick. A blocked field goal. And on and on and on.
3. The defense isn't yet elite.The same issues that have plagued the Jaguars' defense at times this season were there Sunday. Most notably? An inability to get off the field in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars have struggled at times to do it this season, and they struggled again Sunday.
4. More pass rush is needed.The Jaguars have had trouble rushing the quarterback with four linemen all season. That showed up again Sunday, and the Jaguars finished without a sack for the third time this season.
5. Marqise Lee is the Jaguars' best offensive player.This has been trending this way for the past few weeks, but little doubt remains. Lee has attained his season goal of remaining healthy – and as a result, the talent that made him an early second-round draft selection has shown through. He's tough, elusive and has the ability get open – and he also has shown a knack for the acrobatic, highlight reception. People wondered last offseason if he would be on the roster; now, you just wonder how good he can be.
6. Blake Bortles can have a clean game …Credit Bortles for going without an interception for the second time in three games – and for the fourth time this season. He was much, much more controlled with the ball Sunday than he was the previous week – and the result was the Jaguars' third game without a give-away this season.
7. … but he still has a lot of work to do.Bortles' numbers were good, and he had good stretches Sunday. He looked particularly strong for a stretch in the third quarter when he threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bryan Walters. Still, there remained a lot of inaccuracies and the Jaguars failed to pick up a first down on back-to-back fourth quarter possessions trailing 18-16. This game was there for the taking, but the offense stagnated in the fourth quarter. Again.
8. The disconnect is real.Wide receiver Allen Robinson and Bortles met last week after Robinson caught three passes for 31 yards against Denver last week. Bortles targeted Robinson just three times Sunday. He caught one pass for 17 yards.
9. Robinson can get calls, after all.Robinson through much of this season was routinely getting contacted by defenders – often seemingly before the ball's arrival. He often seemed to not be getting as many interference calls as would have been ideal. That changed a bit Sunday, with Robinson drawing an interference penalty in the second quarter and drawing a defensive holding in the third.
10. Yannick Ngakoue has the look of a star …The rookie Leo end remains the most polished, consistent pass rusher among Jaguars defensive ends.
11. … but he doesn't have much luck.Ngakoue stripped Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford of the ball in the first half Sunday. That would have and perhaps should have been Ngakoue's seventh sack of the season, which would have tied Tony Brackens' team record for sacks by a rookie. But when Bradford was able to recover the fumble and throw a pass for a first down the sack was negated. Unreal.
12. The penalties thing isn't dead yet.The Jaguars were penalized 14 times for 114 yards, and at times Sunday this felt like a discipline thing. This was a trend early in the season; it went away for a while. On Sunday, it was back.
13. The heart remains strong …The Jaguars essentially have been out of the postseason for more than a month. They officially have been out of it for two weeks. Still, they continue to play competitively against contending teams. That doesn't happen for teams that have quit.
14. … but heart's not enough. Whether or not the Jaguars have quit doesn't seem all that important, somehow. They're 2-11 and their eight consecutive losses tie the franchise record for longest single-season losing streak. At this point, that's unacceptable.