Last year, an embarrassing loss to the Tennessee Titans in week eight gave the Jaguars the impetus to play their best football of the season. Coach Jack Del Rio hopes Sunday's loss to the San Diego Chargers will have the same affect on this year's team.
"That's what we will seek to do," Del Rio said of a renewed commitment to winning. "Coaches and players are accountable to each other. We're all in this together. We will pull together and get this thing fixed."
It was a long, time-consuming drive in the fourth quarter of that loss to the Titans that sent Del Rio into a postgame tirade. In San Diego Sunday, it was a two-play drive – runs of 31 and 41 yards by reserve running back Jesse Chatman – that lit Del Rio's fuse.
He referred to his team's performance against the Chargers as an "ugly display" of football, and he was especially angered by the worst performance by his run-defense in his 21 games as the Jaguars' head coach.
"You know that is a touchy issue for me. I take great pride in run-defense. We'll play better," Del Rio said.
Kansas City is next up for the Jaguars, who will have a great chance to make a statement about improved run-defense against one of the league's premier running backs, Priest Holmes. Last year, the week after the loss to Tennessee, the Jaguars held Jamal Lewis under 100 yards. Will they do the same to Holmes? Will the Jaguars make this a statement game?
"They're in the same mode … they're trying to find a way to get back on track," Del Rio said of the 1-3 Chiefs, a preseason Super Bowl favorite.
One of the main issues from Sunday's game in San Diego was Marcus Stroud being moved from defensive tackle to defensive end. Del Rio was asked at Monday afternoon's press conference if he will continue to use Stroud at end.
"We haven't determined that, whether or not we'll use him there. Our thought was to use our best players," Del Rio explained of the decision to play Stroud at end. "Marcus played well. That wasn't the issue. We had other issues that were a problem for us."
Del Rio's concern is for missed assignments on defense, and they occurred in pass-coverage as well as in run-support. That will have to be corrected for the Jaguars to have any chance of defeating Kansas City, the league's 12th-ranked offense and second-ranked run-offense. The Jaguars defense is 11th overall; 19th against the run and 11th against the pass.
Another area of concern is the Jaguars' inability to score in the first quarter of games. They have yet to score in the first quarter this season and they have only scored four touchdowns in the first quarter of games in the last two seasons.
"It continues to be something we address and talk about. We have not played with a lead yet," Del Rio said. "We're having to fight from behind or even, at best."
The Jaguars led Denver, 7-0, but trailed in all other games; 7-0 in Buffalo, 6-0 in Tennessee, 10-0 against the Colts and 21-0 in San Diego.
"In order to be the kind of football team we want to be, we have to get better in that phase," Del Rio said. "We clearly dug ourselves a hole that was too difficult to overcome," he added of the loss to the Chargers. "It was not a lack of effort or willingness. We'll put it behind us as quickly as possible and move on."