The Jacksonville Jaguars came into Sunday’s game against San Diego, having won three of their last four games and right in the thick of the AFC South race. Three hours later, all that was good turned bad, as the Jaguars lost to the Chargers, 31-25, at EverBank Field. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Chargers, who improved to 3-8.
“We didn’t make enough plays today,” said Jaguars coach Gus Bradley. “There were plays out there and we left them out there.” Bradley proved his point, with these sobering stats. “They had the ball on the two, the nine, the 12, the 10 and the five and came away with 31 points off five opportunities. We had the ball on the four, the nine, the 10 and the eight. Four times in the red zone, we came up with 16 points.” That was the story of the game for Bradley. “We did a good job moving the ball, we got down there.” said Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, when asked about the red zone in his postgame news conference. “Continuing to make plays, continuing to find ways to get in the end zone, get different guys involved. It was really just a lack of execution. We talk about it every week, situational football. We need to continue to improve on that, especially in the red zone, for sure.”
Bortles had two touchdown passes on the day. The first came with 10:58 left in the fourth quarter, when he hooked up with Julius Thomas on a 21-yard strike, making it 24-19, in favor of San Diego. Allen Robinson, who caught five passes for 56 yards, found the end zone with 1:21 left, making it a 31-25 contest. Bortles threw for 329 yards in the loss, completing 30-of-49 passes. Thomas caught nine of those for 116 yards. It was his best all-around game as a Jaguar. “Not only just making the normal catches on first and second down, but critical plays, third down plays, fourth down plays,” Bradley said of Thomas. “Just his rhythm in practice and the consistency Blake is having now that (Thomas) is out there for practice and getting multiple reps, I think that’s helping out.”
Though they did some good things, the mistakes were difficult to overcome for Jacksonville (4-7), who were in the red zone three times in the first quarter of the game and came away with field goals. The defense allowed a very slow footed Philip Rivers to pick up key first downs with his legs, including a fourth quarter run that picked up eight yards on a fourth-and-seven. That drive ended in a touchdown and gave San Diego all the cushion they would need.
Bortles not only struggled in the red zone, but he also threw an interception late in the first half, that Rivers turned into a touchdown on the next San Diego drive. Probably the most unexplainable issue Bortles had on Sunday, was not knowing where he was on the field. On two separate occasions, Bortles was flagged for an illegal forward pass, meaning he stepped over the line of scrimmage and threw the ball. One of the two calls erased a touchdown to Julius Thomas. Each of the snafus came on third down and resulted in a loss of down, meaning the Jaguars had to settle for field goals.
“Both of them were third and goal and I was trying to extend them as long as possible,” said Bortles of the two costly penalties. “Both times just trying to press the line of scrimmage to get somebody to come up (on defense), so I could dump it to somebody behind them. I guess I ran a little bit too far.” Bortles was being kind to himself in that last comment, because he went more than two yards too far, on one of those plays.
Bortles was asked what Bradley said to him after the first time he was called for the illegal pass. “From a coaching perspective, I don’t know what you tell a guy that does that,” he said. “Quit being an idiot? I don’t know. I’ve never done that in my life and I did it twice today.” Bradley added that it’s all about awareness and knowing where you are on the field. “There’s been a big emphasis, we’re in the red zone, we need to make plays, we need to turn these into touchdowns,” he said. “He was extending the play, competing and trying to do that and just lost sight of it.”
Rivers made the Jaguars pay for their mistakes all day, throwing three touchdowns and passing for 300 yards. He completed 29-of-43 passes. Two of his touchdowns went to Antonio Gates, who caught four passes for 53 yards. “They have a great quarterback,” said Bradley, speaking of Rivers. “I have a lot of respect for him and a lot of respect for how he handles the game. Even more so, now that we played them again.” Bradley was complimentary of not only Rivers, but the Chargers as a team, saying they deserve high compliments for the way they play the game.
To their credit, the Jaguars fought to the end, blocking a punt late and turning that into a touchdown and giving themselves a chance on the onside kick. Kicker Jason Myers, who had four field goals on the day, struggled a bit with the onside trey, as he sent it toward the sideline and never really gave the Jaguars a chance to make a play. The ball bounced in the field of play, but was knocked out sideways, by the Chargers. Bradley contended that the Chargers knocked it forward, which would be a penalty, but he did not get the call.
For more info: Chargers @ Jaguars broadcast highlights
On the injury front, a scary moment for Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns, who left the field on a stretcher at the 3:44 mark of the fourth quarter. Hurns went down to attempt a diving catch and landed awkwardly, with his neck being jammed. Early reports were that Hurns has a concussion and will be evaluated again this week, as part of the concussion protocol.
Jacksonville will look to rebound Sunday, when they travel to Tennessee, to take on the Titans. These two teams met back on November 19, with the Jaguars scoring a 19-13 win. Sunday’s kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.