Last Sunday at Everbank Field the Jacksonville Jaguars lost their 5th game in 6 weeks to begin the 2015 NFL season to division rival Houston by a score of 31-20. The Texans and Jags came into the contest with identical 1-4 records and desperate for a second victory in an AFC South Division that is far from being decided. Both franchises entered the game with numerous injuries to key starters. Texans All-Pro Defensive End J.J.Watt was listed as questionable with an illness, while the Jags were without rookie running back T.J. Yeldon who was quietly having a breakout year, but was held out with a soft tissue injury. Yeldon’s backup Bernard Pierce was also unavailable after suffering a concussion the week prior in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Without the two halfbacks, Jacksonville struggled to amass just 83 yards on the day with 37 of those credited to Jags quarterback Blake Bortles who had another big game throwing the ball 53 times with 30 completions and 331 yards and three touchdowns.
Huge numbers no doubt, but largely negated by three interceptions of which two would factor heavily in the loss. The first came in the closing minute of the second quarter with the jags trailing 10-7 and deep in Texans territory. Bortles dropped back and attempted to thread a pass over the middle of the field to returning All-Pro tight end Julius Thomas who never had a chance on the ball as it was caught by a diving Texans safety Andre Hal. Hal would also be responsible for the second and most costly interception by Bortles, the pick six in the fourth quarter on another pass intended for Thomas. The 31yd return by Hal following that pick put and abrupt end to the Jags chance of victory as it came on the heels of back to back touchdown drives by the Texans offense. Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer and star wide out DeAndre Hopkins combined to torch the jags secondary for 10 catches for 148yds and 2 touchdowns, and their chemistry and production was complemented perfectly by the running of former All-Pro halfback Arien foster who finished the contest with just 53yds, but each of those gains came at critical moments of the game and exposed the Jags run defense, a strength of this team a year ago.
Following the loss, Jaguars Head coach Gus Bradley said that the team was “pressing” to hard and that they needed to be patient and let the big plays come to them. He also said that changes to the defense would be coming this week as the team tries to find a pass rush that they hope will reduce the number of big plays they have given up so far this season.
The positives going forward are despite the fact that the Jags now sit in last place in their division they are still just 2 games behind of the South leading Indianapolis Colts with 10 games remaining this season including a total of four games against their three division rivals. The other bright spot is the emergence of an aerial attack that if it can reduce the costly interceptions could be one of the league’s best. Bortles is a the top ten passer in both yards passing(1,630) and touchdowns(13), and the emergence of star wide out Allen Robinson who is fifth in yards per catch average(17.4) and has amassed 5 touchdown catches so far, and the return of Julius Thomas who had a big day despite the two picks intended for him he finished with 7 catches for 78yds and a touchdown.
The Jags now face another month long absence from their home stadium as they travel to London this week to face the Buffalo Bills before having a bye week and then traveling to Baltimore and New York to face the Jets before finally returning home to face another division opponent the Tennessee Titans November 19th on Thursday night football.