Opening loss shows Jaguars still have long way to go
SEP 08, 2013 7:18p ET
The Jacksonville Jaguars can only hope they're not headed down that same desolate road this year.
"It might be a wake-up call for us," first-year coach Gus Bradley said after a 28-2 whipping at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs that might have put to sleep those fans who didn't beat a steady retreat to the exits well before time expired.
Through three quarters, the Jaguars had a not-so-grand total of 58 yards and four first downs. They never crossed the 50-yard line until a run by Maurice Jones-Drew midway through the fourth quarter. And going into a final drive that saw Blaine Gabbert leave early with a laceration on his passing hand, they threatened to break the franchise's single-game record for fewest total yards which was established in the 2012 home opener.
Long before Gabbert needed 15 stitches to close his wound, the Jaguars were bloodied by the Chiefs.
"I don't know if, as an offense, we can do much worse than what we did today," said Jones-Drew, who was held to 45 yards on 15 carries with a long run of only 10 yards. "It's pretty tough. We have a lot of work to do. And we can grow through this. We have to grow through this in order to be the offense that we want to be."
The defense kept the Chiefs off the scoreboard in the second half, although a case can be made for that being the result of star running Jamaal Charles spending a considerable chunk of it on the sidelines. And the special teams created the Jaguars' only points by blocking a punt through the end zone less than three minutes into the game.
But on a day when the biggest concern was supposed to be how Gabbert would look after fracturing his right thumb during the preseason, the entire offense was all thumbs.
"That's not a crutch or an excuse or any explanation on why we didn't perform at the level we wanted to today," said Gabbert, who was in the locker room getting his hand looked at while Chad Henne took over for him with 1:20 to go.
"It just never felt like we could get in rhythm," Bradley said. "A lot of that credit goes to Kansas City. They have a good defense, we knew they played good defense, and credit should go to them. But we still have to find a way to execute."
The receivers dropped balls and missed not having tight end Marcedes Lewis and suspended wide receiver Justin Blackmon in uniform. The line gave up six sacks, at least two of which could be attributed to right tackle and first-round draft pick Luke Joeckel.
Not that Gabbert was in a mood to point fingers at any of his blockers.
"I've got the ball in my hands. So it's on me, 100 percent," he said. "I've got to get the ball out if there's any type of leakage up front and find ways to get guys open quicker."
Getting the ball out wasn't an issue for Gabbert on the Jaguars' first possession of the fourth quarter, but where it ended up was. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, a thorn in Joeckel's side for a good part of the afternoon, dropped back in coverage and gathered in with almost embarrassing ease Gabbert's floater in the right flat. While the Chiefs had an apparent pick-six earlier in the half called back after a replay review, the Jaguars weren't as fortunate this time around.
"I can't throw that football. I've got to find a way to doctor it or scramble, especially in that situation when we're down in our own red zone," Gabbert said.
The defense recorded only one sack and had no takeaways. But just one of the Chiefs' touchdowns was the result of something close to a time-consuming drive. Their first two scores were set up by a long punt return and an interception on which Gabbert and Cecil Shorts III were clearly not on the same page.
"We can't put them in situations where they've got a short field," Shorts said. "They're on the field too long. We can't have three-and-outs. We can't punt nine, eight, whatever times a game."
It actually was 11, but who's counting?
Bradley, the defensive coordinator at Seattle the previous four years, knows he has his hands full with a roster that includes 26 new players from the end of last season. He compared his current situation to when the Seahawks started off 2-6 after the lockout of 2011 before coming around to where they're now mentioned as a Super Bowl contender.
"Sometimes it might take six or seven games that first year or second year to where you can take time and establish yourself," he said. "We don't want to wait that long."
Nor does the Jaguars' fan base.
You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.