Jaguars travel cross-county, hope to end West Coast woes
Green Bay Packers cornerback Quinten Rollins (24) breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson, right, during the second half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Blake Bortles remembers very little about his first career start, which came at San Diego two years ago. His only vivid recollection: Sailing a pass 15 feet over Allen Robinson's head on the first play of the game.
Jacksonville ended up losing 33-14 , extending the franchise's West Coast losing streak to seven games.
Bortles and the Jaguars (0-1) hope to deliver a considerably better performance in their return Sunday.
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''I think it's different,'' Bortles said. ''In the years past, there's a mindset of kind of, `Here we go again,' whether it's during the game, whether it's after the game, whether it's going into the next game. This team doesn't have that. I don't see that in anybody. … We're going to go through this week and prepare as hard as we can and we're going to expect the best when we go out on Sunday.''
The Jaguars have been far from their best out west. They are 2-10 all-time on the West Coast and winless in San Diego. It's a trend Jacksonville needs to reverse to avoid a 0-2 start for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
''We've got to go out there and just handle our business,'' tight end Marcedes Lewis said. ''I feel like the makeup we have on this team right now is totally different than what we've had in the last six or seven years. We're looking forward to the opportunity. We understand what's at stake. This is an AFC game at the end of the day, too. We've got to have it.''
Jacksonville surely would improve its chances by playing better against quarterback Philip Rivers, who has torched the Jaguars during his career.
Rivers has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,899 yards, with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions in six career games (5-1) against the Jags. He's been at his best the last two years, totaling 677 yards passing and seven touchdowns – and no turnovers.
''He has the ability to put some big numbers up, regardless of who is playing for him,'' Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. ''It is a big-time challenge for us this week.''
Playing across the country has been an equally tough task for Jacksonville.
The Jags haven't won on the west coast since 2004 and have been outscored 222-79 during the seven-game losing streak, falling by double digits in six of those. They have given up at least 30 point in all three losses at the Chargers.
''I don't know, man,'' Lewis said. ''I don't what it is about the West Coast, but I do know there's going to be a lot of sleep and hydration and just be ready to play. Coach always stresses us being able to go anywhere at any time and compete. Well, we needed to have that attitude, and I think this year it will different.''
Coming off a 27-23 loss to Green Bay in the opener, the Jaguars were angry they blew a chance to upset a perennial playoff contender. They also realized there was plenty of progress made in the oh-so-close setback, especially for a franchise that has lost 37 of its last 49 games.
Going back to San Diego give them a chance to show it.
''Not to make any excuses or nothing, but we have a better team this year,'' defensive tackle Roy Miller said. ''A lot of people on this team feel like when we play at our best that looks pretty good. I don't think we get too caught up in the weather and the travel distance and being on the West Coast. There are so many different things you can try to use as a rabbit's foot. We'd rather just play well and win, which we know we can do.''
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