Jaguars looking for more from West Coast trip
When the Jacksonville Jaguars headed West last season, things went south.
In a hurry, too.
The Jaguars were outscored 61-3 in trips to Seattle and San Francisco, embarrassing losses that still haunt players and have them motivated for a better showing this weekend in San Diego.
''We have some serious demons to exercise on the West Coast,'' guard Uche Nwaneri said.
Coach Jack Del Rio already has altered his normal travel plans, completely scrapping last year's cross-country itinerary. Instead of flying out Friday afternoon and taking an extra night to recover from the long plane ride and adjust to the three-time-zone difference, the coach is having his team fly Saturday afternoon.
''The West Coast wasn't real good to us last year,'' Del Rio said Wednesday. ''We'll travel out Saturday, land, meet, go to bed, wake up, get taped and play. It's going to be very much a short, tight business trip.''
The Jaguars (1-0) also expect better results.
Jacksonville played its worst game of the season in Seattle last October. Defensive end Quentin Groves caused a three-car accident on his way to the airport, missed the charter flight and got fined. Leading receiver Mike Sims-Walker missed curfew before the game, got benched and fined.
Things really bottomed out when the Jaguars took the field.
The Seahawks picked apart Jacksonville's secondary, sacked David Garrard five times and handed the Jaguars their most lopsided loss (41-0) in Del Rio's seven seasons.
Star running back Maurice Jones-Drew vented his frustration three days later, questioning play-calling, personnel decisions and the team's offensive identity.
Looking back, Jones-Drew believes youth and inexperience were the real problems.
''That's not an excuse,'' he said. ''We should have prepared better to play, but having that year under our belt and seeing what happened - going 61-3 on both trips - there's a different mindset here about that.''
Jacksonville's second West Coast trip in 2009 went slightly better, but the result was the same. San Francisco jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first half and coasted to a 20-3 victory in late November.
''We traveled out there and I felt great going into the games, and I'm sure everybody else felt great,'' Garrard said. ''But that's not what the scoreboard said and it's not what the stats said. It really is just playing better and executing and not beating ourselves and not having costly turnovers and penalties and those kinds of things.''
Poor execution was the common thread.
In Seattle, Jacksonville converted just twice on third down, punted eight times, fumbled twice, was flagged nine times and gave up nearly 400 yards on defense.
In San Francisco, the Jaguars converted three times on third down, punted four times, fumbled twice, were flagged six times and surrendered 203 in the first half alone.
''However we played last year really doesn't affect how we play this year,'' cornerback Rashean Mathis said. ''We haven't had a good showing. It's important for us as a team to take a mindset in there. Regardless of how far we have to travel, regardless of what precautions we have to take, regardless of what adverse situations, we still have to come play good football.''
The Jaguars are planning the usual things for the long flight, including plenty of rest and staying hydrated. Jones-Drew said that didn't happen last season.
''You have to prepare your body different ways,'' he said. ''We kind of treated it like it was a two-hour flight. That's no excuse. We still should have went up there and won. But that's what happens when you don't prepare your body the right way. Mentally, we were prepared. I just think we didn't do some of the right things to take care of our bodies.''
The Chargers have their own issues to deal with this week. They're dealing with a short week following a Monday night loss at Kansas City. But coach Norv Turner, who has coached on the East Coast and the West Coast, believes much of that stuff can be overblown.
''My experience (is) the better the team you're on, the better you handle it,'' Turner said. ''People make a big deal out of it, but when you go play good, I've never heard people say they overcame the time distance, the time change. It's part of this league and it's part of what you have to do to handle it.''