More woes for Jaguars in 30-20 loss to Bengals
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—There was plenty of blame to go around for Jacksonville's fourth consecutive loss.
Poor punts, dropped passes, a botched snap, defensive lapses, missed chances near the goal line. Coach Jack Del Rio tried to deflect all of it following Sunday's 30-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Simply not acceptable on a lot of fronts," Del Rio said. "Just put it on my shoulders. I'm not doing enough. We can't have breakdowns like that at the end of the game. ... It's unacceptable."
The question now is whether it's acceptable for team owner Wayne Weaver.
Weaver said in January that "if we're not in the playoffs next year, there won't be many people around here."
Jacksonville's start, beginning with Del Rio's decision to release veteran quarterback David Garrard, has some wondering whether the coach will make it past the bye week.
"At the end of the day, he's not playing," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.
"If somebody has to go, obviously it's going to be one of the players. You can call whatever you want, we have to execute the play. It's not on the coach. It's sad to say that he has to take the heat, but he shouldn't because he's not out there strapping it up, going out there to play. All he can do is sit and watch.
"It's ain't on him. He's not wearing a jersey number."
The Jaguars (1-4) have lost seven of eight dating to last season, a streak of futility that has fans frustrated with Del Rio and players wondering if changes are on the horizon.
The latest loss was pretty much a collapse against the Bengals (3-2).
Jacksonville went ahead 20-16 on Blaine Gabbert's 74-yard touchdown pass to Jason Hill with about eight minutes remaining. Gabbert got former Jaguars safety Reggie Nelson to bite on an underneath route, and found Hill running free behind the secondary.
The defense forced a punt on the ensuing drive, but rookie Cecil Shorts failed to field the bouncing ball at the 10-yard line and it rolled dead at the 2.
Gabbert misfired on third down, and veteran Matt Turk followed with a 22-yard punt into the wind. Instead of flipping the field, Turk put the Bengals in perfect position.
Andy Dalton hooked up with Jermaine Gresham on a fourth-and-6 play to keep the drive alive, then found Andre Caldwell for an 8-yard gain. With the Jaguars expecting a pass on third down, Bernard Scott weaved his way into the end zone to make it 23-20.
Jacksonville had a chance to tie the game, but Gabbert fumbled a snap from Brad Meester, and the Bengals ended up with the ball. Cincinnati also scored on a wacky fumble return on the final play.
"It's not going in our favor," Jaguars receiver Mike Thomas said. "A couple of things happened down the stretch and y'all know the end result."
There were other issues, too.
Tight end Marcedes Lewis had a ball stripped from his hands in the end zone in the second quarter, and the Jaguars had to settle for a short field goal. Thomas and Hill dropped balls.
The defense, although it was solid most of the game and surrendered just 239 yards, gave up two fourth-down conversions and allowed a 37-yard touchdown pass on third-and-17.
"You've got to make winning plays," Lewis said. "If you make losing plays here and there, it's going to add up at the end, and that's what happened today."
It's also happened four weeks in a row, a mounting problem for Del Rio.
"That's part of the business," Del Rio said. "I've been in this game long enough to understand if you win you get praise. If you don't, you get criticism. I understand that part of it. ... Whether it's good and you're praising or whether it's bad and you're ripping me, I'm going to be consistent.
"I'm going to be a man of integrity and a man of faith that works hard every day. And that won't change."