JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- For the first time this season, Jacksonville Jaguars coach Gus Bradley seemed deflated.
Through the first six games, in which his team had lost each time by double digits and had scored just five points in two home games, he still found a way to be somewhat upbeat afterward. Not on Sunday, though. Not after a 24-6 loss to the San Diego Chargers in front of 59,550 at EverBank Field.
Bradley wasn’t demoralized, but he was pretty darn close.
"We talked about playing with toughness, playing with effort, playing with enthusiasm and playing smart. That’s our style," Bradley said. "I don’t think we did any one of those four today, and that’s what’s disappointing. I don’t know what the reason was. I told them that if you’re looking to place blame, you’ve got two options: Blame yourself or you blame me as the head coach because I did not have them ready today."
Bradley was talking about the entire team, but his message especially applied to the defense, which not only failed to show signs of the progress it had made in recent weeks but regressed. It wasn’t the unit’s worst performance in terms of points allowed, but it was perhaps the discouraging.
The Chargers administered the kind of methodical beating that breaks a team’s spirit and causes defensive coordinators to bury game tapes behind a dumpster:
434 total yards, including 158 yards rushing
58 percent conversion rate on third down (7-for-12)
A 15-minute edge in time of possession (37:30 to 22:30)
Philip Rivers completed 85 percent of his throws and had a passer rating of 125.2
The most damning thing, though, was that the Jaguars' defense came out flat -- and nobody knows why.
"It just seemed like we didn’t have it," defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. "When all the talk is about us getting better and continuing our process, we really took a step back on it today. We didn’t get better. Not at all.
"All blame was on us. We didn’t control the game at all. We didn’t show nothing that we’ve been showing during the season or anything about getting better."
It truly was an inexcusable performance considering the Jaguars were coming off a game in which they held Peyton Manning and Denver to season lows in points, passing yards and total yards. The Jaguars were 28-point underdogs in that game but limited the Broncos to two first-half touchdowns and entered the break trailing by just two points.
It was a sign of progress for a defense that was starting two rookies in the secondary and couldn’t mount much of a pass rush. But that went into the sewer on Sunday against the Chargers.
Rivers took advantage of the Jaguars playing umbrella coverage to force things underneath, completing his first 14 passes before finishing 22-of-26 for 285 yards and one touchdown. But what was really demoralizing was the fact the Chargers had five possessions of 10 or more plays and at least 79 yards. Three of the five lasted more than six minutes. The Chargers held the ball for 18:35 in the first half.
Nobody had any answers as to why it happened, either, which doesn’t bode well for figuring out to keep it from happening again.
"We had one of those days," Bradley said. "It was very, very disappointing, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I challenged our guys and I told them we talked about getting better and we completely missed an opportunity -- and that’s what not getting better looks like.
"If I come in here and say, ‘Even though we lost we played with great effort and we played with great spirit and I like those things and we can build off of this’ … to have any credibility with you and our fans I cannot say that today because that would be inaccurate. It would not be credible."