Mark Brunell: 'Must win' game didn't get won

Jaguars have lost 5 games in a row and 'it doesn't get easier' from here

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars made it a game in the second half Sunday, but it was too little too late to beat the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville fell to 3-6.

The team has surprisingly lost five in a row and chances for a playoff berth are near impossible.

The most frustrating part of Sunday's game was the way the Jags defense played in the first half. The 29 points and over 300 yards by Andrew Luck and the Colts offense in the first two quarters was enough to beat a Jacksonville team that showed life in the last two quarters. But there were simply too many mental mistakes: busted coverages, miscommunications and just not getting aligned right happened all too often. And Luck seemed to find and exploit each Jaguars mistake.

Physical mistakes are going to happen. Sometimes the other guy beats you. Sometimes you miss a tackle or the other guy makes a great play. But there really isn’t any excuse for the number of mental mistakes that were made. Not in the NFL.

To the credit of the defense, some adjustments were clearly made and they executed very well in the second half. Enough to at least make it a game. This defense has a lot of cleaning up to do before one of the best offenses in the NFL shows up next Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.

Offensively, the team was much improved. The return of Leonard Fournette was an obvious spark. Fournette’s numbers weren’t overly impressive -- 53 yards on 24 carries. Not bad for a running back who has been out for some time.

The Jaguars got back to being committed to the run game, but a 2.2-yard average per rush will need to improve.  The question is: can it improve with a beat-up offensive line?

For the Jaguars to truly get back to the “run first” identity, the offense will need to get into that 100 yards per game on the ground. Honestly, that will be difficult.

Blake Bortles played well. Again, no turnovers by the QB and the passing numbers were good. A big 80-yard TD pass to Donte Moncrief in the first quarter was impressive, but the rest of the day in the air was filled with effective screens and check downs. The Jaguars must find a way to get the ball pushed down the field more.

Here’s another question: Can that even happen with the suspect pass protection and receivers continuing to drop passes and fumble?

While the Jaguars did some good things Sunday on offense, I believe there is still a long way to go. I will give the team this: they competed, they didn’t quit and they almost pulled this one off.

This was a “must win” game that didn’t get won. Going forward, it doesn’t get easier. The Steelers are coming to town. They, by the way, have won five games in a row and are absolutely in mid-season form.

It's important that the Jags sticks together and keeps working. It’s not the time to point fingers and give up. We’ll learn a lot from this football team in the next few weeks.

Like I said earlier, the chances for a playoff berth are near impossible but, until we are mathematically out, we need to keep hoping and keep believing. Don’t forget 1996!

Go Jaguars!

About the Author:

Mark Brunell is a sports analyst and reporter with News4Jax and current head football coach at the Episcopal School of Jacksonville.