Still reeling: Jaguars can’t stop Bengals as slide continues

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Gardner Minshew II of the Jacksonville Jaguars drops back to throw a pass during the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on October 4, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

This one hurt.

Bullied, banged up physically and not even competitive in spots, the Jaguars left Cincinnati with a 33-25 loss and momentum quickly careening in the wrong direction.

That such a statement was delivered by the Bengals of all teams shows just how much work lies ahead for Jacksonville. Cincinnati won all of two games in 2019, had the No. 1 overall pick in last April’s draft and entered Sunday’s game winless.

At 1-3 now and regression the past two weeks, it’s fast becoming gut check time for Jacksonville. The Jaguars visit the Texans (0-4) next week with sole possession of the cellar in the division at stake.

Not what fans expected after a strong start the first two weeks of the season.

Injuries stacked up on Sunday. The defensive line still can’t pressure the quarterback. The offense continues to flounder.

After a woeful start to the second half (the Bengals outscored Jacksonville 20-3 in the first 22 minutes after the break) Jacksonville made a push. Gardner Minshew II threw his second touchdown pass of the game to D.J. Chark with 6:14 to play to get within 30-22.

Coach Doug Marrone elected to go for the two-point conversion, which failed. The Jaguars couldn’t slow quarterback Joe Burrow and running back Joe Mixon on the ensuing drive and Cincinnati drained the clock and booted a field goal.

Minshew led a drive that netted an Aldrick Rosas field goal with 8 seconds to play, but the Bengals recovered the onside kick and that was it.

The final score was deceptive.

Mixon punished the Jaguars. He finished with 151 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 25 carries. Mixon also had a receiving touchdown. Burrow finished 25 of 36 passing for 300 yards and a touchdown.

Inexperience was noticeable against the Bengals.

Rookie Chris Claybrooks, forced into action when starting cornerback C.J. Henderson left the game with a shoulder injury, had a tough sequence in the third quarter.

Cincinnati ran two running back sweeps in a three-play span, with Giovanni Bernard turning the corner for a run of 11 and Joe Mixon bending the edge two plays later and leaving Claybrooks running in chase. That play went for a 34-yard touchdown and put Cincinnati in front to stay.

Claybrooks having to play essentially a full game for a starter was a major storyline.

Henderson, Jacksonville’s top pick in last April’s draft, left in the first quarter with a shoulder injury and didn’t return. Linebacker Myles Jack wrestled away a certain touchdown from Drew Sample in the end zone and turned it into an interception. He would later leave with an ankle injury.

Left tackle Cam Robinson left with an injury. Cornerback DJ Hayden left with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Numerous other players missed plays with injuries.

Jacksonville’s inability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks was amplified considerably against the Bengals, who entered having allowed 14 sacks through three games. The Jaguars got one.

Minshew was intercepted off of a deflection on the fifth play of the game, but Jacksonville’s defense forced a punt, a rare first-series stop for the Jaguars defense. Minshew finished 27 of 40 for 351 yards and a pair of scores, both to Chark (eight catches, 95 yards).

• Running back James Robinson surpassed Leonard Fournette’s team record for yards for scrimmage through four games. Fournette had 410 yards in his first four games in 2017.

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