Tired Jaguars limp home with tough loss
ATLANTA (AP) – As badly as Atlanta’s John Abraham dominated Jacksonville’s offense, rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert blamed himself.
Abraham, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive end, sacked Gabbert 3 1/2 times and forced two fumbles, one of which led to directly to a touchdown by Atlanta nose tackle Corey Peters, in the Falcons’ 41-14 win over the Jaguars on Thursday night.
“I’ve just got to get rid of the ball,” Gabbert said. “I can’t take those sacks and those fumbles. That’s completely on me. I’ve got to find our checkdowns, find our hot reads and get rid of it.”
For Gabbert, the NFL’s No. 10 overall draft pick, the night couldn’t have gone much worse for his team.
The Jaguars (4-10) trailed 27-0 at halftime and 41-0 midway through the third quarter, but they were still within two scores when Jarett Dillard fumbled away a punt return deep in Jacksonville territory early in the second quarter.
Yet after Atlanta’s Sean Weatherspoon recovered the loose ball at the Jaguars’ 5-yard line and Michael Turner ran for a touchdown on the next play, Dillard had to recheck his self-confidence.
“It’s an easy call,” Dillard said. “I should’ve fair caught it. I thought I had more room than I did. I was just trying to make a play when there was no play to be made. Just fair catch it, and let’s go with the offense, but it’s something I’ve learned from and I’ve just got to move forward.”
Unfortunately, Jacksonville kept going backward. The offense followed with a pair of three-and-outs before Gabbert lost his first fumble on Abraham’s second sack and Curtis Lofton recovered the ball for Atlanta at the Jags’ 19.
Three plays later, Matt Bryant’s 31-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 27-0 lead.
“Any time you go on the road against a good football and turn the ball over and you’re not able to protect the quarterback consistently enough and the defense isn’t able to stop the run like we need to and get off the field on third down, it’s going to be a tough day,” interim coach Mel Tucker said. “But give them credit. They’ve got some really good players on both sides of the ball.”
Frustration began to boil over as the deficit mounted. Tucker had to calm down Nate Collins when the second-year defensive tackle was called for unnecessary roughness after Atlanta’s Julio Jones caught a 9-yard pass in the third quarter.
“I told them to be disciplined,” Tucker said. “After the whistle, that is something that we won’t stand for. We confronted that immediately and we need to correct that and get better.”
Jacksonville had few answers when Atlanta (9-5) paired quarterback Matt Ryan with Roddy White and Jones, the receiving tandem that combined for 15 catches, 220 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
“They did a great job of checking at the line,” cornerback Drew Coleman said. “He them into some good plays. My hat’s off to them. They came in and they just punched us in the mouth tonight. They just kind of beat us up. It’s been tough. It’s been like this the whole season, but we’ll take tomorrow and get this behind us. We’ve just got to stay positive with this whole thing.”
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the Jaguars’ few bright spots, rushing 17 times for 112 yards, but there wasn’t much else to like.
Until their final two possessions, the Jags had minus-29 net yards passing. They had the ball 17 minutes fewer than the Falcons, who have won four of five. Jacksonville, which began the game with a long injury list and then lost right tackle Gus Whimper to a swollen knee, has lost four of five.
New owner Shahid Khan, who bought the franchise for an estimated $760 million, watched as his exhausted team slogged through its third game in 11 days.
It didn’t take long to see that the Jags were hurting. Falcons running back Michael Turner broke off a 15-yard run on Atlanta’s first play from scrimmage. On Jacksonville’s first snap, Abraham sacked Gabbert, who completed 12 of 22 passes for 112 yards, one TD and one interception, for a 10-yard loss.
“Right now, this is a very embarrassing loss,” Jones-Drew said. “I think our lack of execution hurt over and over again. We felt that our game plan was solid enough, but we just didn’t execute enough.”