It took a trip to the desert to dry up the Jaguars' momentum.
Jacksonville lost to the Arizona Cardinals, 27-24, Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
The Jaguars came into town riding a four-game winning streak and will leave with a tally in their loss column.
While the fourth quarter was a back-and-forth thrill ride, the Cardinals dominated the Jaguars for the majority of the game. It was a snap back to reality for a very confident, young Jaguars team.
Below are 10 immediate observations following the Jaguars' loss to the Cardinals:
1. The Jaguars will look back at their last two drives with disdain
Jacksonville only led for 3:03 on Sunday.
While that was an undesirable output, the Jaguars were in position to control the game and/or win during the last three minutes.
The Jaguars were in position for a long but makable field goal with 2:47 left in the game.
However, on third-and-6 at the Arizona 38-yard line, quarterback Blake Bortles was late on a throw intended for rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook. Cardinals safety Tyronn Matheiu watched Bortles' eyes and was in position to pick off the pass. It was an impressive play for Matheiu and an awful look for Bortles.
The interception probably took points off the board.
The Jaguars' defense bailed Bortles and the offense out on the next possession and forced the Cardinals to punt. The Jaguars were pinned deep within their own territory and appeared to favor running out the clock. Jacksonville ran the ball on first down with the intent to head to overtime.
However, on second down, Bortles threw an incomplete pass, which stopped the clock. The Jaguars eventually punted with 27 seconds left in the game.
The Cardinals were able to complete two passes to create a 57-yard field goal attempt for kicker Phil Dawson. The veteran kicker's attempt was good with one second remaining on the clock.
The Cardinals won 27-24.
Following the game, Marrone took responsibility for the decision to throw on second down.
2. The offensive line had its struggles
The Jaguars' running backs had little room to run on Sunday. Bortles was sacked three times and hit four times overall.
Against the Cleveland Browns, the Jaguars were able to get by. However, with the team trailing for the majority of the game, the offense failed to find its footing behind a struggling protection unit.
Even left tackle Cam Robinson - who has been phenomenal this season - struggled to protect Bortles from outside linebacker Chandler Jones. Bortles held the ball a bit too long at times but he also bailed out the line by scrambling and breaking tackles throughout the game.
The Jaguars' running backs produced just 29 rushing yard on the day. It's hard to win with that kind of production.
Jacksonville will need left guard Patrick Omameh (quad) and right tackle Jermey Parnell (knee) to get healthy soon.
3. Bortles, wide receivers need to find a groove
The Jaguars' offense isn't being helped by the inconsistencies in the passing game. Bortles - believe it or not - is not fully to blame.
He had a handful of "catchable" passes dropped. He was also off-target on a few.
This is where the team misses Allen Hurns, who has consistently been able to catch passes as a possession receiver. While Dede Westbrook was able to snag six passes for 41 yards, his chemistry with Bortles hasn't really developed to the point where he can be a game-changer.
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson shut down veteran Marqise Lee. The Jaguars needed Bortles and another receiver (or two) to step up. It didn't happen.
4. Bortles' running ability is a major asset
While his passing prowess wasn't on display against the Cardinals, Bortles did show off his athleticism in Arizona. He carried the ball six times for 62 yards and two touchdowns.
The rushing scores were his first of the season.
Bortles kept the Jaguars in the game with his legs. His first touchdown came on the heels of a drive where he ran four times for 34 yards.
The Jaguars need to continue to utilize Bortles' speed and toughness moving forward. He isn't consistent enough to carry the team with his arm but his mobility may be the key to success in the playoffs.
5. Splash plays come too late for Jaguars' defense
The Jaguars' defense allowed 16 points before forcing its first turnover. With 12:10 left in the game, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue produced a sack-strip on Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
The ball was picked up by former Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, who returned it to the end zone for a touchdown. The touchdown and an extra point put the Jaguars up for the first and only time in the game.
The 17-16 lead lasted for just over three minutes.
The Cardinals came back with a 52-yard touchdown strike from Gabbert to wide receiver Jaron Brown.
Arizona was given a 13-point cushion to begin the game, so the fourth-quarter push could only make up so much ground.
Sure, the Jaguars took the lead, but they were unable to hold onto it because they had just climbed out of a massive hole to begin with.
The Jaguars' defense has been outstanding when it comes to forcing turnovers and creating sacks. On Sunday, the group's only sack and first turnover came early in the fourth quarter.
Jacksonville's offense was struggling and couldn't lean on the defense to create turnovers throughout. That's going to happen some times.
The offense needed to win the game and the defense couldn't bail the other side out like it had in the past.
This game serves as an example of what happens when the defense isn't creating turnovers in droves.
6. Blaine Gabbert deserves some credit
I'm sure this observation will lead to some hate mail but it's true.
Gabbert had some blunders, but for the most part played well by taking what the defense gave him.
He completed 22-of-38 passes for 241 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He had two turnovers in the game but led six scoring drives.
Gabbert is viewed as a first-round bust in Jacksonville. However, he has clearly grown since leaving town. He played a key role in the victory for the Cardinals.
7. Yeldon proves his worth, while Ivory coughs the ball up
While the entire running back group struggled to run the ball Sunday, T.J. Yeldon managed to provide support as a receiver in the fourth quarter.
Rookie running back Leonard Fournette failed to get anything going against the Cardinals and was replaced for most of the second half by Yeldon. The third-year player showed off his pass protection and receiving skills down the stretch.
The Jaguars decided to feature him more than veteran Chris Ivory following the latter's second-quarter fumble. Ivory failed to receive another touch after his turnover.
Yeldon finished with five catches for 42 yards. His work in the fourth quarter aided the offense's comeback efforts.
It may be time to cement Yeldon as the No. 2 running back.
8. The Jaguars benefited from a rule that typically bites them
Speaking of Ivory's fumble, it was initially ruled that the running back was down by contact. The loose ball had been picked up by Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby, who looked to be in position for a large return.
However, with the whistle blowing the play dead, a successful challenge only gave the Cardinals possession of the ball. The Cardinals missed out on a recovery for a long gain.
The Jaguars faced similar blown calls against the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns.
9. This loss will hurt but it isn't the end of the world
The Jaguars can still control their own destiny. While they lost sole possession of the AFC South lead, a bounce back should put the Jaguars in position to run the table against underwhelming foes over the next month.
Even if the Jaguars suffer another bump in the road, the Tennessee Titans - who are also 7-4 - look very vulnerable. Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota has seemingly regressed, throwing seven interceptions over the last three games.
While the Titans' defense is fierce, their offensive struggles seem to be on point with the Jaguars' woes. If Jacksonville stays even, the Week 17 matchup will be for the AFC South division title.
It's easy to feel good about the Jaguars' odds, despite this loss
10. The Colts are next and they're really only playing for pride
The Jaguars have a division matchup next. They beat the Indianapolis Colts (3-8) in Week 7 when the division rivals both had something major on the line. Now the Colts are pretty much out of the division race following a loss to the Titans Sunday.
Indianapolis could play spoiler against the Jaguars at EverBank Field. Jacksonville needs to bounce back from this loss to stay even with the Titans and avoid a meltdown.
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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