Jaguars' self-inflicted problems show how far they are behind elite teams

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It’s certainly not easy, but forget the fact the Jacksonville Jaguars lost 51-17 to the New England Patriots.

That shouldn’t be used as a measuring stick of how much further the Jaguars have to go to just be competitive with the elite teams in the NFL. There are plenty of other things that are a much better indication of how far behind the franchise is.

The Patriots did practically everything right on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. They didn’t commit stupid mistakes. Tom Brady didn’t throw an interception at a crucial time. They didn’t kill scoring chances with dumb penalties. They made big plays when they had the opportunities. They didn’t make questionable coaching decisions.

They were a well-oiled, high-performance machine. The Jaguars clunked around with bald tires, a missing door and smoke billowing from under the hood.

"That team played with precision in all three phases, and when you play against a really good team, you really see the importance of precision," coach Gus Bradley said. "We didn’t play with that. And I think it starts with me."

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

All week the Jaguars talked about being aware of tight end Rob Gronkowski and not getting caught in mismatches. It was one of the main parts of the defensive game plan. On the Patriots’ first offensive snap, Tom Brady hit Gronkowski for 10 yards. Gronkowski was then wide open across the middle on the next snap and rumbled for 43 yards to the 8-yard line.

"We talked early on [and] we said, ‘What do we have to do? We’ve got to tackle well. We’ve got to line up and be smart and don’t beat ourselves,’" linebacker Paul Posluszny said. "And then first series we let the best tight end in the game run free."

Two plays later, the Patriots scored their first touchdown.

The Jaguars had managed to keep the score close late into the first half, trailing by only 10 points with 3:37 to play. Two Blake Bortles completions and a T.J. Yeldon run got the ball to the New England 45, but Bortles badly overthrew tight end Marcedes Lewis on a deep route and safety Devin McCourty picked off the pass. Eight plays later, the Patriots were up 20-3 and the game was, essentially, over.

"Bad play, bad throw," Bortles said.

The Jaguars also had a fake punt called while trailing 37-10 (which is a head-scratcher in itself) but didn’t get the look they wanted from the Patriots, so Bradley called off the fake. Except that didn’t get communicated to the line, and the Jaguars ran the fake anyway and were stopped 6 yards shy of a first down.

The Patriots took advantage of the mistake, drove 24 yards in five plays and scored another touchdown.

Granted, the Jaguars were down five starters and lost three more starters or key players to injury on Sunday. That can excuse some of the things that happened, but it doesn’t cover for the failure to get the fake punt call communicated, Bortles’ poor throw, or the fact that guys blew assignments and allowed Gronkowski to frolic through the middle of the field.

Those are just the major mistakes. Poor decisions, poor execution, and each time the Patriots made them pay. But that’s what good teams do. They don’t beat themselves. The Jaguars do on a pretty regular basis. They’ve lost 21 games by double digits since the start of the 2013 season and all for pretty much the same reasons why they lost to the Patriots.

So if Sunday was a measuring stick, the Jaguars are pretty far away from being competitive with the league’s elite teams.

"This game is not going to define us or define our season by any means," Posluszny said. "We’ve got a ton of ball left to play, but this does show you [what happens when you] have the elite quarterback in the league and a team that operates on a high level with an extreme amount of discipline and does all the little things right.

"When you don’t do that, this is the result that you get."