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Interception, fumbles hurt Jaguars in loss to Falcons

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Ball security cost the Jacksonville Jaguars a chance to beat Atlanta at EverBank Field on Sunday.

Quarterback Blake Bortles threw a late first-half interception that the Falcons turned into three points, and Bortles and running back Denard Robinson had fourth-quarter fumbles that cost the Jaguars when they were trying to extend drives deep in their own territory. The result was a 23-17 Jacksonville loss that snapped the Falcons’ six-game losing streak.

Bortles’ mistake at the end of the first half hurt the most. He threw a goal-line interception when the Jaguars were in position to cut the Falcons’ lead to 14-10. Atlanta safety Kemal Ishmael stepped in front of the pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis and headed up the sideline before Bortles tripped him up at the Jaguars’ 16-yard line with two seconds remaining. The Falcons kicked a field goal, and those points certainly factored into the end-game strategy.

In the fourth quarter, the Jaguars had back-to-back drives hurt by fumbles. Robinson dropped a pass on first down and dropped a handoff on second down (he recovered it), and Bortles fumbled while he was sacked. Right tackle Jermey Powell recovered.

Robinson fumbled again on the Jaguars’ next drive, but wide receiver Allen Hurns recovered.

Those plays kept the Jaguars from extending drives when they trailed 20-17.

What it means: The Jaguars’ playoff hopes still are alive despite Sunday’s loss, though they need to win their final two games and get a lot of help. Even though their chances are slim, it was still a victory of sorts for the franchise to even be in the conversation this late in the season considering the team’s 1-5 start and the fact that it had won just seven games combined the past two seasons.

Fantasy watch: Wide receiver Allen Robinson caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, giving him an NFL-high 13 touchdown catches.

One reason to be excited: Linebacker Paul Posluszny played with a cast entirely covering his fractured right hand, and it didn’t seem to impact him at all. He made 10 tackles (two for loss) and came up with a huge interception off a deflected pass early in the third quarter that set up a game-tying touchdown. Posluszny had surgery on Dec. 9 to have three plates inserted to stabilize three fractures. He missed the Jaguars’ Dec. 13 victory over Indianapolis at EverBank Field. Posluszny likely will have to finish the season playing with something covering that hand, so it was encouraging for the Jaguars to see how well he handled it against the Falcons.

One reason to be concerned: Rashad Greene has had a couple of big punt returns -- including one for a touchdown -- since he came back from his hand injury, but he had some lapses in judgment on Sunday. He let the Falcons’ first punt bounce well in front of him, but instead of rushing up to field it, he let it bounce several more times and the ball ended up being downed on the Jaguars’ 3. Greene made a fair catch at the 8-yard line on the next punt. Conventional thought would be to let that punt bounce, hopefully into the end zone. There were Falcons players in the area so Greene may have worried it would have been downed inside the 5 like the previous punt.

Ouch: T.J. Yeldon did not play because of a sprained knee, which he suffered during the Jaguars’ 51-16 victory over Indianapolis last week. Yeldon, who didn’t practice all week and was listed as doubtful on Friday’s injury report, is the Jaguars’ leading rusher (740 yards, two TDs) and third-leading receiver (36 catches, 279 yards, one TD). Two linebackers were hurt during the game: Dan Skuta (hamstring) and Telvin Smith (hand). Safety Josh Evans (knee) left the game late in the fourth quarter.