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What We Learned: Broncos 35, Jaguars 19

Posted Oct 14, 2013

What We Learned from the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 35-19 loss to the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo., Sunday...

1. Chad Henne can produce yards  . . . This was the best the Jaguars’ offense looked all season. It wasn’t staggering, and it wasn’t as good as the Broncos’ offense, but Henne leaned on wide receiver Justin Blackmon and completed 27 of 42 passes for 303 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions. There were some significant strides made.

2. … but he still needs to eliminate mistakes.  The Jaguars still had hope to get back into the game in the fourth quarter. They trailed 28-19 and faced second-and-5 at the Jaguars 38 when Henne threw to Blackmon. The pass was intercepted by cornerback Kayvon Webster returned 10 yards to the Jaguars 41-yard line. Five plays later, Knowshon Moreno’s third touchdown of the game made it 35-19, Broncos.

3. Henne hasn’t won the job. There was immediate speculation after the game that Henne had won the starting job over Blaine Gabbert with the performance. Henne replaced Blaine Gabbert last week against St. Louis and Gabbert missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Bradley said afterward the focus was on Sunday’s game, and that not enough was known about Gabbert’s current condition to make a decision. He also noted that while Henne played well, there were opportunities missed.

4. Justin Blackmon is a big-time player. It seems like a long time ago that he struggled in the first half of his rookie season. Blackmon’s return from a four-game suspension has given the team a go-to option in the passing game the last two weeks. He caught 14 passes for 190 yards Sunday, and his ability to turn a slant pattern into 10-to-15 yards consistently has given the Jaguars a reliable passing play – something it hasn’t had for a while.

5. The Jaguars missed Cecil Shorts III. Blackmon was very, very good, and gave the team a reliable option it lacks without him. But without Shorts, who sustained a sprained shoulder on the game’s first series, the passing offense was expectedly one-sided. Blackmon was a beast on Sunday, and helped the Jaguars stay close. Had Shorts played, the passing offense likely would have been that much more efficient.

6. This offensive line may be able to run block. We emphasize “may be” because it’s not accurate to call Sunday’s game a dominant run-blocking performance. It was far from it. Jones-Drew averaged 3.4 yards per carry, and the Jaguars as a team rushed for 2.4 yards per carry. But the Broncos are a very good run defense, and with persistency, the Jaguars were able to move enough on the ground to be effective in the second and third quarters. Considering the changes on the line in recent weeks, that’s a good sign.

7. Peyton Manning is good. Duh, but although this is a Jaguars What We Learned, Manning was very much the difference Sunday. With the game in doubt in the third quarter, he mixed run and pass while calling plays at the line of scrimmage and directed the Broncos to three quick second-half touchdown drives. Another drive ended at the Jaguars’ 4-yard line when Manning fumbled. Manning was a long way from perfect Sunday, but his command of the offense made it difficult for the Jaguars to stay in the game in the second half.

8. Paul Posluszny can run. Posluszny joked afterward that he just needed an opportunity to show his speed. He showed it late in the first half, returning an interception 59 yards for a touchdown. Posluszny may not be the fastest linebacker in the NFL, but he is a key veteran leader on a young defense. The interception return gave the Jaguars a breath of life and also gave the defense the sort of momentum-changing play it has been seeking all season.

9. The Jaguars really won’t back down. Not that those close to the team would have expected it, but locally and nationally, many expected the Broncos to win easily. They didn’t, and most significantly, the Jaguars didn’t play like they expected the Broncos to win. They rushed the passer well early, hit Manning enough to get him out of a rhythm and turned the game into a battle that was in doubt until midway through the third quarter and into the fourth.

10. The defensive line plays hard. This isn’t a group loaded with proven elite talent. Outside of Jason Babin, there are no Pro Bowl selections. But early on, the line pressured Manning significantly, hitting him hard and often. The Jaguars never sacked him, but he wasn’t comfortable and that allowed the Jaguars to compete most of the game.

11. The Jaguars are improving. The Jaguars weren’t satisfied with the loss, and Head Coach Gus Bradley seems to be reaching a point where improvement needs to start producing wins. But there was no doubting that the Jaguars improved Sunday. A lot of that improvement centered around Blackmon, but a lot of it was a feisty defensive effort, too. Some was the offensive line. This roster turned over dramatically in the offseason and early season. This team seems to be learning how to play together.

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