Defensively dominant, the Jaguars harassed Newton and limited the Panthers' offense to under 300 total yards, only to watch the game slip away in the final moments.
This loss wasn't on the defense, who stopped the Panthers numerous times despite poor field position throughout the game.
This loss wasn't on Rashean Mathis, who limited Steve Smith to just two catches all afternoon.
This loss can be placed firmly in the hands of the Jaguars' coaching staff.
An overly conservative game plan, once again, limited the Jaguars' offense and gave the Panthers reason to crowd the line of scrimmage and stifle a Jacksonville team that failed to score in the second half.
In fact, the Jaguars sat on a narrow lead and ran the football 22-of-24 consecutive plays before finding themselves trailing late. They ran on 2nd-and-long. They ran on 3rd-and-long.
They ultimately ran from victory.
While the torrential downpour in Carolina convinced Jack Del Rio and Dirk Koetter that the game must be won on the ground, Carolina continued to test the Jaguars' secondary, resulting in a late touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen that proved to be decisive.
The Jaguars played as though they were scared to make a mistake because they were coached by an afraid staff.
Despite a hot start that saw Blaine Gabbert go 6-of-8 passing early, the Jaguars' offense packed in it.
Maurice Jones-Drew ran effectively, despite having only seven yards on his first six carries, but the Jaguars lost any semblance of balance.
Simply put, the Jaguars had no business losing this game.
Despite another poor performance by Eugene Monroe and the league's worst receiving corps, who dropped many of Gabbert's nine incompletions, the Jaguars were the better team for most of Sunday's contest. They stacked the line of scrimmage and had several near-sacks and near-interceptions.
This game was about opportunities wasted by the Jaguars, however, and the one opportunity which the Panthers converted.
Yet, the Jaguars seemed content to sit on a five-point lead rather than score points and put the game away when the opportunity presented itself. When the lead was cut to two in the third quarter, nothing changed.
In the NFL, you have to put teams away, or it will burn you.
Today's NFL is one in which you must score to win, and one in which no lead is safe. The Jaguars' coaching staff, whose hot seat just got much hotter, apparently didn't get that memo when it came out about seven years ago.
This is a team that continues to seemingly force a style of play with which they cannot win. The offense looks forced. There is simply no flow.
The timidity with the Jaguars' offense is most apparent with a deplorable group of receivers that drops nearly as many passes as they catch.
The Panthers were aggressive with their young quarterback despite early mistakes.
The Jaguars sheltered their young quarterback, then asked him to perform the miraculous when all hope was lost.
Gabbert played well enough, going 12-of-21 with 139 yards despite numerous drops in key situations. On a key fourth-quarter third down, Gabbert delivered a strike to Mike Thomas, who let the ball bounce off his chest.
The play wouldn't have counted, as Thomas was flagged for interference, but it was that kind of day for Gabbert.
The future star from Missouri is clearly limited by the scrubs around him. Unfortunately, this goes beyond the players on the field surrounding him and extends to the coaches on the sideline.
The Jaguars players played to win but were coached to "not lose," and it showed. This was a timid offensive performance. Carolina stayed aggressive throughout the game, and were thus prepared to take advantage of an opportunity when it presented itself.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars went into a shell. They wasted a fantastic defensive effort and failed to take advantage of a quarterback, in his first start, who played well enough to win.
What sticks out most is how clearly limited Gabbert is with this football team. He threw accurately despite having little separation from his receivers. He remained poised despite being pressured constantly.
Jack Del Rio won't get fired this week, but the writing is on the wall. After the Jaguars likely lose at home to New Orleans next week, they will be 1-3.
The schedule only gets tougher from there.
Del Rio may find himself out of work that week, and, for Blaine Gabbert's sake, I hope so. Gabbert can't do what he isn't allowed to do, namely throw the football.
Jaguars fans have seen enough of this conservative game-planning, which was the exact reason they couldn't put today's game away.
It will be the reason Jack Del Rio fails to finish the season as Jacksonville's coach.
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