MARK LONG,AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are tired of “missing lay-ups.”
Dropping nine passes. Giving up a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown. Fumbling in the red zone.
They are all simple plays — lay-ups, as coach Mike Mularkey calls them — that the Jaguars (1-6) need to make to help them turn things around.
“The things that are not allowing us to win these games when we have chances, it’s got to stop,” Mularkey said Monday. “We’ve got to find a way to make it stop.”
It didn’t against Green Bay, resulting in a 24-15 loss. But the Jaguars feel like they’re making progress.
Blaine Gabbert had a career day, throwing for 303 yards and a touchdown. Cecil Shorts III caught eight passes for a career-high 116 yards. And Jacksonville’s defense played its best game of the season, holding the Packers to 238 yards and two offensive touchdowns.
Maybe, just maybe, being without star running back Maurice Jones-Drew could be a positive. It certainly forced the Jaguars to rely on others.
“If we continue to progress in certain things that we’re doing, that we know we’re capable of doing, I think wins will come with it,” Mularkey said.
Mularkey was the first to point to all that went wrong against the Packers: Rashad Jennings’ fumble in the red zone; the dropped passes; the blocked punt; the three three-and-outs in the third quarter; the three failed passes to rookie Justin Blackmon with the game on the line; and the pass interference call on William Middleton late.
But the coach also can’t overlook the other side, especially when he’s leading a team that has dropped 11 of its last 14 games.
“I know we didn’t win the game,” he said. “We don’t like what’s happening, but you’ve got to look at some of the positive things. We have done some good things. We’ve got to overcome these plays that we continually make every week.”
Few outsiders gave Jacksonville much of a chance with Jones-Drew sidelined indefinitely — he also will miss Sunday’s game against Detroit — with a sprained left foot.
But it seemingly forced the Jaguars to open things up offensively.
And Gabbert looked sharp, completing 27 of 49 passes despite an injured non-throwing shoulder.
“We’re on a good course going with Blaine,” Mularkey said. “There’s still things that Blaine’s got to do better and Blaine knows it. I like the improvement that he’s made. He wants to do better. He’s very adamant about trying to be the best he can be, and I like that about him.”
Gabbert’s numbers would have been even better had the Jaguars not dropped so many balls.
“Lay-ups, not 3-pointers that we’re missing, just lay-ups,” Mularkey said. “Nine drops. Those are lay-ups. Those are things we’ve got to be able to put the ball in the basket if we want to use the basketball as correlation to what we’re doing here. There are lay-ups we’re missing.”
Blackmon’s effort, not his hands, was questioned Sunday.
Broadcasters speculated that the rookie didn’t run full speed on every route.
“I don’t pay any attention to it,” Blackmon said. “It doesn’t bother me. I was out there playing. I mean, I’m not going to go out there and play 50 percent.”
Mularkey got wind of the criticism and re-watched that part of the game specifically to see what the talk was about.
“I don’t see evidence of that,” Mularkey said. “I was looking for it because that’s not acceptable. I don’t like to hear it from anybody. I certainly don’t want to hear it from the weather man during his hurricane report.”
There was less talk about Jacksonville’s defense, which played well despite missing starting cornerbacks Derek Cox and Rashean Mathis and safety Dwight Lowery. The Jaguars sacked Aaron Rodgers twice and held the Packers to a season low in yards.
Special teams, though, was a disappointment for Jacksonville.
Bryan Anger had a punt blocked even though Green Bay had just 10 defenders on the field. Josh Scobee had a kickoff go out of bounds. Return man Micheal Spurlock muffed one punt and called for a fair catch inside the 10-yard line.
“I told them, ‘It’s all there. We’ve got to find a way. You’ve guys see it yourself and you’re as tired as me saying it to you as I am telling you. At some point, you’ve got to get over that,'” Mularkey said. “We keep missing the lay-ups or kicking it out of bounds by this much or the drops.”
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