Gabbert struggles against Saints, Jags lose 23-10
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—The Jacksonville Jaguars insist rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert is showing progress.
The scoreboard says otherwise.
Gabbert's second NFL start was similar to his first: A touchdown pass, an interception, some sacks, no points after halftime, less than 200 yards passing and a loss. The latest one was a 23-10 setback to the blitz-heavy New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The Jaguars (1-3) have dropped three in a row -- six of seven dating back to last season -- and play their next two games against two of the league's top defenses, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Gabbert probably needs to pick it up for Jacksonville to turn things around.
"We've just got to make plays, and that starts with me," Gabbert said. "We didn't execute like we wanted to in the second half and that showed in the score. The plays were there to be made. Now it just boils down to execution and we didn't execute in the second half."
The Jaguars have been outscored 51-6 in the second half this season, 20-0 in Gabbert's two starts.
His struggles Sunday were no surprise since the Saints have given rookie quarterbacks all sorts of problems in three years under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Gabbert was erratic, throwing high and missing wide-open receivers. He completed 16 of 42 passes for 196 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. He also was sacked three times.
He didn't get much help, either. The Jaguars dropped several passes, including one by Maurice Jones-Drew on the opening possession and one by Mike Thomas on the final drive.
"He definitely had some throws that he would like back," Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. "Like any quarterback in the NFL, he's counting on his guys to make some plays for him. I thought there were some plays we left out there, some plays that we could have made."
Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio vowed to open up the offense after last week's 16-10 loss in Carolina. But it did little good with Gabbert's inaccuracy and his teammates' not-so-soft hands.
New Orleans had far fewer problems.
Drew Brees completed 31 of 44 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown. Darren Sproles added 75 yards rushing, 56 yards receiving and 57 yards in returns. Jimmy Graham caught 10 passes for 132 yards and a score.
The Saints (3-1) scored touchdowns on their first two possessions and looked well on their way to scoring 30 points for the fourth consecutive week. But Brees threw two interceptions, John Kasay missed two long field goals and the Saints managed just nine points in the second half.
"If you had told us before the game that you're going to have 500 yards of total offense and you're going to convert 50 percent of our third downs, we would have thought that's 40 points," Brees said. "Unfortunately, it was 23 points because we got inside the 20 three times in the second half and didn't come away with touchdowns.
"So that's disappointing, but feel we have proven that we can move the ball. Now we just got to score touchdowns."
It didn't matter against the Jaguars (1-3), who have struggled to score all season. Jacksonville has 39 points in four games, clearly dealing with the growing pains associated with having a rookie quarterback.
"I saw bright signs with Blaine," Del Rio said. "Early in the game I thought he was pretty sharp. We had a combination of drops and misfired and errors that kept us from doing more damage, in particular in the second half. I definitely saw things that were encouraging, things that we can build and grow on."
Gabbert capped an 80-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller in the second quarter. It was his best pass of the day. He completed 4 of 18 passes for 31 yards in the second half.
"We just wanted to get a win for him," Jones-Drew said. "It is tough being a rookie quarterback and starting off 0-2. He's still a very confident guy. ... It's tough because we know we have a lot of talent here; we just aren't able to put it together right now. I hate losing more than anything and I think that's the way he feels and the rest of this team feels.
"We have to find a way to correct that, work through it and change it."