Jaguars have no margin for error, and Nick Foles has to deliver

INDIANAPOLIS -- It took 2½ months longer than anyone originally expected, but the Nick Foles era is finally here for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It didn’t get off to a great start with a 33-13 loss at Indianapolis on Sunday, but the team is encouraged by what it saw in Foles’ first game since he suffered a broken collarbone in Week 1. Unfortunately, the Jaguars don’t have the luxury of giving Foles several weeks to work out the kinks because they need him to play at a high level to save their dwindling playoff hopes.

“I’ve got to play better, absolutely,” Foles said Sunday. “We lost. That’s ultimately a lot on the quarterback, so I have to watch the film and improve on things I can improve on to obviously put more points on the board. That’s on me. And I’ll do that.

“We’ll go watch the film, be critical of it [and] improve. We’re going to communicate with one another and we’re going to go back to work.”

It was an up-and-down day for the former Super Bowl MVP against the Colts. Foles completed 33 of 47 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns, both to receiver DJ Chark Jr. He moved well in the pocket, stepped up to avoid pressure and spread the ball among eight players.

However, he also underthrew multiple passes, including a deep one to Chark in double coverage that was intercepted, and threw an interception on a two-point conversion attempt that was returned 99 yards.

Considering he hadn’t thrown a pass in a game since he was hurt on the team’s 11th snap in the season opener, when Kansas City defensive lineman Chris Jones landed on him and broke his collarbone, it wasn’t an overall bad performance.

“Some good plays and some not-so-good plays,” said receiver Chris Conley, who caught six passes for 58 yards. “I think as an offense we all needed to elevate [on Sunday]. There were some things we missed and not all of that is his fault. Some of that is us as receivers. We’ve got to tighten things up for him to get on the same page with him.”

Receiver Dede Westbrook is probably the one player on the roster who completely understood Foles’ situation on Sunday. He missed the first nine games of his rookie season after undergoing sports hernia surgery and caught just three passes in his first game back, but then he caught 17 in his next three games.

“First time being out there, being able to still dissect everything, go through his progressions, get completions and move the ball down the field,” said Westbrook, who caught four passes for 32 yards Sunday. “... It’s very difficult [to come in and play after that long absence]. It’s just a tough situation. ... He’s a great player, very mature, very understanding, so I know that he’s going to figure it out and give us the best shot to go out there and win football games.”

Foles’ timing was, naturally, off a bit on some throws after the long absence. Even though he has practiced for three weeks, there’s no substitute for game reps.

“Obviously something that we’ll always improve on,” Foles said. “I think that my big focus will be watching the film, and I know that every little detail when you lose will be brought out. I played in Philly for a little while. Things are going to be brought up. The key is not to really listen to it but also to know it’s there and be aware of it.”

At 4-6, the Jaguars have no margin for error to keep their playoff hopes alive. It might even require them winning out, which places a lot of pressure on Foles. But he has thrived in this situation in the past three seasons, going 10-2 in games played in November or later (including playoffs) beginning in 2016 and entering last Sunday’s game at Indianapolis.

Foles had a good supporting cast with him in Philadelphia, but he doesn’t have the same level of playmakers with the Jaguars other than Chark. That puts even more pressure on Foles, especially if the Jaguars are going to eschew the run game the way they did against the Colts: Leonard Fournette had only five carries in the first half and only three more when the Jaguars trailed by 10 points early in the second.

Foles has to deliver, regardless of how little he has played.

“I think the big thing is don’t press,” Foles said. “I think it’s easy to press in this situation and think the sky’s falling [and] the world is over. It’s not. We’re blessed to play a game. The big thing for guys right now is go home. You’ve got family at home. You have a wife. Go love her. Go be with her. If you have kids, go be with your kids.

“... We are 4-6. That is the situation. But we can’t win six games at once.”