JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With their team getting blown out again at home, Jacksonville Jaguars fans started cheering for the referee Sunday against Detroit.
Yep, the ref.
Every time Gene Steratore announced that Lions offensive tackle Riley Reiff had reported as an eligible receiver, fans roared with enthusiasm. Sure, they were mocking Steratore's repetitive and seemingly endless updates, but it's hard to blame fans for glomming a laugh while watching Jacksonville struggle this season.
The Jaguars (1-7) are 0-4 at EverBank Field and have been outscored 126-34 by Houston, Cincinnati, Chicago and Detroit. The latest debacle was a 31-14 loss in which Jacksonville trailed 14-0 before getting a first down and was behind 24-0 midway through the fourth quarter.
The NFL's worst record, the league's worst offense, all those lopsided losses and the five-game losing streak are not even close to what coach Mike Mularkey envisioned when he took the job in January.
"I'm disappointed that we are where we're at," Mularkey said Monday. "I know the players are. I certainly know the fans are. I just want them to know how they feel, we feel the same way. Everybody in that locker room feels the same way. We're mad, too, very disappointed we're in this position.
"But we have to get over that emotion and get ready for this next game and these next eight games and know that we are going to battle to try to get this thing right."
It's not an easy fix.
After showing signs of progress in recent weeks, quarterback Blaine Gabbert clearly took a step back against the Lions. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 220 yards, with two garbage-time touchdowns and two interceptions. He misfired on just about every deep pass.
And rookie receiver Justin Blackmon, criticized for what looked like a lack of hustle last week at Green Bay, was questioned for his on-field awareness against the Lions. Blackmon failed to get both feet in bounds on two sideline passes and seemingly made a halfhearted attempt at preventing an interception in the third quarter.
Mularkey said Blackmon's issues stemmed from moving to the slot in recent weeks and adjusting the starting routes from the middle of the field.
"I didn't think there was any lack of effort there," Mularkey said.
Mularkey apologized Monday for his surly response to a question about the team's effort against the Lions.
"I am sorry that I responded like I did, but I don't like questioning effort because that's very important to me," he said. "If there's anything that I come in stressing as a coach and as a staff it's players effort. ... I would say some of the intensity was not as intense as we should have been.
"We wanted to be physical and intense play throughout, and I could see that drop off. I know defensively we were on the field a lot, and that's hard to keep up, but I never saw the lack of effort of guys not trying to finish plays. I think intensity is a better word."
The Jaguars get a chance to for a better home performance Thursday night against AFC South rival Indianapolis (5-3).
Jacksonville, which has won three in a row against the Colts, needs a victory to avoid the worst start in franchise history.
"Short weeks are rough weeks, but in our situation, it's kind of good to get past this last game and have something to work toward immediately after," guard Uche Nwaneri said. "It might be a blessing in disguise for us."
The Jaguars usually play well in prime-time home games, but after the latest loss, they expect outsiders to wonder when or if they will give up.
"That's definitely something that a lot of people are probably thinking about: How is the team going to react?" Nwaneri said. "Mentally, where are they going to be at? We're just fine. ... I don't think anybody has been in the mind-set of 'what's the point?' I don't think anybody's gone there. So we're just continue to work and continue to prepare and try and go out and get a win."
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