Postgame, I hopped in my car and began my journey back to Orlando. It wasn't long before I found myself in the middle of a small Jaguars convoy of fans heading back down I-95 from Everbank.
One group of 3 or 4 Jags fans in an old Camry must have noticed my UCF parking decals on my vehicle. The car shot around me, slowed down, and some kid held up an old UCF Bortles jersey, pointing at it and shaking his head in my direction.
I shrugged, he did too, and we drove on.
I had plenty of time to digest the game on my two-hour drive. I listened to the angry call-ins on the radio, and I thought about how discouraged the fans on social media were.
"At least you'll have your preseason vines" was one of the frustration-coated reactions tossed in my direction after the game yesterday. It stuck with me, because I deserved it.
I was high on Blake's progress during the offseason. I haven't lost faith yet. I don't plan on losing faith anytime soon.
The truth is, though, that yesterday was the first time I can recall when my faith in our franchise QB has truly been tested. I've followed Blake through college, I've seen the maturation that landed him in the NFL, and I've studied his growth as the Jaguars franchise QB.
But the kids in the Camry were right. Twitter was right. Blake's progress was nowhere to be found yesterday afternoon.
I get that the preseason isn't a precise demonstration of what comes to unfold in the regular season opener. We all understand this reality. But damn -- that pick-six was bad. Those sacks were bad.
Blake was only 2-of-10 on pass attempts that traveled over 15 yards. His awful stare-down pick-6 came in the 3rd quarter, and his pocket presence and mobility both vanished before our eyes soon after.
The most frustrating part of yesterday's loss, to me, is that the areas in which the Jaguars fell short were the same areas that were supposed to be vastly improved over the offseason.
Substantial focus on the TE? Nowhere to be found. Carolina doubled Marcedes Lewis quite a bit, and the TEs were used in protection more than they should have been. But zero TE receptions? That's absolutely ridiculous.
Blake taking care of the ball? Well, Blake did lead the team down the field a couple times. It's something he proved he could do in the preseason, and he did it early on Sunday. Eventually, however, Blake shot our offense in the foot with an ugly pick-six and it was all downhill from there. Blake finished with two interceptions in a QB performance that looked all too familiar to his rookie performances last season-- and that's discouraging to me.
Minimizing the sacks with a rebuilt O-line and a smarter offense? Nope. Blake took 5 sacks yesterday, and the majority of these sacks came from him holding onto the ball a little too long. Go ahead and blame the line, or the loss of Joeckel -- a lot of the blame belongs to Blake.
It was a pretty bad demonstration of what the team had been working on all offseason, and that's what hits me the hardest.
Blake offered no excuses in his postgame press conference: "We had multiple little things where we just shot ourselves in the foot. It's fixable stuff. It's not the way you want to come out and start the season at all. We're not going to sugarcoat it...it wasn't good enough and we're going to have to do better."
When you glance over the stats, it's clear that the Jaguars matched up well with the Panthers yesterday, but fell short in a couple key areas.
Two glaring differences. pic.twitter.com/Om6iQBINO3— Alfie (@AlfieBCC) September 14, 2015
So yeah, it's fixable, as Blake puts it. We all know these issues are fixable.
The question becomes -- how quickly can these issues be fixed?