All that changed when Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff took over in 2008.
“I can’t speak to the people who came before, but I know since Thomas and I had the opportunity to be here, we’ve just kind of put our heads down and gone to work,” the coach said. “When you do that, good things usually happen. We are not finished, believe me. Our expectations and internal goals are much higher than having a winning football season.”
This one was over by halftime, Gabbert and the shell-shocked Jaguars (4-10) saddled with a net passing total of minus-1 yard. It got as bad as minus-29 before Jacksonville piled up some meaningless yards on its final two possessions.
Gabbert had one of his worst games in a miserable rookie season, coughing up the ball twice on hits by Abraham. Both fumbles led to Atlanta scores, with defensive tackle Corey Peters scooping up the second one and scooting 13 yards to the end zone early in the third quarter for a touchdown that ended any thought of the Jaguars getting back in the game.
“It wasn’t just me,” said Abraham, who came into the game with only five sacks on the season. “The whole team was able to get to the quarterback.”
Ryan was 19-of-26 for 224 yards and three touchdowns, with a season-high rating of 137.3. Rookie Julio Jones had the other TD on a 29-yard reception, his third score in the past two weeks.
Gabbert was 12-of-22 for 141 yards, also throwing an interception during a truly awful night full of bad decisions when he wasn’t running for his life. He was sacked five times and got most of his yards on an irrelevant final drive, which resulted in Jacksonville’s only offensive touchdown: a 16-yard pass to Chastin West with 59 seconds remaining.
“It wasn’t our best night,” Gabbert said. “We’ve just got to learn from it, take the positives out of it and just get better.”
The injury-riddled Jaguars, playing out the season with an interim coach and a new owner, were coming off their best performance, having scored 41 straight points in a 41-14 victory over Tampa Bay. But, playing for the third time in 11 days, they couldn’t build any momentum for a strong finish.
Michael Turner had a 5-yard touchdown run and Matt Bryant kicked a pair of field goals to account for Atlanta’s other scoring in the 41-point barrage.