Jacksonville fell on Sunday to the Arizona Cardinals in a game that looked to be their best shot at a victory in this young season. Ultimately, the team was outscored 31-19 en route to its third loss of the season, and 18th straight dating back to last year.
With a loss, the Jaguars are tied for the fifth-longest losing streak in NFL history. The game wasn’t all bad for Jacksonville and showcased a little of what they are capable of if everything goes right for the team. Ultimately, they couldn’t get it done, however.
Here are the 5 takeaways from Jacksonville’s third loss of the season:
Running game was finally established
The Jaguars were able to get it done on the ground today, rushing for 159 yards on 29 total carries, including 88 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for starting RB James Robinson. Robinson would also score a touchdown.
On one drive, in particular, the Jaguars drove the football 75 yards on eight plays. All eight plays would be runs, including 66 yards from Robinson alone.
While the team was unable to keep the momentum up due to a pick-six on the very next possession, the Jaguars ought to be encouraged coming out of the game for how they were able to establish the run against Arizona, and will attempt to do so moving forward.
On the day, Jacksonville ran the football 29 times, passing 34 times. The split was much more favorable, and the offense looked better as a result.
Trevor Lawrence still has some growing to do but looked fine on Sunday
It’s hard to actually say that Lawrence played well while looking at the four turnovers he had during the team’s loss earlier today. With two interceptions and two fumbles, the team was behind in the turnover differential for a third-straight game.
But, on the day, Lawrence did flash and showed an ability to take what the defense gives him, opting to run more than he ever has. The rookie signal-caller was also able to toss a beautiful touchdown pass to receiver DJ Chark Jr. early during the contest, showcasing just why he was selected with the first-overall pick this year.
What an incredible throw and catch here from Lawrence to Chark: pic.twitter.com/nUq6NKEjzi— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 26, 2021
On the day, Lawrence completed 22 out of 34 of his passes for 219 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also ran the football six times for 27 yards on the day.
With further context, two of the Lawrence turnovers can be ignored, or at least looked over as one (his second fumble) occurred on the final play of the day, and his first interception would be the result of a dropped pass by tight end Jacob Hollister.
The one play both Lawrence and Meyer would, of course, like to have back was the pick-six Lawrence would throw on a flea-flicker play during the third quarter. With Jacksonville already establishing the run on its previous drive, Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called a trick play to catch the Cardianls defense off guard.
A missed block on the play, however, would blow it up, causing Lawrence to move quickly to deliver the football to Hollister. Byron Murphy would step in front of it, returning the pass for a touchdown, and ending any sort of momentum the team had on the day.
“Just not a good decision,” Lawrence said following the game.
“But yeah, I didn’t really see the guy there. I thought we had our tight end, Jake, open, but like I said, it was off my back foot, didn’t help, and then got to just throw it away if a guy is close and protect that. Defense has been playing great, and just give them seven points there, which makes it tough.”
Jamal Agnew is the team’s x-factor
Again, there are a number of negatives to draw out of today’s game, but one of the bright spots in today’s loss was the team’s primary return specialist in Agnew. Agnew would return the football 109 yards for a score after the Cardinals attempted a 68-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
The score would put Agnew in the record books for the longest return for a touchdown in NFL history. The last time a return specialist returned a kick 109 yards was former Minnesota Vikings returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who returned a kick 109 yards in 2013.
Prior to that, former San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie returned a missed field goal 109 yards in 2007.
Gus Johnson is a national treasure pic.twitter.com/3I9zANQpLz— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 26, 2021
Following the game, Meyer stated that he couldn’t believe that the Cardinals were actually going to kick the football. The attempt would be the longest made field goal in NFL history if it made it through the uprights. Special teams coordinator Nick Sorensen believed Cardinals kicker Matt Prater could make it, though, telling his head coach he saw Prater nail them from 63 yards out in pregame.
“I’ve never seen that in my life. We had it set up. We practiced that, we worked it, and that kid is a dynamic guy with the ball in his hand, Agnew. Same thing we saw,” Meyer said of his return specialist.
“That’s why we went after him in free agency. That’s a game-changer and he’s an even better guy than he is a player. We’ve got to find ways to get him loose on a punt return, we haven’t done that yet.”
Defense played well for the majority of the contest
The Jaguars' defense and defensive coordinator Joe Cullen may have had its best performance of the season outside of a couple of key drives.
On the day, Jacksonville limited Arizona to just one third-down conversion on the day. While the team allowed 407 net yards, most of the production would come through the air with Kyler Murray passing for 316 yards.
During the Cardinals’ first seven possessions of the game, the Jaguars' defense gave up just 162 net yards. It wouldn’t be until the end of the third quarter when the Cardinals offense would take the game away from Jacksonville, scoring two straight touchdowns to seal the contest.
Giving some context to the #Jaguars defense playing (relatively) well today against the Cardinals. The last 3 out of 4 possessions Arizona had can't happen, but look at the first 7 drives and the yardage. pic.twitter.com/iolM5vDPAY— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) September 26, 2021
The Jaguars would also record its first turnover of the season today, with safety Andrew Wingard taking the ball away in excellent coverage deep in the Jacksonville secondary.
As has been the case throughout the year, the Jaguars didn’t allow much in the run game, holding the Cardinals to just 91 yards on the ground, and an average of three yards per carry.
Following the game, Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen spoke about the spark both the defensive turnover and a kick return like the one Agnew had at the end of the half on Sunday, can be difference makers moving forward.
“Like Coach Urban talks about, that spark. We’ve got spark. We got the turnovers. Our defense is flying around making plays. We’re getting better each week,” said Allen.
“We’ve just got to learn how to finish and win, and that’s what we need to do, and that’s what we’re going to get better on.”
Josh Lambo’s career in Jacksonville might be coming to a close
The Jaguars will have to do something with Lambo moving forward. The placekicker missed two of his extra points today, both of which came after key momentum-swing drives or touchdowns from the Jaguars’ offense.
He’s yet to hit a field goal in three games this season, missing all three of his attempts over the first two weeks.
Following the game, Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer commented on Lambo and said he wants to see him succeed, but he isn’t sure what he will do yet at the position.
“On Lambo, I made that comment, man, he’s the hardest working specialist I’ve ever had, but it’s also a reality we’re now missing extra points,” said Meyer. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do, but I’m like everybody, I want to see him make it because he works so damn hard on it.”
The Jaguars didn’t bring in any kickers last week, and might not have time to do so on a short week, set to play the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday Night Football. But, look for Jacksonville to make a tough decision following that contest, especially if Lambo can’t get it done on the road.