The Jacksonville Jaguars played largely mistake-free football in the first three weeks which saw them win twice. On Sunday, the tide turned as the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles forced five turnovers in a 29-21 win at Lincoln Financial Field.
It was a bittersweet return to the City of Brotherly Love for Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson, who did receive a warm reception from a normally unfriendly fan base. Bringing the city a Super Bowl will soften their hearts a bit.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence struggled to hang on to the ball and could not find a rhythm, completing 11-of-23 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception, fumbled the ball three times, and was sacked four times. The weather was windy and rainy, but both teams dealt with the conditions, the home team just did it better.
The Jaguars’ defense that has been solid through three weeks saw Eagles running back Miles Sanders rush for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The Philly ground game chewed up over 200 yards on a Jaguars defense that has allowed less than 60 rushing yards to their opponents this season.
It is disheartening to see a game like this from a team that showed a lot of promise in the last two games, but there is a silver lining in the fact that this team fought through a subpar day from both the offense and the defense, before putting up a late touchdown and having a chance to tie the game before the fifth turnover on a strip sack sealed it for the home team.
We have seen a lot in the first few games that show the promise that Lawrence has. On Sunday, we saw a few sequences that reminded you of the struggles of the past. The difference is, his coaches now have confidence in him and his ability to overcome mistakes which he did at times.
Things started well for the Jaguars with Andre Cisco snatching a tipped pass out of the air and taking it back 59 yards for the score. After an Eagles punt, Jamal Agnew had a 24-yard reception and Dan Arnold caught a 26-yard pass. Those plays set the Jaguars up and James Robinson rushed a couple of times, and fumbled at the Eagles 11, but got bailed out by Christian Kirk. Agnew would eventually score on a short pass from Lawrence and it was 14-0.
Philadelphia (4-0) would turn the ball over on downs and the Jaguars went back to work, getting to the Philadelphia 41 before Lawrence went deep and just overthrew an open Agnew on what would have likely been a touchdown and a 21-point Jaguars lead. Instead, things would start snowballing for a Jaguars team that had confidence in the early going. Two plays after he missed Agnew, Lawrence was sacked and lost the ball, as the Eagles pounced on it.
It took seven plays for the Eagles to take advantage of the turnover with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts taking it in from three yards out, closing the gap to 14-7.
A Jaguars punt was turned into a touchdown, as Sanders rushed five times on the drive and took it in from 10 yards out to tie the game with 3:55 left in the half. The Jaguars only saw the field for three plays on their next drive as Lawrence couldn’t grip the snap and saw the Eagles jump on it at the 35 with three minutes left.
The Eagles took 2:34 to score, as Kenneth Gainwell ran off the final 10 yards and gave the Eagles their third straight touchdown and a 20-14 lead. The extra point was missed and the Jaguars saw their 14-point lead and a promising start go by the wayside.
The teams traded punts to start the second half but the turnover bug bit the Jaguars again on what was a promising drive. Lawrence was looking for Kirk and stared him down as he threw. Defensive back James Bradbury saw it the whole way and he intercepted it, trashing all the work the offense had done.
The home team would get into field goal range and get the benefit of a roughing kicker call. They took the points off the board and the Jaguars’ defense came up with the stop they needed, thanks in large part to a sack by Dawuane Smoot. The second field goal attempt was good, and Philly’s lead was 23-14.
Another fumble by Lawrence on the next drive would set the Eagles up at the Jaguars’ 24 and Sanders would find the endzone again, putting the home team up 29-14. The two-point conversion attempt failed.
Starting at his own 32, Lawrence leaned on Kirk on the next drive, completing a 15-yard pass, and two plays later finding him down the middle for 45 yards. An eight-yard pass to Agnew got the Jaguars within eight, 29-21.
Agnew finished with four catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns and Kirk would finish with two catches for 60 yards, both coming on that drive. This team definitely missed Zay Jones, their top receiver, who was not available for today’s game.
Philly would get the ball back and run 11 plays, before turning the ball over on downs with 1:54 left, giving Jacksonville a chance. That chance went away quickly, with Lawrence losing the ball again on the first offensive play, and watching the Eagles grab it and run out the clock.
Before last week’s game in Los Angeles, the rallying cry for the Jaguars was so what, now what? Now the team gets to put it into action, as they just have to say so what, and move past it. They will watch the film, they will correct the mistakes but they can’t dwell on them.
Turning the ball over the way they did and watching a defense that had dominated suddenly struggle, the margin should have been more than eight. The team was still in the game with less than two minutes left and had opportunities to win the game before that. This team has been in all four games this season and is looking at 2-2, heading into a home game against the Texans (0-3-1) on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.