JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It started off so promising and spiraled from there.
The Jaguars sputtered for most of the afternoon, dropping their home opener to the Broncos, 23-13 on a dreary Sunday at TIAA Bank Field. The loss sent Jacksonville to an 0-2 start under Urban Meyer and stretched its losing streak to a staggering 17 games, tied for the sixth-longest in NFL history.
The Jaguars tried to get something going late, getting their first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2016, a 102-yard play by Jamal Agnew with 5 minutes, 26 seconds to play. But that was just window dressing on an all-around miserable outing by Jacksonville that had fans asking, ‘where’s the offense?’
The Jaguars managed just 189 yards on the day — 83 of that on their first drive of the game — missed two field goals and turned it over twice.
Meyer will have to find some answers with Kyler Murray and the Cardinals heading to TIAA Bank Field next week.
“Outcoached? I don’t know if I got outcoached. We lost a game. That’s a good question. I’ve been asked that question before. We lost a game,” Meyer said.
The Jaguars opened with an up-tempo offense that marched right down the field and scored, a drive that fans have waited years to see. Good protection by the offensive line. Crisp throws from Trevor Lawrence. Third-down conversions to keep things flowing.
And then …
The Jaguars went backwards the rest of the day.
That 7-0 lead disappeared amidst a miserable offensive effort that will lead to more questions about Meyer and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s ability to succeed together.
“I’ve seen nonsense seep in to organizations when you’re 2-0 and I’ve seen it when you’re 0-2. Well, I guess I haven’t seen it when you’re 0-2, but I’ve seen it when you lose a game,” Meyer said. “We can’t allow that. The good thing is I don’t see that happening. If I do, I told the players and staff that’s the one thing that will not be tolerated with the Jags is nonsense. I see 0.0 of it. A bunch of good players, good guys and coaches working their tails off.”
Once Denver (2-0) adjusted following an electric start by Lawrence, nothing worked. The ground game remained ineffective, although Jacksonville did try and run it more than a week earlier against the Texans.
The defense couldn’t generate a turnover but had three sacks, forced three field goals and played well enough to win. Kicker Josh Lambo’s struggles continued with a pair of missed field goals that may have Meyer taking a serious look to upgrade the position. Lambo has missed all three of his attempts this season.
“Same mission still applies. We’ve got to stick with it,” said cornerback Shaquill Griffin. “We’ve got to continue to believe, have faith. The main thing is we can’t point any fingers. We’ve got to make sure we all stick with each other because we’ve still got a long season left.”
Those issues aside, it all circles back to Lawrence, Bevell and the offense. It has to be better, especially with Lawrence still adjusting to the NFL and trying to do too much heavy lifting to generate a spark. Lawrence finished 14 of 33 for 118 yards and two interceptions.
He couldn’t find any rhythm against Vic Fangio’s defense once the game got going, overthrowing receivers and finding no one open on deep balls.
Lawrence completed six passes on the first drive and then just eight after that.
“We’ve still got 15 more games, kind of like I said last week. That’s the mindset in the locker room, too. Everyone is frustrated. Everybody is disappointed,” Lawrence said. “Obviously we worked our tails off to win this game, and we felt like we were prepared. Just got to keep getting better, though. We’ve got to make the play when our number is called and didn’t do that well enough today.”
Lawrence’s fourth interception of the season, an excellent break and grab by Kareem Jackson, set up a 46-yard field goal by Brandon McManus for a 20-7 Denver lead with just over a minute to play in the third quarter. His fifth pick of the year came on a leaping dive by rookie Patrick Surtain midway through the fourth quarter.
On the other side of the ball, Teddy Bridgewater was 26 of 34 for 328 yards and a pair of touchdowns. A week earlier, Tyrod Taylor picked Jacksonville apart (21 of 33, 291 yards, two touchdowns).
Lawrence’s rookie struggles were magnified on Sunday.
He looked exceptional on the opening drive of the game, with a 24-yard strike to James O’Shaughnessy and a 25-yard touchdown to Marvin Jones Jr., both on third down. The play to Jones one of Lawrence’s best throws of the season, leading him perfectly. Jones got separation at the end and laid out for the grab. Lawrence had 69 yards passing on the drive but was erratic and ineffective after that.
Jacksonville had just 47 yards the rest of the half.
Lawrence got the Jaguars in position to tie things going into halftime, but Lambo missed his second field goal of the game, a 48-yarder wide left. He missed his first kick at TIAA Bank Field, a 52-yarder in the second quarter, a surprise considering Lambo had hit all 42 of his field goal attempts at home entering this game.
“I’m not giving up on Josh Lambo,” Meyer said. “If he didn’t work hard, wasn’t a professional about everything he does, yeah, I’d have a problem with him, but he’s missing some kicks, and as a professional he’s got to make those kicks. I have confidence he will.”