Fun while it lasted: Jaguars show spark, but collapse late in loss to Cardinals

Arizona roars back as Jacksonville losing skid hits 18

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy, center, and defensive back Jalen Thompson during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It was fun for a little bit but ended up like all the rest.

Jacksonville sprinkled in a bit of NFL history before an epic second-half collapse in a 31-19 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field that extended the franchise misery.

It felt more painful than most Jaguars losses because of how it unfolded.

Jacksonville (0-3) led 19-10 late in the third quarter, then proceeded to give up three touchdowns over the next 9 minutes, 44 seconds in classic meltdown fashion that stretched the losing streak to 18 games.

That skid is tied for fifth-longest in NFL history with the 1972-73 Houston Oilers. The turnaround to try and break that skid is quick. Jacksonville travels to Cincinnati on Thursday night.

“Yeah, I see a lot of progress. Obviously like you said, this is a product-based business we’re all in, and you look on the won-lost column, it’s not good,” coach Urban Meyer said. “Yeah, I still believe we’ve got a good enough team to make some moves this year and win some games. I do believe we’re making progress.”

Trevor Lawrence threw two interceptions and lost a fumble that was actually knocked out of his hand by teammate James Robinson. Kicker Josh Lambo missed two extra-point attempts. And the defense, which played so well on the front part of the game, lost steam late against Kyler Murray.

This game turned in a hurry and is no doubt the worst-feeling loss in Meyer’s brief tenure.

A Robinson 4-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter gave Jacksonville a 19-10 lead, almost unthinkable against a Cardinals team that was favored by 7.5 points.

Like clockwork, momentum evaporated after that.

Lambo missed his second point after of the game after Robinson’s touchdown and the boos erupted. The Cardinals went 75 yards in five plays and scored on a James Conner 4-yard run. A busted flea flicker attempt on Jacksonville’s ensuing drive turned into a 29-yard interception return for a touchdown by Byron Murphy. Those two Arizona scores came 52 seconds apart.

The Jaguars turned in another three-and-out and the Cardinals tacked on another short Conner touchdown run with 6:54 to play to turn out the lights on Jacksonville.

“Gosh, I’m sick. I feel like we should have won that game. But yeah, nothing changes. I thought we got a lot better today, and you could tell there were some sparks. We made some plays,” Lawrence said. “Collectively, the defense, gosh, they played great, especially against the weapons over there that the Cardinals have. You can’t ask for any more out of that. Same thing, just got to be more consistent. That pick six killed us, obviously. That’s all on me. Got to just be smart and eat it, throw the ball away right there.”

It erased the most excitement in front of the home crowd in years.

Meyer talked last week about finding a spark and Jamal Agnew provided it.

He took a missed field goal back for an NFL-record-tying 109-yard touchdown, his second return touchdown in as many weeks, for Jacksonville’s first lead at halftime since Dec. 6, 2020 when it led the Vikings, 9-6.

The Cardinals attempted a 68-yard field goal with 2 seconds to play before half. Matt Prater’s kick was short, and Agnew fielded it 9 yards deep into the end zone. Agnew got a wall of protection on the return, jumped over one tackler and followed his blockers back the other way. According to Pro Football Reference, it was the first score on a non-blocked kick since 2007.

Jacksonville’s drive before Agnew’s score was clutch, a 74-yard march that overcame its first penalty of the game, converted on third down and ended on a beautiful throw from Lawrence to DJ Chark on a 12-yard touchdown.

Defensively, the Jaguars were ready for two and a half quarters.

While they gave up a rushing touchdown to Kyler Murray on Arizona’s opening drive, they quickly adjusted. Murray was accurate, but Jacksonville kept plays in front of it and didn’t allow any backbreakers. Murray started 14 of his first 16 before Andrew Wingard intercepted him in the end zone for Jacksonville’s first turnover of the season.

Lawrence’s up-and-down start continues. He finished 22 of 33 passing for 219 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

“The players love him. The players see what I see. They see what the world is going to see, and that’s a hell of a player that cares deeply for Jacksonville, cares deeply for his teammates,” Meyer said. “Really, it’s a refreshing guy to be around every day, and he will get better. I guarantee you that.”

He’s thrown multiple interceptions in his first three games, although his first pick Sunday wasn’t on him.

Lawrence’s throw to Jacob Hollister was on target, but the tight end bobbled it and Murphy picked it off.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.