JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There’s no shaking off that kind of history.
Twenty consecutive losses. Another step back on the field. And almost no chance to catch back up in a division that was there for the taking.
A long season is getting longer for Jacksonville.
After an embarrassing week off the field for the franchise, the Jaguars went out and added another page to the history books.
The rival Titans extended Jacksonville’s misery, beating the Jaguars 37-19 at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday afternoon. Trevor Lawrence and Co. made it interesting late, but saw their momentum halted on a fourth-and-goal situation from the 1 early in the fourth quarter where Carlos Hyde was stuffed for a 3-yard loss.
That call, similar to last week’s on the goal line in Cincinnati where Lawrence was stuffed, put a bow on another painful loss for the Jaguars where a play call will be scrutinized mercilessly over the next few days.
On a week where Urban Meyer’s behavior in a Columbus, Ohio bar — highlighted by two viral bar videos with a 24-year-old woman — dominated the headlines and drew a rebuke from owner Shad Khan, the chance to change the conversation Sunday back to football only created more questions.
“Desperate for a win, desperate for the way they go to work each day, each week. Desperate for a win,” Meyer said. “But we can’t worry about the past, worry about the future, and a trip to London and try to get a win. Some guys are playing their tails off. But, yeah, we’re desperate for a win.”
The Jaguars trailed from the outset, losing a fumble on the third play of the game that went back 30 yards for a touchdown. When they countered to appear to tie the game, kicker Matthew Wright missed a point-after try.
It became that kind of day for the Jaguars, who have lost games at a better rate than just about any other in NFL history.
Only the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs at 26 games have a longer losing streak since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Chicago Cardinals’ 29 straight losses from 1942-45 is the longest in NFL history although that streak is generally not recognized since it came before the merger.
“You can’t. You can’t wrap your head around that [losing streak]. We’ve got to find a way to win,” said running back James Robinson. “We’re a really good team. Obviously, our record doesn’t show it, but we’ve got a lot of great guys in the locker room, and we’ve just got to find something that’s going to work for us.”
This one stings for bigger reasons than just the dubious history attached to its historic losing skid. The Jaguars whiffed on a prime opportunity to gain ground in the division.
The AFC South has been so inconsistent this season that a win would have left Jacksonville just one win out of first place.
Instead, the Jaguars will head to London this week to face the Dolphins with the dreaded losing streak still intact and not much relief in front of them on the schedule.
At 0-5 and now three games back of the division-leading Titans (3-2), any sort of far-off thought about a playoff berth is gone.
The positive: Lawrence had one interception, albeit, on the final pass of the game. He finished 23 of 33 passing for 273 yards and a touchdown. He added a rushing score for the second straight game. James Robinson had a huge game on the ground, rushing for 149 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
The start was a sign of things to come.
Jacksonville gave up a touchdown just three plays into the game, a lost fumble by Dan Arnold that Kevin Byard returned 30 yards for a touchdown. But Jacksonville responded in a big way. Robinson marched the Jaguars down the field in a hurry, ripping off a 58-yard run into the Tennessee red zone and capping it with a 1-yard touchdown.
But the bad came with the good.
Wright missed a point-after try following Robinson’s touchdown run and had a 52-yard field goal try hit the crossbar not long before halftime. The Jaguars remain the only team in the league to have no connected on a field goal this season.
Jacksonville largely contained Yulee native Derrick Henry from any highlight reel plays, but he still finished with 130 yards and three touchdowns, the dagger with 1:54 left. While Jacksonville made it tougher going on Henry early, that didn’t matter. Ryan Tannehill made the Jaguars pay, taking advantage of several defensive lapses to put points on the board.
His biggest came on a 14-yard throw to MyCole Pruitt with just under six minutes to play before halftime when the tight end found himself uncovered with no Jaguars player within seven yards of him. Pruitt jogged into the end zone for a 21-13 lead. Henry took over late and Jacksonville wouldn’t get closer than that the rest of the way.
But the goal-line decision in the fourth quarter by offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was a big reason for that. The Jaguars didn’t call a sneak in that situation, something Meyer said that Lawrence wasn’t comfortable with yet. Lawrence disagreed with his coach, saying he’s comfortable with that type of play call.
“No, I feel comfortable. Obviously, I haven’t really ran it before in a game, but I feel comfortable. It’s something we’ve worked. We trust our guys up front, we trust our backs in that situation,” Lawrence said. “Obviously, I’d love to get in there, but if we make the play, it’s like no one says anything, but it’s a TFL, and that doesn’t look great obviously. So, we all can get better. But no, a QB sneak is something we can all get to and I feel comfortable with.”
After a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Lawrence was overruled on review, Jacksonville was left with a fourth-and-goal from the 1. It called a sweep to Hyde, who was dragged down for a 3-yard loss as the Titans held on to a 31-19 lead. Meyer said that he doesn’t like to “micromanage” when it comes to coordinators making personnel calls, but said that he should have in that case.
“I just met with Bev and we talked about it. I don’t micromanage who’s in the game. I should have — James is running really hard, but so is Carlos. I’ve got to go find out if something was dinged up with James on that situation,” Meyer said. “And the quarterback sneak, he’s not quite comfortable with that yet. We’ve been practicing that. I know that might sound silly, but when you’ve never done it, it’s something that we need to continue to make that, so you can make that call in that critical situation.”