A yard short: Jaguars stall out at the finish against Jets

Jacksonville stopped on downs at the 1 with 8 seconds to play, lose 26-21

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James Robinson is carted off the field during Sunday's game against the Jets. Robinson suffered a torn Achilles. George Varkanis, For News4JAX

The Jaguars lost another game and their top running back, and all but put a bow on securing the top pick in the draft again.

The battle between the top two quarterbacks in last spring’s draft went to Zach Wilson and the Jets as they beat the Jaguars 26-21 on Sunday afternoon, another disappointing performance in a season filled with nothing but disappointing performances.

Wilson outdueled Trevor Lawrence, torching the team with his legs and throwing a stay-ahead touchdown with just over five minutes to play to send the Jaguars to their seventh consecutive loss. The Jaguars got to the Jets 1-yard line with 8 seconds to play, but Lawrence’s pass was incomplete and Jacksonville was called for an illegal shift on the play to wrap it up.

Jacksonville (2-13) visits New England next week and wraps up another wasted season on Jan. 9 at home against the Colts. The loss, provided the Jaguars don’t pull off a seismic upset over playoff contending teams next week, paves the way for the team to get the No. 1 overall draft pick for the second consecutive season. Detroit lost to Atlanta on Sunday, but a Lions win in either of the next two weeks would give Jacksonville the No. 1 pick.

The Jets, who picked No. 2 behind the Jaguars in last spring’s draft and took quarterback Wilson, entered this one with a depleted roster due to COVID-19 protocols and still smacked Jacksonville around. Wilson rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown, and then hit Conor McDermott on a fourth-down touchdown with 9 minutes, 16 seconds to play. McDermott, a 310-pound offensive tackle, had reported as an eligible receiver on the play.

It was that kind of day — again — for the Jaguars.

Dare Ogunbowale scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:25 to go, but Lawrence was pressured on the two-point try to tie things up and had to just get it away in desperation to avoid a sack. The Jets added an insurance field goal to go up 26-21 and gift-wrapped Lawrence with a shot to lead his first true game-winning drive.

Lawrence marched Jacksonville from its own 25 all the way down to the other end of the field, courtesy of crisp passes to Tavon Austin and James O’Shaughnessey, then a 25-yard run of his own. A pass to Marvin Jones was nearly picked off, but Jones pulled it in on the deflection to get down to the New York 1. But Lawrence’s fourth-down pass to Jones was high and a flag came in after that.

Lawrence finished 26 of 39 passing for 280 yards. He has thrown just two touchdown passes in his last nine games. The finish glossed over another tough all-around effort by Jacksonville.

The Jaguars gave up a 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Braxton Berrios, the fourth special teams touchdown Jacksonville has allowed this season. The Texans had a 98-yard kickoff return for a score last week.

It gave up a 52-yard touchdown run to Wilson on a play that could have been stopped. But Rudy Ford pulled up when Wilson angled toward the sideline and he took advantage of that to stay in bounds and go the rest of the way. Andrew Wingard missed another tackle on Wilson at the end of his run. Wilson’s touchdown run was the longest by a quarterback in Jets’ history.

New York did its best to keep the Jaguars in the game.

Acting head coach Ron Middleton, filling in for Robert Saleh who is in the COVID protocol, passed up short field goals on two occasions. The first came on a fourth-and-goal from the 2 near the end of the opening half, and the latter came on a fake field goal try from the Jacksonville 8 late in the third quarter.

Middleton gambled again on a fourth-down call, but Wilson connected with McDermott on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 5:25 to go to go in front 23-15. Eddy Pineiro’s 20-yard field goal with 1:47 left preserved New York from all but gifting Jacksonville a win.

The worst news of the day — a season-ending injury to running back James Robinson. He was injured on a play away from the ball near the end of the opening quarter and left the game on a cart with his face covered by a towel. The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported shortly after that Robinson had suffered a torn Achilles.

The undrafted free agent was an excellent player as a rookie last season, rushing for 1,070 yards and seven touchdowns. Robinson was misused by Urban Meyer and staff this season, rushing for just 767 yards and eight touchdowns in limited action.

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.