The longest regular season in Jaguars’ history is mercifully drawing to a close, but not without another slice of embarrassment.
The Jaguars dropped their eighth consecutive game, pounded by the Patriots 50-10 on Sunday in a performance that showed just how big of a chasm there is between Jacksonville and a playoff-bound team.
Trevor Lawrence tossed three interceptions and finally threw a touchdown pass, a garbage time screen to Dare Ogunbowale with 3 minutes, 48 seconds to go to help Jacksonville avoid the worst loss in franchise history.
His counterpart, Jacksonville native and Bolles product Mac Jones, diced up a porous defense with three scoring passes and added his touch to the best rookie quarterback in the class debate. Jones went to the bench early in the fourth quarter with a 41-point lead.
It was another glaring reminder on just how much work awaits the franchise’s next head coach and whatever general manager is tasked without leading another significant teardown and rebuild.
“I mean, there’s a lot of circumstances and things these guys are fighting through, and I’m just asking for them to give me their best at all times,” said interim head coach Darrell Bevell. “That’s what we’re hoping for. It didn’t work out for us today. We didn’t protect the ball on offense. We couldn’t get a stop on defense, and that made it a tough day.”
When the misery finally comes to a close next week at home against the Colts, the most disappointing season in franchise history will be in the books. About the only prospects remaining for Week 18 are of the dubious variety.
The Jaguars (2-14) need to score 23 points against Indianapolis to avoid setting the record for lowest-scoring team in franchise history.
The 2011 Jaguars scored 243 points in 16 games. This year’s team has already eclipsed that low water mark, scoring 220 in 16 games. But since the NFL expanded the regular season to 17 weeks this season, the Jaguars have one more shot at dodging that dubious mark, on paper at least. And Jacksonville still has the inside track on the No. 1 overall draft pick again. A Lions loss next week locks in that pick for the Jaguars.
None of this was expected when owner Shad Khan made the blockbuster hire of Urban Meyer last year.
He thought Meyer and the selection of Lawrence would help usher the team into a new era. Instead, Meyer publicly embarrassed Jacksonville time and again off the field and couldn’t put a competent product on the field. He was fired after 13 games and a 2-11 record.
The Patriots (10-6), who entered with Jones struggling and losing back-to-back games, got the cure for those issues early.
New England marched 70 yards in 11 plays on its opening drive, eating up more than seven minutes in the process. Damien Harris scored on a 2-yard run to cap that drive, his 13th rushing touchdown of the season and third-most in franchise history. About the only positive offensive sequence for Jacksonville came on its ensuing drive, when Lawrence lobbed a deep ball to Laquon Treadwell that went for 40 yards.
It was the catch of the season for Treadwell, who came down with the ball while blanketed by Myles Bryant and Jalen Mills. That catch set up Jacksonville’s first score of the game, a 29-yard field goal by Matthew Wright.
Lawrence couldn’t get anything going for the Jaguars after that. He was picked off twice, a ball through the hands of Ryquell Armstead and a miserable throw that JC Jackson poached without much trouble. It was Lawrence’s fifth game of the season with multiple picks.
“I wouldn’t say I’m ready for the season to be over. When that comes, obviously, it’s going to be nice to take a breather and really take in everything that’s happened this year. It’s been a wild year, but really, I kind of want some more opportunities to finish strong,” Lawrence said. “We’ve got a lot of guys, like I’ve said before, that work really hard, deserve to win. Really just disappointed. That’s kind of my feeling right now.”
He ended a streak of four consecutive games (and 184 attempts) without a passing touchdown when he hit Ogunbowale on a screen that the running back took 28 yards to the end zone. It was window dressing that helped the Jaguars avoid the largest loss in franchise history. Detroit’s 44-0 win over Jacksonville in 1995 is the team’s largest margin of defeat.
Lawrence finished 17 of 27 passing for 193 yards. He was sacked twice, despite missing an offensive line that was missing three starters due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Jones-over-Lawrence debate wasn’t debatable at all on Sunday.
The No. 15 pick in the draft diced the Jaguars from open to close. He connected on his first nine passes and tossed a pair of second-quarter touchdowns, including a picture-perfect fade to Jakobi Meyers with 52 seconds to play before halftime that put New England up 28-3. The scoring pass was Jones’ 20th of the season, a rookie record for a New England quarterback.
Jones finished 22 of 30 for 227 yards.
For Lawrence, he said that he’s not sure which direction the Jaguars will go in the offseason as far as a coach, but he’s going to put his faith in the process.
“I haven’t been around the NFL long, so I really still don’t even know how everything completely works, but I’m just trusting who is in leadership positions,” he said. “At the end of the day my job is to be a quarterback and to lead this team, and I can only do so much, and that’s what I’m going to do.”