‘We have to be better’: Jaguars find a way to lose to Texans again

Trevor Lawrence and offense ragged in 13-6 loss to Houston

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) runs for a first down as Houston Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey (58), Steven Nelson (21) and Jalen Pitre (5) defend during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Texans still have Jacksonville’s number.

Houston marched into Jacksonville and won its ninth straight game over the Jaguars in a 13-6 game on Sunday, a major step backwards for a team that had flashed that it might have actually turned a corner.

Instead, it’s another week of regression for Jacksonville — who look like the same ol’ Jaguars — and haven’t beaten the Texans since the 2017 season.

On a day where the franchise honored Tony Boselli by retiring his No. 71 jersey at halftime, Jacksonville wasted a stellar performance by its defense with another offensive clunker that amps up the pressure going into Week 6.

The Jaguars (2-3) have another divisional game next week, going to Indianapolis in search of snapping a two-game losing streak that is threatening to derail a promising start under Doug Pederson.

The Jaguars had a shot to force a tie twice in the final three minutes but came up empty on both. Their first ended on downs at the 50 with 1 minute, 47 seconds to play and the other when Trevor Lawrence’s Hail Mary flailed and was intercepted 20 yards shy of the end zone. It was Lawrence’s second pick of the game and his seventh turnover in the past two weeks.

“You just go back to work. You entrust these guys with a lot. We ask a lot of them. You just keep working,” Pederson said. “You keep putting them in these situations, and they’re going to learn. We’re all going to learn together, and we’ll be stronger and better for it.”

It was an inexplicable loss to the league’s worst team.

Houston (1-3-1) used its defense to harass Lawrence and Co. into an awful day at the Bank and took and advantage of a colossal fourth-quarter mistake by rookie linebacker Travon Walker to stun Jacksonville.

The offense piled up the yardage, outgaining the Texans 422 to 248, but it just couldn’t score.

Walker’s mistake gave the Texans a major break.

With Houston facing a third-and-20 near midfield, Walker broke towards Texans quarterback Davis Mills and flung him to the ground. The play was whistled dead due to an offsides call on the Jaguars but the unnecessary roughness flag gave Houston an automatic first down.

Eight plays later, Dameon Pierce barreled his way into the end zone from the 1-yard line and a 13-6 Texans lead with 3:15 to go.

“Again, those are unacceptable plays that come up. I keep telling the guys that a game usually comes down to three to five plays. You just never know which ones are going to be those plays,” Pederson said. “Trevor’s interception late, that penalty late in the game like that, I mean, those are hard to overcome. Again, they’re all valuable lessons for us as a staff to teach and correct.”

That gave Lawrence a final chance to author a game-winning drive but he failed to do so for the third time this season as Jacksonville fell a game behind the Titans for the AFC South lead.

“[We] just didn’t play our style of football, didn’t play well. This one stings, and everybody feels it in there, as you should. It’s a division game,” Lawrence said. “It’s a game where we feel confident and thought we had a good plan and just didn’t execute it. We have to be better.”

Especially Lawrence.

Lawrence followed his five-turnover game in the rain last week in Philadelphia with another clunker of a performance. He led the Jaguars to just a pair of first-half field goals and his worst throw of the season on Jacksonville’s opening drive of the second half.

“He is going to get better. He will get better. I’m not worried about that at all,” Pederson said of Lawrence. “We have a lot of faith and trust in him, and he can definitely do the job. We’ve seen it this season. We just have to keep working on him.”

The Jaguars had a second-and-1 and the Houston 7 and Lawrence could have simply run it for a first down during his rollout. Instead, he forced a throw to Zay Jones in the end zone and it was picked off by Derek Stingley Jr.

“It was just a bad decision,” Lawrence said. “That’s one you just throw away, maybe try to run it in, live to play another down. I think it was first and second and goal, just can’t do that.”

It was a forgettable day for the offense.

Five dropped passes.

There were several throws by Lawrence that sailed too high too frequently.

Pederson jettisoned the ground game after a great start by Travis Etienne (10 carries, 71 yards).

The Jaguars had an awful inability to sustain much of anything. Lawrence finished 25 of 47 for 286 yards and two interceptions.

“I haven’t lost any confidence. You look at some of the stuff we did. We moved the ball great. Guys made plays down field. I thought I was confident, ripped a few in there, had some good plays, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t win,” Lawrence said. “At the end of the day, we have to finish games. We’re going to learn from it. It hurts.”

The Jaguars tried to convert on fourth-and-1 from the Texans 38 early in the final quarter, only to have James Robinson stuffed for no gain.

The defense took the reins once again, keeping the pressure on Mills and doing well enough in the run game to limit the damage of running back Pierce.

Jacksonville has had success this season under Pederson in going for it on fourth down but whiffed three times on it Sunday.

Houston took advantage of a stop on fourth-and-4 midway through the second quarter to piece together a drive that ended in points. Kai Fairbairn booted a 51-yard field goal with 3:28 before the break for a 6-3 Houston lead.

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.