The Jaguars snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on Sunday in a 34-27 loss to the Colts in Indianapolis. The Jaguars couldn’t stop Matt Ryan on a game-winning touchdown drive. Jacksonville has now lost three straight games. Here are my four biggest takeaways from the game:
On the first drive after a 48-yard run by Travis Etienne put the Jaguars in scoring range, Trevor Lawrence got greedy and tried to go long for Evan Engram when Chris Manhertz was open short. The pass was incomplete. Instead of third and 3 it was third and 7. On the next play, Lawrence was sacked for a loss of 15, pushing the Jaguars out of field goal range, and forcing the Jaguars to punt. Lawrence has struggled early in games. Sometimes with accuracy, this time it was with decision-making.
Lawrence then had a stretch where he completed 12 straight passes, although there were several sacks mixed into that stretch. He also ran for two short touchdowns. He finished 19 of 21 passing for 160 yards and a touchdown.
On the Jaguars massive fourth-quarter drive, an 18-play march that took over 10 minutes off the clock, Lawrence completed all six pass attempts and converted three first downs with runs. Then, he found Christian Kirk in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.
Lawrence has played better this year than last season, but he needs to improve much more as the season goes on if the Jaguars are going to be contenders. More importantly, if the Jaguars are going to be able to attract key free agents, having an established quarterback who finished the season well could be a factor. Lawrence’s progress continues to be the most important on-field storyline of the season.
The Jaguars are a running team
Yes, the Jaguars invested the first overall pick on Lawrence, but he is not at the point in his career where he can carry an offense. Maybe last year’s experience hurt him more than expected, maybe he is still adjusting to the new scheme, or maybe he’s going to take longer than expected to live up to the draft spot. In any event, the Jaguars are a better running team than a passing team right now. Etienne, James Robinson and JaMycal Hasty, the Jaguars three running backs, combined to rush for 25 yards and 197 yards in the game.
The Jaguars got back to the run more in the second half, but there were some puzzling decisions. For example:
The third-and-2 play in the second quarter. With Brandon Scherff off the field with a helmet issue, Cole Van Lanen went in at right guard. He didn’t protect Lawrence on third down, allowing a sack. The Jaguars were forced to punt. The Colts took advantage with an eight-play, 54-yard drive that was aided by a defensive pass interference call on Shaquill Griffin. The Colts pulled to within four points with 2:06 left before halftime. It was a further example of Doug Pederson’s stubbornness with the passing game.
In the third quarter, facing third and 1, the Jaguars called a pass play that went incomplete, then ran an option on fourth down. Lawrence pitched it to Etienne who was tackled for a loss. So many questionable decisions involving the running game, or the lack thereof.
Shaq Griffin’s struggles
It was a terrible day for Jaguars’ cornerback Shaquill Griffin. He was called for two defensive pass interference calls and was targeted time and time again by Ryan. When the game was on the line, Ryan identified Griffin on rookie Alec Pierce. Pierce burned Griffin and caught the game-winning touchdown in the final minute. That has become a weak spot in the Jaguars defense. Will there be any changes?
The Jaguars return home to face the New York Giants on Sunday. They are going to have to find a way to be better against the run with Saquon Barkley coming to town. Where the Jaguars’ season looked promising less than a month ago, now, at 2-4, it looks like they could find themselves in familiar territory if they don’t improve in some key areas quickly.