JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars came up one yard short.
The Jaguars (2-5) saw their losing streak reach four games with a 23-17 defeat to the red-hot Giants on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field. As rough as they played in spots, Jacksonville drove the field in the final minute to get a shot at scratching out a win or a tie.
Trevor Lawrence’s final pass was a dart that Christian Kirk caught at the 1, but Xavier McKinney and Julian Love wrapped him up and stopped Kirk just short of the end zone as time ran out. It was a dramatic finish but Daniel Jones and the Giants managed to win their fourth straight game with a comeback that highlighted Jacksonville’s growing issues. New York won its fifth come-from-behind game of the season. The Jaguars, who were favored by 2.5 points, have yet to learn how to do that.
They had too many self-inflicted mistakes again, a recurring theme that Doug Pederson has harped on through their slide.
They were flagged 13 times. They had an interception reversed because of one penalty.
They passed up a field goal opportunity that would have put them up by a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
They lost a fumble going in for a touchdown that the Giants wound up turning into a field goal.
New York (6-1) took advantage of those gaffes and ensured it would be another difficult week for Pederson and the Jaguars as the team prepares to head for London and a game against the Broncos.
“I mean, we have to look at everything big picture right now, but you know, we can’t, obviously, lose too many more, right? That’s just the big picture view,” Pederson said. “But this team has got — first of all, we have to learn not to beat ourselves and just worry about us. I think if we do that and focus internally on what we do, the process that we do, then I think everything else kind of takes care of itself.”
The Giants got a 1-yard touchdown sneak by Jones with 5 minutes, 35 seconds to play to put them in front 20-17 and then a 34-yard field goal by Graham Gano with 1:04 left for a margin that Jacksonville couldn’t overcome. Are the Jaguars just cursed with bad luck, with no hope of getting out of the inability to finish rut? Lawrence doesn’t think so.
“Yeah, we don’t believe in any of that. I don’t think that thought will ever come,” he said. “It’s our job to make those plays, and we’ve got the guys. We’ve got the guys to do it. We haven’t made them up until this point in a few of these games. You just have to move on to the next one and go get the next one and just get some of this momentum back because we really believe we’re a great team.”
The Jaguars had plenty of time left to do something after Jones’ scoring run, but they went three and out and punted it away. New York bled the clock from there, including a 15-yard run by Jones that pushed him to a career-high 107 rushing yards. The Jaguars had that final another opportunity after Gano’s kick, but came up stopped at the 1. It was the second week in a row where Lawrence led a major drive at the end of the game.
“I think he is gaining more confidence in what we’re doing and himself. These are, obviously, situations you would love to pull out a win, but at the same time for him his development, his growth, you know, as a leader of this team, the offense, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Pederson said.
As tough as the finish was to watch, the Jaguars still had a shot at the end, something they seldom had in 2021. Lawrence, aided by two Giants penalties, took Jacksonville from its own 25 with 1:04 left to the New York 17 with 16 seconds to go. Kirk did his best to try and push his way across the goal line but the Giants had too many tacklers there to wrap him up.
Jacksonville has lost all five games this season by eight points or less.
“Like we’ve been saying, you have to find ways to win and just find ways to make those plays that decide the game. Those plays are scattered throughout the game, but no matter what happened in the prior three quarters and whatever minutes of that fourth quarter, at the very end — how can we find ways to make those plays to win the game? We’re just not making enough of those plays right now,” Lawrence said. “We’re that close. That’s what’s frustrating for us, too, as players.”
Lawrence helped the Jaguars reclaim the lead on the opening drive of the second half, sneaking in with a jump over the pile from the 1. It was his third rushing touchdown in the past two games. Travis Etienne set up that with a 49-yard run down to the New York 24.
Etienne (114 rushing yards, TD) continued his emergence, turning in another strong rushing game. He scored his first NFL touchdown to help Jacksonville counter New York’s scoring drive on its opening possession. He also had a major blunder that led to a major swing in the game.
Lawrence (22 of 43, 310 yards) hit Etienne for a 12-yard gain late in the second quarter and he nearly broke a tackle to take it into the end zone. McKinney hit Etienne and popped the ball out and into the end zone. Love recovered it and the Giants avoided an almost-certain touchdown.
New York turned that turnover into a 33-yard field goal by Gano to take a 13-11 lead at the break.
“Listen, that’s where we’re at as a team right now is we’re just learning things the hard way, you know? I think plays like that change the outcome of a lot of different things,” Pederson said of Etienne’s fumble. “We just have to keep hanging together and keep working. Just like I told the guys after the game, we do that, stick together, you know, good things are going to happen for them and we’ll get it flipped around.”
The Jaguars came up big on the defensive side of the ball when they had to. After a self-inflicted penalty — a helmet to helmet hit by Foye Oluokun to Jones that erased an interception — New York used that gift to drive inside the Jaguars 5. They wound up running three plays from the 3 and got nothing, including a pass breakup on fourth down by Darious Williams to deny the Giants a first.
Jacksonville had a shot to go up by a touchdown with 11:30 to play had it elected to give Riley Patterson a 38-yard field goal try. But Pederson elected to go for it with a yard to go. Etienne was stuffed for no gain on third-and-1 from the 21 and Lawrence’s sneak on fourth down ended up as no gain. Two players earlier a sweep play to Kirk appeared to have gone for a first down. Officials spotted the ball short and replays appeared to show Kirk getting past the first-down marker.
“Well, initially we thought on our sideline we got the first down. We’re preparing for, obviously, getting the call in for first down. Then, you know, through all of that I think trying to sort things out, where the ball was, different things,” he said. “Then it came up third down. So, we had to switch gears there. We’ve got to sort it out, obviously. We have to figure it out tomorrow. Go back, watch TV copy, and all that. That right there, you know, I don’t think cost us the game, but it was definitely a big part of it.”