JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville’s come-from-behind win over the Raiders came out of nowhere.
Of the Jaguars’ uneven start to the season, they hadn’t been bullied like they were in the first 20 minutes of that game on Sunday. Vegas jumped in front 17-0, picking Jacksonville’s defense apart. It looked like another loss, a different kind of loss than they’d experienced this year.
What transpired next is something that Doug Pederson hopes will carry over and be a theme during the second half of the season, beginning Sunday against the Chiefs (6-2).
The Jaguars (3-6) surged back. Their offense picked it up. The defense addressed their earlier issues. And Jacksonville finally showed that it could finish a game when it mattered, beating the Raiders 27-20.
“You hope it is [the start of something],” Pederson said. “It’s up to the coaches and the players to just keep doing their job, keep working every day. Don’t worry about the outside world, and just focus on our jobs and get ready for another football game.”
Much of what Pederson has repeated week after week has centered around one thing — consistency.
Consistency in how they started.
Consistency in how they finished.
Consistency in how they operated on the offensive side of the ball.
They did that in wins over the Colts and Chargers and then fell into a maddening chasm of self-inflicted mistakes over the next month. They’ve been in every game that they lost but had to keep answering the same questions each week.
Why can’t they close? Their performance changes the question this week to another one — can they keep it going?
“It’s definitely a good start. We really kind of clarified our intentions as a team in the team meeting after that London game,” said safety Andrew Wingard, who had several big defensive plays after replacing an injured Rayshawn Jenkins.
“It was like, this is where we want to go, and when you identify where you want to go, then you can start doing all the little stuff leading up to that, so you kind of work backwards in a way to say, ‘If we were to make the playoffs, what would we do today?’ I think that’s really what we did this week and got a big win.”
The Jaguars stopped two Raiders drives in the final quarter before appearing like they were going to put them away. Then Riley Patterson missed a 41-yard field goal to give Las Vegas another shot. Jacksonville stopped it on downs, then got a 41-yard field goal from Patterson to go up 27-20.
With one final shot, the Raiders still couldn’t solve the Jaguars defense and turned it over on the final play.
In moments like that during Jacksonville’s five-game losing streak, it wilted in those moments. Lawrence committed a game-sealing turnover (Eagles, Texans, Broncos) or the defense couldn’t get a clinching stop (Colts, Giants).
Not only did Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne help the Jaguars claw out of that deficit with some of their steadiest play of the season, they responded in the final minutes. Clinging to a 24-20 lead with 6:19 to go, Lawrence marched Jacksonville from its own 18 to the Las Vegas 23 to get Patterson his 41-yard field goal opportunity. Etienne had 43 yards rushing on that drive.
And he had 9 yards on the ground to set up Patterson’s next opportunity.
“When you’re young, you need these type of games,” said receiver Marvin Jones. “As much as you can be on the field, every snap, you’re getting experience, and you’re getting confidence. It’s a confident game. If you don’t have it, you don’t belong here.”
Can they keep that momentum going against the high-powered Chiefs?
Etienne’s emergence has given Jacksonville an electric playmaker. His 28 carries on Sunday were a career-high and he scored a couple touchdowns. Etienne is fifth in the NFL in rushing (680). Lawrence had a consistent showing against the Raiders and has passed for 2,075 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
“He played within himself; he didn’t put the ball in harm’s way. He saw the field really well, he ran hard. It was good to see him scramble a couple of times,” Pederson said of Lawrence. “That’s what you need, you need that from your quarterback and from your leader and it was a good step for him.”