It’s a good time for a bye.
The Jaguars are heading into a open week with one of their most disappointing performances of the season, a batch of self-inflicted mistakes that made an already difficult task impossible.
Jacksonville needed to play a near-perfect game to beat the Chiefs in Kansas City and were far from that. The Jaguars missed two field goals, got little from three takeaways and couldn’t stop Patrick Mahomes in a 27-17 loss on Sunday.
The disappointiong part of it — an upset was there to be had for 9.5-point underdog Jacksonville.
“I think as a team today, it was a game of missed opportunity,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said.
An improving Trevor Lawrence turned in another excellent game, but the Jaguars didn’t give him much help. His 19-yard touchdown pass to Christian Kirk with 5 minutes, 26 seconds left made the score a respectable 27-17, but the hole was too deep to get out of.
The Jaguars are 3-7 entering their bye week, a disappointing mark in Pederson’s first year. There was always going to be a period of adjustment in what amounted to a significant rebuild after the disastrous Urban Meyer regime. A 2-1 start this year, wins over a banged-up Chargers team and a spiraling Colts squad, accelerated those expectations.
But Jacksonville sputtered in close games after that, dropping five straight by eight points or less as Pederson harped on the inability to close and limiting self-inflicted mistakes. Kansas City (7-2) changed that. There were just too many mistakes to beat one of the league’s best teams in Arrowhead Stadium.
“There were too many missed opportunities too early. We still had our chance at the end of the game, and we didn’t make the plays to get back in it there,” Lawrence said. “It’s hard to overcome when you miss that many opportunities early in the game against a good team. Just a little bit too many of those.”
Jacksonville had three takeaways and recovered an onside kick to start the game. They managed points on just one of those.
“It was only seven points off of all of that. That is the game for me. It comes down to missed opportunities,” Pederson said. “It is a learning opportunity for our football team that you create the takeaways and you get a great play on special teams, and I mean special teams really kind of kept us in. Their return game was outstanding today. I think we even had a turnover on special teams. We have to score more. We have to score more points off of those takeaways.”
Mahomes picked Jacksonville’s defense apart and was seldom even pressured when dropping back to pass. The Jaguars didn’t have a sack. Top pass rushers Josh Allen and No. 1 overall draft pick Travon Walker were nonfactors again, something that’s becoming a theme as the season wears on. Mahomes (26 for 35, 331 yards, 4 TDs, INT) threw four touchdown passes, two to tight end Travis Kelce, and made one mistake all game, a fourth-quarter interception by Andre Cisco.
That led to Lawrence’s touchdown fade to Kirk on one of his best throws of the season, a high arc that beat safety Justin Reid and Kirk hauled in on the front right side of the end zone.
Lawrence (29 for 40, 259 yards, 2 TDs) continues to show growth after a midseason lull, but he didn’t get much help. Kansas City sacked Lawrence a season-high five times. That scoring pass to Kirk was the only time Jacksonville was able to convert a Chiefs giveaway into points on Sunday.
One of the best plays of the day came on the first of the game, an onside kick that Riley Patterson recovered. Jacksonville would have likely gotten something out of that drive, but a Lawrence pass to Kirk (9 catches, 105 yards, 2 TDs) was dropped inside the red zone.
That was the story of the afternoon.
The Jaguars also stopped a Kansas City drive at the 7 when Rayshawn Jenkins leveled Isiah Pacheco and Devin Lloyd scooped up the fumble. Jacksonville eventually had to punt it away.
It did too little with its chances to beat Mahomes in Kansas City. He had three first-half touchdown passes but the Jaguars had their opportunities. The dropped pass by Kirk on the opening drive would have, at worst, led to a short field goal try.
Patterson missed two field goals in the first half, including a 41-yarder at the end of the second quarter following a Chiefs turnover that would have sliced the deficit to 20-10. Lawrence hit Kirk for a 3-yard touchdown with 15 seconds to go before the break to get Jacksonville on the board.
The final score was respectable, but mistakes were the story of the game. Lawrence had a 4-yard touchdown pass to Evan Engram nullified on the opening drive of the second half following a penalty on Cam Robinson. They had to settle for a Patterson 35-yard field goal.
“We’re right there with winning these games. We’ve said that the whole season. No matter who you’re playing, but especially when you’re playing a great team like Kansas City, it’s hard to overcome those,” Lawrence said. “Right now, with where we’re at, we need to make those plays and keep that momentum. That’s where we’re at right now.”
The good news — the Jaguars are a game ahead of where they were a year ago at this point. Jacksonville was 2-8 after 10 games and had a bleak outlook under Meyer.
Lawrence had just eight passing touchdowns and had been sacked 20 times.
The offense was ranked 25th in the league (319.4 yards per game). The defense was ranked 21st (363.1). Jacksonville was averaging just 15.9 points per game. Meyer was fired in the early morning hours of Dec. 16 after a 2-11 start.
All signs point are far more positive 10 games into this year, with numbers better across the board. Travis Etienne has flashed postential as a top-10 running back.
Lawrence has 13 touchdown passes now and has been sacked 17 times. The offense entered the Kansas City game ranked eighth in the league (367.4 ypg) and the defense ranked 16th (343.4 ypg). The offense is averaging 21.6 ppg.
How do Pederson and the coaching staff get things corrected over the bye week? The Ravens and Lamar Jackson head to TIAA Bank Field on Nov. 27.
“When you can create those opportunities as a team, we have got to take advantage of that and we did not do that as a football team today,” Pederson said. “That is really the message. I will say this, it is not for lack of effort or anything like that at all. We have played 10 straight weeks now. The team needs a break at this time. It is a good time for it to kind of step away.”