So much for that momentum.
So much for facing one of the league’s worst defenses.
So much for being ready to take the next step.
This was embarrassing on a level it hasn’t been this season.
The Jaguars were woeful on Sunday, struggling from open to close and getting a big scare from an injury to Trevor Lawrence in a 40-14 loss to the Lions. It drained any leftover feel-good remnants from a Week 12 thriller against Baltimore and showcased just how much work remains for Doug Pederson and Co.
The best news against Detroit was the health of Lawrence, who appeared to be seriously injured after suffering a sack to end the second quarter.
James Houston IV hit Lawrence, who twisted awkwardly with his left leg stuck under a pile and hit the turf. Lawrence writhed in pain while being tended to and was able to walk off under his own power.
“I thought it was my knee at first, and then my foot a little bit was hurting too. Luckily, nothing serious,” Lawrence said. “We’ll have to see how I feel tomorrow. I told him, he just asked, I’m going to be a little sore but thankful it’s not anything serious. I was worried it was my knee, but I don’t think it is. I feel better than I thought I would.”
Lawrence returned to start the second half and led Jacksonville’s only touchdown drive of the game. He tossed a 3-yard scoring pass to Evan Engram and then a two-point conversion throw to Jamal Agnew to get the Jaguars to within 30-14.
That was the most competent Jacksonville looked all day.
“I felt like we were kind of shocked to start this game. We just were not — we were not ready, even — we turned the ball over on the second play of the game which can’t happen,” Pederson said. “And then defense can’t get off the field the entire game and it’s a combination of everybody. We’re all included, myself included. So, it’s something we have to really look hard at the next couple of days.”
Lawrence didn’t finish the game. Pederson put in backup CJ Beathard after the Lions scored on their eighth consecutive drive, the victory cigar for Detroit and a humiliating all-around effort by the Jaguars. The only drive that didn’t end in points for the Lions was their final one — a kneeldown to drain the clock. For Jacksonville, it was reminiscent of previous years when it didn’t have a roster good enough to play against NFL teams. But this was the Lions, not a Chiefs or Eagles team, both of whom the Jaguars were competitive against.
They’d lost only one game this season by more than eight points, a 27-17 defeat to the Chiefs in Week 10.
This one was never close.
“Yeah, it’s embarrassing honestly what we put out there in such a big game for us,” Lawrence said. “I mean, that’s the word to describe it, it’s embarrassing. Everybody in that locker room feels that way too, just to — I mean, this is a playoff game for us and we go out there and laid down.”
The Jaguars were ragged from the start and looked nothing like the second half team from a week ago against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens.
The Jaguars (4-8) had a playoff pulse after that win, but the loss was a significant setback, especially with AFC South division-leading Tennessee losing against the Eagles on Sunday, too. Jacksonville just couldn’t take advantage of that to gain a game on the Titans, delivering one of their worst performances of an otherwise respectable season.
In a matchup of teams who held the Nos. 1 and 2 picks from last April’s draft, the Lions (5-7) ran over Jacksonville with ease. Travis Etienne fumbled on the second play of the game and Detroit converted it into a Jamal Williams touchdown seven plays later.
That was a glimpse of what was yet to come.
The Jaguars couldn’t slow down Detroit at all.
“I mean, listen we’ve got to lick our wounds and we’ve got two days to figure it out,” Pederson said. “We’ve got a division opponent next week and nobody’s going to feel sorry for us, and so we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves, we’re going to go to work and we’re going to get things cleaned up. And make — and try to make it right. But it’s everybody, it’s not one person, one position group, it’s everybody. It’s coaches, players, myself, it’s all of us. And obviously, it starts there with me.”
Jared Goff, constantly mentioned as being replaced by a draft pick, shredded the Jaguars. Goff led the Lions to five scoring drives in the opening half, including a 10-yard strike to Amon-Ra St. Brown to make it 14-3. Detroit added three more field goals by Michael Badgley in the half for a 23-6 lead at the break.
Missed tackles and sack opportunities, dropped passes by receivers and a listlessness dotted the game.
It didn’t help that Lawrence (17 for 31, 179 yards, TD) and the offense were ineffective. Receiver Christian Kirk had a solid game for the Jaguars (6 catches, 104 yards) but got little help elsewhere. Zay Jones had three drops. Evan Engram had two catchable passes bounce out of his hands. The ground game dried up with the large deficit. Etienne had 54 rushing yards on 13 carries but was a nonfactor.
“Credit to them, those guys, those guys whooped us,” Lawrence said.
The Lions, who entered with the league’s worst defense in points allowed per game (28.2) and yards allowed per game (414.5), smothered the Jaguars. The bigger problem was Mike Caldwell’s defense continues to struggle. The pass rush is largely invisible. No. 2 overall selection Aidan Hutchinson was credited with a sack. No. 1 pick Travon Walker had five total tackles and a tackle for loss but was a nonfactor.
The inability to get pressure on Goff allowed him to throw for 340 yards on a 31-of-41 day. St. Brown diced the Jacksonville secondary for 114 yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches.