Can Jaguars prove meltdown against 49ers was a fluke?

Jacksonville hosts Tennessee on Sunday trying to get back on track

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson watches from the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jaguars are calm and focused on shrugging off their worst performance in Doug Pederson’s time in Jacksonville. Was last week’s meltdown against San Francisco just a blip or is it something to be a bit more concerned about with two divisional opponents up next?

Jacksonville (6-3) endured a failure in every phase of the game last week. The Titans (3-6) head to EverBank Stadium on Sunday and the Jaguars have to pick things up quickly. A win, and last week’s shellacking will seem like a one off. Another poor performance and the questions will continue to pick up momentum.

The suddenly hot Texans (5-4) are one game back of Jacksonville in the AFC South. The Jaguars visit Houston next week. Pederson said that he hasn’t made too much out of the team’s worst showing in his 28 games as head coach. Perspective, he said, is key.

“It’s one loss. We are five out of six in our last six games. I’m a big believer too, you just don’t change to change or shake something up to shake something up. I just think it’s each person, it’s each man, it’s each coach doing their jobs better,” Pederson said. “I need to do my job better in preparing the football team. I’ll do it if I had to, but I just don’t think in this case, anything like that needs to be done.”

Coming off of a bye week and riding a five-game winning streak, Jacksonville was flat against the 49ers.

The defense got picked apart by San Francisco. The offense committed a season-high four turnovers and mustered just a field goal. By the time a miserable Sunday wrapped up, that 34-3 loss magnified a list of things that Jacksonville hasn’t done well this season.

The loss isn’t forcing major changes this week, but it amplified concerns that have popped up throughout the season for Jacksonville. There’s no way to dispute the facts that the Jaguars have just not been a very good offensive football team this season. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has struggled to get comfortable in the offense this year.

When the team isn’t putting pressure on the quarterback (two sacks for 9 yards) or forcing turnovers (none), the defense struggles. When teams swamp Jacksonville up front, the offense can’t perform. The Jaguars gave up a season-worst five sacks against the 49ers and were held to just 221 total yards.

“I think Sunday obviously leaves a bad taste in our mouths,” Lawrence said. “It gives us and everyone, I don’t think, a totally accurate picture of this offense. That was a really bad performance and we own that. That’s what we put out there, so that’s who we were this past Sunday.”

The offensive line issues have been well publicized, and they remain arguably the reason for the team’s inconsistent showing on that side of the ball. Lawrence has just nine touchdown passes, a number that ranks 22nd in the league. Among players who have played in nine games, only Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder (6), Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett (6) and the Jets’ Zach Wilson (5) have thrown fewer touchdowns than Lawrence.

Starting left tackle Cam Robinson missed the first four games due to a performance-enhancing drugs suspension. Walker Little was injured 11 plays into a Week 5 game. Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison has endured the typical growing pains of a first-year player, and has allowed five sacks. Brandon Scherff has been solid, but he’s been banged up. Center Luke Fortner has allowed three sacks and been a little up and down.

“I just think they haven’t played together for a length of time,” Pederson said of the struggles on the offensive line. “I think there’s a lot of moving pieces there.”

Have all of the sacks and hits on Lawrence made him more prone to bail out on a play early or become too skittish in the pocket? He’s been sacked 24 in nine games, a number that ranks tied for seventh-most in the league. Lawrence was sacked 27 times in 17 games last season and 32 as a rookie. Jacksonville is on pace to allow 45 sacks, a number that would rank as the sixth-most in franchise history.

“I do think sometimes when you get hit the number of times as a quarterback, it can affect your eyes. Your eyes can drop and focus on the rush to touch,” Pederson said. “The one thing about Trevor that he’s really good at is continuing to keep his eyes down the field. We’ve got to continue to coach him and help him, and make sure he feels as comfortable as possible.”

Lawrence said the struggles shouldn’t be happening to the level that they are. There’s nothing in practice that would suggest that Jacksonville would have those issues in a game. The performance against San Francisco was a colossal failure in every category.

“I think there’s something maybe that’s not carrying over from practice to gameday, making it’s a little bit of loss of focus,” he said. “I’m not sure, but definitely on this Sunday, in the games prior, we haven’t played perfect but we’ve played clean enough and we’ve found ways to win. This Sunday was just a disaster.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.