NEW ORLEANS, La. – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars’ 31-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints in a 2023 Week 7 game at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, La., Thursday
1. Kirk for six. Big plays came fast and often in the fourth quarter for both teams. For the Jaguars, no play Thursday was as big as second-and-8 from the Saints 44 with just over three minutes remaining. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence found wide receiver Christian Kirk on a crossing route. The veteran caught the pass in front of Saints safety Tyrann Mathieu around the Saints 42, broke a tackle by defensive back Jordan Howden around the eight and stepped down the right sideline into the end zone for a 44-yard touchdown and a 31-24 lead with 3:09 remaining. "I don't think I've run that fast since, like, college," Kirk said. "That was some vintage stuff, I guess, but I'm glad I was able to do it in that moment." The play came on the second play of a 46-yard drive. "I just wanted to find a completion and get us going," Lawrence said. "Worst case, 'Let's get some points, let's get a field goal.' The game was tight at that point and then Christian went through it. I thought it was going to be maybe a 10-yard gain. I knew he had 20 on the angle, but then he took off and took it to the house. That was a great play by him to finish it."
2.Montaric – again. Consider this a huge game for Jaguars second-year cornerback Montaric Brown. Starting for injured cornerback Tyson Campbell, Brown's broke up a pass in the end zone that held the Saints to a second-quarter field goal. His biggest play came at game's end, when he broke up a pass from Saints quarterback Derek Carr to wide receiver Chris Olave in the left side of the end zone. The play came on fourth-and-goal from the six, securing the victory with :21 remaining. "He made plays when he needed to, and that's the most important thing – so really proud of the way he played today," Head Coach Doug Pederson said.
3.Quick and early. With Lawrence questionable entering Thursday with a knee injury, he and the offense eased concerns quickly. First, Lawrence passed 21 yards to tight end Evan Engram on second-and-10 from the Jaguars 35 on the game's second play. Lawrence followed that with a 15-yard screen pass to running back Travis Etienne Jr. one play later. Lawrence then ran nine yards to convert second-and-6 from the Saints 35. After a shovel pass to wide receiver Jamal Agnew for 14 yards, Etienne capped the 10-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run up the middle. That marked the Jaguars' second first-drive touchdown in as many weeks and gave them a 7-0 lead with 9:44 remaining in the first quarter. Lawrence completed five of six passes for 60 yards on the drive.
4. Piiiiick Six. The Jaguars' defense has created turnovers consistently this season. The unit got its second touchdown of the season Thursday in a big situation. With the Saints having trimmed the lead to 17-9 on their first possession of the second half, they faced third-and-10 from their 13 on the ensuing possession. Carr passed over the middle to wide receiver Rashid Shaheed. Cornerback Darious Williams defensed the pass, with inside linebacker Foye Oluokun intercepting and returning it down the left sideline for a 24-9 Jaguars lead with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter. "He's just all over the place," Lawrence said of Oluokun. "I'm glad he's on our team. He's as smart as they come. And tough. I don't know if I've seen anybody that plays as hard as him. Every play is full speed, just all out. So I think he's been doing it for a few years now and people are finally catching on to him."
5a. Oops, oops and a big stop. The Jaguars committed two early turnovers, with the second leading to the first Saints points. First, Kirk fumbled after a 19-yard gain on a pass from Lawrence and Saints defensive end Carl Granderson recovered at the Saints 41. On the ensuing Saints punt, the ball caromed off Jaguars cornerback Tavaughn Campbell, who was blocking for Agnew. Cornerback Lonnie Johnson recovered at the Jaguars 17. Brown broke up Carr's pass to wide receiver Michael Thomas in the end zone on third-and-goal from the Jaguars 5 to force a field goal.
5b. ETN again. Thursday's first half was weird. Really weird. The Jaguars lost the takeaway-giveaway statistic 2-0 in the first quarter, yet led 14-3 early in the second quarter. Key was clutch play from the Jaguars' defense, but the Jaguars' offense was efficient early and stayed that way at the end of the first quarter and start of the second. They turned in another 75-yard touchdown drive, needing seven plays on this one. Key play: A 26-yard scramble by Lawrence that turned first-and-10 from the New Orleans 48 into a first down at the Saints 17 after a defensive holding penalty. Etienne capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run with 13:09 remaining in the second quarter for a 14-3 Jaguars lead. Lawrence 59 yards on eight carries. "It wasn't the plan," Lawrence said, laughing. "Instincts kind of take over and I'm glad that it (his knee) was able to hold up and I was able to feel good enough to make those plays that were needed at times."
5c. Faaaaaaaake and a field goal. Credit the Jaguars' defense for limiting the Saints to field goals throughout the first half, with Grupe's 35-yarder with 1:57 remaining in the second quarter cutting the Jaguars' lead to 14-6. The Jaguars extended the lead to 17-6 at halftime when kicker Brandon McManus converted 43 yards with :32 remaining in the half. The key play on this drive came on fourth-and-2 from the Saints 46. With the Jaguars lined up to punt, punter Logan Cooke passed to wide receiver Tim Jones for a 13-yard gain to the Saints 33. McManus' field goal came four plays later after what was initially ruled an interception by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore was overturned.