KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Senior writer John Oehser examines Head Coach Doug Pederson's press conference following the Jaguars’ 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday
1. Lawrence is on his way.Pederson left no doubt late Saturday, not that there has been any doubt throughout the second half of the 2022 season: Trevor Lawrence is the Jaguars' franchise quarterback and a key to their future. Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, emerged as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks in November/December/January – and rallied the Jaguars from a 2-6 start to win the AFC South to be one of the last eight teams playing in the postseason. "It's everything," Pederson said when asked what Lawrence meant to his confidence in the Jaguars' future. "I've said this before, that the success of your football team lies with your quarterback. You have to get that piece and that player. Jacksonville … we got that person right. He's just going to get better. He's going to learn from this. He's going to grow with the receivers, tight ends, the backs. They're all young, they're all going to be there and keep working." Lawrence on Saturday completed 24 of 39 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown with an interception. "Obviously we've got the right leader in Trevor," Pederson said. "I feel really good about him, what he has done, how he has played this season."
2. A point of pride.Pederson spoke throughout the season of his pride in the 2022 Jaguars, and that didn't change following Saturday's season-ending loss. The Jaguars, after finishing with the NFL's worst record in 2020 and 2021, overcame a four-game deficit with seven games remaining in the regular season to win the AFC South for the first time since 2017. They also overcame starts of 2-6, 3-7 and 4-8. Pederson's message to the team following Saturday's loss was about that pride. "I just told them how proud I was for how they hung together all season long, how they battled, fought a ton of adversity," Pederson said. "I'm just proud of the way they battled all season to get to this spot." The Jaguars rallied to win in seven of their last eight victories this season.
3. Just the start. Pederson spoke often since taking over as the Jaguars' head coach last February of changing the Jaguars' culture and spoke often of the importance of playing meaningful games in December and January. Having achieved that in his first season with the franchise, he said the objective moving forward is clear. "Our expectation is to be in these games every year," he said. "That's our expectation. This was a good, good first year for all of us." Pederson added, "We're all hurting cause of the loss. This the final game of this year. That's the hard thing, but these are the games that we're going to learn from and we're going to be better because of. I said, 'Plan on every year, let's be in these meaningful games of the season. We want to be one of the four, five six teams in the AFC [playoffs] every year."
4. Familiar stuff.Pederson left no doubt Saturday: While he was proud of the Jaguars' late-season run, the team must improve to beat the top-seeded teams in late January and into February. The Jaguars on Saturday did not force a turnover or register a sack, and they missed a chance to pull to within three points when wide receiver Jamal Agnew lost a fumble at the Chiefs 3 with 5:29 remaining. The Jaguars in the second quarter also missed a chance to turn the game's momentum when they allowed backup quarterback Chad Henne to drive the Chiefs 98 yards for a touchdown that extended the Kansas City lead to 17-7 with 3:54 remaining in the half. "They're disappointed," Pederson said. "We felt like we had an opportunity to at least tie the football game. They understand how good they can be. Some of the same ugly mistakes that showed up in this game were the things that showed up early in the season. Those are the things that we have to eliminate. Those are the things we have to move on from to win against great football teams like the Chiefs are. You can't make those mistakes."
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