JACKSONVILLE – They have been close a lot, and they have been very good at times.
What the Jaguars haven't been offensively this season is as good as players and coaches expect – and as quarterback Trevor Lawrence sees it, that's the goal until it's not.
"You're hoping every week is that week," he said Wednesday afternoon as the AFC South-leading Jaguars (6-2) prepared to play the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers (5-3) at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.
The Jaguars, who have won their last five games, rank 14th in the NFL in yards at 341.4 yards per game and 10th in points with 24.1 per game. They ranked ninth in the NFL in yards at 357.4 and 10th in scoring at 23.8 last season.
It's statistics within those statistics that Head Coach Doug Pederson emphasized this week, specifically:
- Giveaways, with the Jaguars' 13 this season the second-most in the NFL.
- Third-down conversion, with the Jaguars ranking 25th in the NFL at 35.1 percent (38 of 107.
- Red-zone percentage, with the Jaguars ranking 26th in the NFL at 47.62 percent (10 of 21).
"We can just be more efficient in every category, clean it all up," wide receiver Calvin Ridley said. "If we make everything cleaner, dial into the moment more and make plays, it will be better for the offense, our team and our defense."
Said Pederson, "It's not a whole schematic change. The plays work, we're just failing to execute. We have to just tighten up and hone in, not tighten up individually, but just tighten some things up as a team to just concentrate a little bit harder on those situations."
The Jaguars have moved efficiently in most games this season, with mistakes at key times often ending possessions. They have moved or had possession past midfield on 62 of 96 possessions, with 35 of those drives ending in points.
"I don't think it's a matter of fixing; I think it's just realigning what we do really well," wide receiver Christian Kirk said.
Tight end Evan Engram this week said giveaway and red-zone issues are intertwined, with three of the team's turnovers occurring inside opponents' 20-yard line – including two such giveaways in their last game, a Week 8 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"We have to be better in the red zone in general," Engram said. "That's obviously a goal of ours, is to score more points in the red zone. It's just us not doing the little things right. I fumbled there last week [against the Steelers]. We're just shooting ourselves in the foot down there.
"It's things in our control. It's kind of like how we started off slow in the season. It was small stuff that was shooting us in the foot. We kind of feel like it's the same in the red zone: turnovers, not protecting the ball. The defenses aren't really doing things to shut us out. We're hurting ourselves.
"It's just part of our journey as an offense. We've had a lot of things to work through. This is another thing for us to work through."
Lawrence said while the offense has been more consistent in recent weeks and "not stalling out," consistency and minimum mistakes remain the objectives.
"That's the idea, having a game where you can come out of it not many turnovers at all, being great on third downs, scoring in the red zone," he said. "It would be nice to put all of those together this week against a good team like this. This is the week to do it. You have to play well against great teams."
- Sunday's game is an important game, but Pederson on Wednesday discounted the idea that it will say more about the team than other such games. The 49ers, who are tied for the NFC West lead, are one of five defending division champions on the Jaguars' schedule this season. They lost to the defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs (17-9) in Week 2 and beat the defending AFC East champion Buffalo Bills (25-20) in Week 5. They play the defending AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 and the defending NFC South champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16. "I don't think it's a measuring stick," Pederson said. "You're playing a great football team, and we've played some really good football teams already. Our guys have battled and hung in there. It's just going to be another one of those tough, physical, hard games. It's one of 17 games and against a top NFC opponent, obviously a playoff-caliber team that was in the Super Bowl a couple years ago. Is that a measuring stick? We haven't done anything yet. We're not there yet. Our guys have to prepare that way and be ready for a 60-minute game."