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Five key plays: Commanders 28, Jaguars 22


LANDOVER, Md. – Senior writer John Oehser examines key plays from the Jaguars' 28-22 loss to the Washington Commanders in a 2022 Week 1 game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Sunday

1. Oh no. The Commanders took a 14-3 lead on the first drive of the second quarter, with quarterback Carson Wentz throwing his second touchdown of the game – a seven-yarder in the back of the end zone to rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson. The drive's key play came on 3rd-and-10 from the Jaguars 22 two plays before the touchdown. Wentz threw incomplete, but Jaguars veteran defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot was called for roughing the passer to give Washington first down at the Jaguars 11. This came one play after Smoot made a nice inside rush to force Wentz to throw incomplete. "Little things become big things," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "That part you take away and you learn from."

2. Oh no II. The Jaguars came this close to cutting into the 11-point lead with just under five minutes remaining in the first half but running back Travis Etienne Jr. couldn't hold a high pass from quarterback Trevor Lawrence that might have been a touchdown. The Jaguars, trailing 14-3, used eight plays to drive 68 yards to the Commanders 3. On 4th-and-goal from there, Lawrence passed into the right flat. The pass was a bit high, and Etienne got two hands on the ball but the pass fell incomplete to give the Commanders possession. Etienne had a 23-yard reception and a 12-yard run on the series, which ended with 4:59 remaining in the half and the Jaguars trailing by eleven points. "We shot ourselves in the foot a lot," Lawrence said. "There are a lot of things that we control that we didn't do a great job of controlling. We have to play smarter, all around – every position."

3. Oh no III. Turnovers matter in the NFL – and the first takeaway of the season should have mattered for the Jaguars Sunday. Inside linebacker Foye Oluokun recovered a fumble by Commanders wide receiver Curtis Samuel at the Jaguars 34, with outside linebacker Josh Allen forcing the fumble. The Jaguars immediately turned in an impressive drive, with Lawrence completing six of nine passes for 60 yards. The drive stalled at the Commanders 19, with kicker Riley Patterson missing a 37-yard field goal off the right upright. That meant the Jaguars had scored no points on back-to-back red-zone possessions, finishing the first half with a field goal on three possessions inside the Washington 20.

4. Play action … and momentum. The Jaguars took over momentum to start the second half. First, Lawrence found wide receiver Christian Kirk deep down the middle of the field for a 49-yard gain to the Commanders 16. That play came off play action and was set up by strong runs of seven and eight yards by running back James Robinson. Lawrence followed the 49-yarder to Kirk with a 13-yard pass to Kirk, then capped the drive by rolling to his right and throwing for a three-yard touchdown pass to Robinson to make it 14-9 with 8:50 remaining in the third quarter.

5a. A big, big pick. The Jaguars trimmed the lead to 14-12 before second-year cornerback Tyson Campbell turned in a huge play. On 2nd-and-8 from the Commanders 39, Campbell stepped in front of a pass to Dotson to the left sideline and intercepted to give the Jaguars possession at the Commanders 45. The Jaguars' drove 19 yards for a 45-yard field goal by Patterson and a 15-14 lead with 12:04 remaining in the fourth quarter.

  • 5b. A bigger, bigger pick. Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker made his regular-season debut Sunday. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft hardly could have been more impressive. Walker registered his first NFL sack early in the third quarter, an eight-yarder on Wentz. One play after Patterson's field goal gave the Jaguars the lead, Walker intercepted a screen pass from Wentz and returned the interception nine yards to the Commanders 11. Robinson's run on the ensuing play pushed the lead to 22-14 with 11:45 remaining.
  • 5c. Oh no … again. The Commanders rallied late, scoring on each of their final two possessions. The first came too quickly after Robinson's touchdown, with Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin getting behind cornerback Shaq Griffin for a 49-yard touchdown pass from Wentz to cut the lead to 22-20 with 9:36 remaining. The Commanders were more methodical on their next series, with Wentz passing 24 yards to Dotson to cap a 90-yard, 13-play drive with 1:46 remaining.
  • "Games come down to three-to-five plays every week," Pederson said. "We have to finish better and take care of the little things." He added: "It's finish. It's finish, finish of the game. Finish a series, finish a play, finish a drive. They're all teachable moments, and that's what we're going to do as a staff. We're going to teach these guys. This group's going to be better because of it. We don't make any excuses, but there are a lot of good takeaways for us." The Jaguars' chances ended when Lawrence threw deep on 3rd-and-11 from the Jaguars 44 and was intercepted by safety Darrick Forrest at the Commanders 25.
  • "I was looking for Christian," Lawrence said. "We had a good spot. I thought it was kind of an open zone. Then, I got flushed out of the pocket. It (the pass) came out terrible on the sideline: Way short and obviously the guy came up and made a play. I don't think it was necessarily a bad decision. I just think it was a really bad throw."

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