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Five key plays: Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

5 Key Plays

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 21-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in a 2021 Week 12 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday

1. Third-and-13 – and oh no. This sort of play defines games – and it changed momentum early Sunday. The Falcons on their second series faced 3rd-and-13 from their 16 after Jaguars defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris sacked quarterback Matt Ryan for a seven-yard loss. Ryan on the ensuing play got off a dump-off pass under pressure, with running back Mike Davis turning it into an 18-yard catch-and-run gain to the Falcons 34. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson rushed 19 yards on the ensuing play, with running back Wayne Gallman running for 15 yards the play after that. Patterson capped the nine-play, 81-yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run around left end, a play that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead with :38 remaining in the first quarter.

2. Mistakes and more mistakes … The Jaguars' season-long trend of allowing avoidable mistakes to turn into key plays for the opponent continued in the second quarter. An offsides penalty on defensive end Lerentee McCray early in the period turned a punting situation into a first down. While that didn't lead to Falcons points, two later Jaguars mistakes did. First, Jaguars running back James Robinson lost a fumble that defensive lineman Tyeler Davison recovered at the Jaguars 29. The defense forced a 43-yard field goal by Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo, but a 15-yard unsportsmanlike "leverage" penalty on Robertson-Harris gave the Falcons a first down at the Jaguars 12. "He put his hands on the center; he can't do that," Meyer said of Robertson-Harris. Patterson ran through a huge hole in the middle of the line for his second touchdown of the game and a 14-0 Falcons lead with 6:40 remaining in the second quarter. Meyer afterward called such mistakes "devastating," adding: "Those are three turnovers when your defense jogs off the field but they've got to stay on. … We all see it. We have to attack those things. We have to attack it as if it's a turnover and make some decisions."

3. One-hander. The Jaguars entered Sunday needing big plays and improvement from a struggling offense – and they got a spectacular big play to set up their first score and cut into the Atlanta lead late in the first half. On the drive after Patterson's second touchdown, the Jaguars drove and faced 2nd-and-11 at the Falcons 30 just after the two-minute warning. Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr., who made a one-handed, arm-extended reception as he dove at the Falcons 9. Jones made the reception despite holding on Falcons cornerback Fabian Moreau. Jaguars kicker Matthew Wright converted from 22 yards with :45 remaining in the half to make it 14-3, Falcons.

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4. Methodical, methodical, methodical. The Falcons didn't use huge plays early in the second half. Instead, the Falcons used nine plays to move 88 yards and take a 21-3 lead when Ryan passed 12 yards to wide receiver Russell Gage with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter. A key play early in the drive came when Falcons fullback Keith Smith stiff-armed his way past Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard for a 10-yard reception. Patterson caught a 20-yard pass from Ryan on the drive and rookie tight end Kyle Pitts had a 19-yarder.

5. Zip City. One of the Jaguars' most impressive drives of the last month changed momentum in the third quarter. With the Jaguars playing up-tempo and using run-pass-option looks, Lawrence drove the Jaguars 72 yards on nine plays and capped the drive with a seven-yard strike for a touchdown to veteran wide receiver Tavon Austin. "I was really proud of Tavon, who's been in this league a long time," Meyer said. "I love who he is and what he stands for, and he competes." Tight end James O’Shaughnessy also played a key role on the drive, catching a 21-yard pass from Lawrence for a first down at the Falcons 7 then catching a two-point conversion to make it 21-11, Falcons.

5a. A(nother) big play by Campbell. Rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell turned in what at the time was a huge play late in the game, breaking up a pass from Ryan to Falcons wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus on 3rd-and-3 from the Jaguars 46. Campbell, a second-round selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, also had his first career interception Sunday and finished with three passes defensed. "He's a really good worker," Meyer said. "Gad we've got him."

5b. Not enough. Campbell's pass breakup came with 2:29 remaining and forced a punt that gave the Jaguars possession at their 21 trailing by the final margin. The Jaguars converted one third down, but Lawrence threw four incomplete passes – to O'Shaughnessy, running back Carlos Hyde, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. Lawrence afterward said he believed interference could have been called on the third-down throw to Treadwell, which was defended downfield by Falcons cornerback Darren Hall. "I'll have to go back and look at it, but I thought it was pretty obvious," Lawrence said. "That's why I was so frustrated. At the end of the day, can't leave it in their (officials') hands. You've got to go execute and can't rely on calls. That's a lesson learned there for sure."

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