JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., Sunday:
1. Rodgers pass to Valdes-Scantling. The Jaguars controlled momentum early and led 3-0. Then came the first play of the second quarter. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw with a stuff wind at his back, completing a 78-yard pass to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who beat Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones IV deep. Valdes-Scantling caught the pass, cut to the inside of the field and – using the official as a screen against Jones and safety Jarrod Wilson – ran the final 30 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 Green Bay lead with 14:47 remaining in the half. "I was hoping to get him down," Wilson said. "He kind of did the right move, kind of like just run directly at the ref while he was cutting back and I kind of just tripped up and ran over the ref. But [we] still just have to stop them at the beginning of the play, that's kind of just too far down field really. My job is to get him down but obviously we don't even want the explosive [play] to begin with."
2. Cole punt return for touchdown. The Packers took control in the second quarter and led 17-10 with a 230-99 total-yards advantage. So, how did the Jaguars stay close? One way was a defense that made multiple key stops in the first half, but the biggest reason came when fourth-year wide receiver Keelan Cole returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown. "I was worried about the wind and catching the ball more than anything," Cole said. "Luckily, the punter was outkicking the coverage, so it was less stress on catching it and getting hit and stuff like that." With the Packers leading 7-3, Cole took a low punt at the Jaguars 9 and ran through the first line of defense untouched. He then faked Packers punter JK Scott around the Packers 25, giving Cole open field from there. "It was really just executing what coach [Special Teams Coordinator Coach Joe DeCamillis] calls," Cole said. "He comes up with the schemes and we just run it. Honestly when it comes to punt returns and stuff like that, you just have to get the best opportunity and hope that the punter does exactly what he did and gives you space to run in. After that, it's really just running." It marked the Jaguars' first punt return for a touchdown since Dede Westbrook in 2018 and was the first punt return for a touchdown in Cole's NFL career.
3. Cole third-quarter touchdown. The Jaguars, after allowing the Packers to turn a 10-7 deficit into a 17-10 halftime lead with 10 points late in the second quarter, rallied impressively in the third and fourth quarter. Key to that rally: a 12-yard pass from quarterback Jake Luton to Cole on third-and-6 with 10:30 remaining in the third quarter. Luton threw a high-velocity pass over the middle. Cole caught the pass between multiple defenders and Chase McLaughlin's ensuing extra point tied the game 17-17. "I saw nothing but [Packers players] and I just caught it and ducked," Cole said. "I'm not going to lie. [I] closed my eyes and was hoping I would just walk into the touchdown without getting hit, which happened, thank you. [It was a] great ball by [Jake Luton], zooming it past all the defenders.
4. Third-quarter takeaways. The Jaguars' second-half surge Sunday was as much about defense as offense and it was very much about two third-quarter takeaways. First, cornerback CJ Henderson forced a fumble by wide receiver Davante Adams that linebacker Myles Jack recovered and returned to the Green Bay 16; that set up the tying touchdown pass from Luton to Cole. Later in the period, cornerback Sidney Jones IV intercepted Rodgers to give the Jaguars a first down at their 44. McLaughlin's 31-yard field goal capped the ensuing drive and gave the Jaguars a 20-17 lead with 12:40 remaining.
5. Back to back sacks. The Jaguars' lost their eighth consecutive game but had a chance to win when they took possession at their 47 after a 30-yard Packers punt. Rookie running back James Robinson's nine-yard run gave the Jaguars first down at the Packers 36. But the Packers registered back-to-back sacks after a short incomplete pass, with linebacker Rashan Gary pushing right tackle Jawaan Taylor into Luton on second down and linebacker Preston Brown pushing left tackle Preston Smith into left tackle Cam Robinson into Luton then tripping Luton from behind on third down. Luton threw short and incomplete after a fourth-down scramble to secure the Packers' victory. "I thought the line did a good job all game, and I thought at the end we gave up too much pressure and weren't able to get the ball downfield," Head Coach Doug Marrone said.