JACKSONVILLE – This was a better start. Much better.
The finish was too much of the same.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the offense gave the Jaguars a quick lead, but the unit struggled throughout the rest of the 2021 regular-season home opener – and the Denver Broncos pulled steadily away for a 23-13 victory in front of 58,461 on a gray, rainy day at TIAA Bank Field Sunday afternoon.
"We're close," Lawrence said. "Obviously it's not what anybody wants to see and it's frustrating and disappointing, but we're going to stick together, and I really feel like we're close. We've got good enough players to win these games. We've just got to keep going to work."
The Jaguars are 0-2.
"It's an 'Us' issue," Head Coach Urban Meyer said. "We have to make some plays. We have to do a lot of things better as a team. When I say team, it's always, 'Us.' Do we have to get better? We're 0-2. We have to do a lot of things better."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, completed five of seven passes on the game's first drive – including a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. for a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game.
Lawrence finished completing 14 of 33 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions – with both interceptions coming in the second half as the Broncos built on a 10-7 halftime lead. Lawrence threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in a Week 1 loss to Houston.
"I hate losing, like I said last week, so it's not fun, obviously," Lawrence said. "At the same time, you've just got to realize we're getting better, and each week we've got to keep getting better, and it's a long season."
"We've still got 15 more games. That's the mindset in the locker room, too. Everyone is frustrated. Everybody is disappointed. We worked our tails off to win this game, and we felt like we were prepared. Just got to keep getting better, though. We've got to make the play when our number is called and didn't do that well enough today."
Denver scored 23 consecutive points after the Jaguars' game-opening drive – two touchdown passes by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and three field goals by kicker Brandon McManus – before wide receiver Jamal Agnew's 102-yard kickoff return pulled the Jaguars to within 23-13 with 5:26 remaining.
“Same mission still applies: We've got to stick with it,” cornerback Shaquill Griffin said. “We've got to continue to believe, have faith. The main thing is we can't point any fingers. We've got to make sure we all stick with each other because we've still got a long season left. The main thing I don't want guys to do is start giving up now, you know. “The main focus is stay in it, continue to believe.” Cornerback Shaquill Griffin
Bridgewater completed 26 of 34 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. The Jaguars have yet to force a turnover in three preseason games and two regular-season games in 2021.
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton caught eight passes for 153 yards to lead the Broncos. A 33-yard second-quarter reception by Sutton set up a touchdown that gave Denver its halftime lead and a 55-yard third-quarter reception by Sutton set up a touchdown that pushed the lead to 17-7.
The Jaguars registered three sacks Sunday, with defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen sacking Bridgewater for a 16-yard loss on the Broncos' first possession on 1st-and-goal from the 10 and safety Andrew Wingard adding a sack early in the third quarter. Defensive end Adam Gotsis also registered a third-quarter sack.
The Jaguars finished with 189 yards of offense, with 83 coming on the game's first drive. Jaguars running back James Robinson rushed 11 times for 47 yards and the Jaguars rushed 16 times for 75 yards.
The Jaguars had 12 first downs Sunday.
"There's a lot of fight in this team," Meyer said. "There are 15 games left. Our goal is to have the strongest locker room you can possibly have. I feel like it's extremely strong right now. Players are pissed. Players want to win. Players are sticking together.
"That's the best part of our organization right now is what's in that locker room."
Step by step:
- Lawrence's 25-yard touchdown pass to Jones gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 9:21 remaining in the first quarter, capping an impressive opening possession on which the Jaguars moved 83 yards on 11 plays. Lawrence completed five of seven passes for 73 yards on the drive, including three of three for 62 yards on third down. Allen's sack of Bridgewater helped stop the Broncos' opening drive, with McManus converting from 32 yards to cut the Jaguars' lead to 7-3 with :26 remaining in the first quarter.
- Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo missed from 52 yards midway through the second quarter, with the Broncos' first two possessions of the quarter ending with incomplete third-down deep passes by Bridgewater. The Jaguars' offense stalled after their first possession and they managed just seven yards on their next three drives. The Broncos took their first lead – 10-7 – when Bridgewater found wide receiver Tim Patrick wide open for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 1:54 remaining in the second quarter; the pass capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive. Lambo missed again late in the quarter from 48 yards, allowing the Broncos to maintain a 10-7 lead at halftime. Denver outgained the Jaguars 184-130 in the half.
- The Broncos started quickly in the second half, driving 75 yards on four plays and taking a 17-7 lead with 12:35 remaining in the third quarter on Bridgewater's 14-yard pass to tight end Noah Fant; Bridgewater set up the touchdown with a 55-yard pass to Sutton, who beat second-year cornerback Chris Claybrooks deep down the middle of the field. McManus converted from 46 yards after an interception by Broncos cornerback Kareem Jackson to give Denver a 20-7 lead with 1:04 remaining.
- Broncos rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain intercepted Lawrence to end an early Jaguars fourth-quarter drive, with McManus capping the ensuing drive with a 40-yard field goal to give Denver a 23-7 lead with 5:42 remaining. Agnew's touchdown return capped the scoring on the ensuing play.
Notable: Defensive end Dawuane Smoot started for the Jaguars after playing as a reserve in Week 1. … Cornerback Tre Herndon was among six Jaguars inactives Sunday, with the others being veteran defensive end/linebacker Lerentee McCray (hamstring), rookie tackle Walker Little, tight end Jacob Hollister, rookie defensive end/linebacker Jordan Smith (knee) and rookie defensive tackle Jay Tufele. Head Coach Urban Meyer said Herndon – who also missed the regular-season opener – could return from a medial collateral ligament injury next Sunday against Arizona. …
Injury report: Tight end James O'Shaughnessy sustained an ankle injury in the first half. Cornerback CJ Henderson (hip) and guard A.J. Cann (hamstring) also sustained injuries for the Jaguars Sunday.
Check out these top photos from the Jacksonville Jaguars Week 2 home opener against the Denver Broncos