KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Opportunities were there, and yet another memory was within reach.
The Jaguars couldn't quite take advantage.
Trevor Lawrence passed for a touchdown, Travis Etienne Jr. ran for another and the Jaguars rallied multiple times. But their memorable, gutty, comeback season ended with a 27-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium on a gray January Saturday.
"I don't really have the words right now," Lawrence, the Jaguars’ second-year quarterback, said. He added that he felt: "Equal parts crushed to be done playing and equal parts proud of what we did."
Added Lawrence, "To come up short, it stings."
The Jaguars (10-9), the No. 4 seed in the AFC who won the AFC South for the first time in five seasons, lost for the first time after a six-game winning streak. They won the South after back-to-back seasons with the NFL's worst record.
"I just told them (the players) I was proud of them, the season we put together," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "Nobody expected us, the Jaguars, to be in this football game – from the beginning of the season to today. I just told them I was proud of them for how they hung together all season.
"We battled and fought a ton of adversity. I'm just proud of the way they battled all season to get to this spot."
Added Lawrence, "It's hard to feel that part of it right now because you put so much into it, you dedicate everything you have – the whole building – for six months to get these opportunities. Nobody thought we were going to be here. We had our shot. That's why it hurts.
"We'll be back. I'm confident in that. This is more the beginning than it is the end of something."
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, playing through an ankle injury, threw two touchdown passes – and his six-yarder to wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling midway through the fourth quarter gave the Chiefs a 27-17 lead.
The touchdown came a series after Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr.'s four-yard run cut the Chiefs' lead to 20-17.
The Jaguars committed turnovers on their two possessions after Valdes-Scantling's touchdown – with Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton recovering wide receiver Jamal Agnew's fumble at the Chiefs 3 with 5:29 remaining and cornerback Jaylen Watson intercepting Lawrence at the Chiefs 35 with 3:48 remaining.
"I'm proud of every man in here – man and woman," Jaguars wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. said ."It sucks to be in this position. Hats off to them (the Chiefs). There were chances, but it was a real football game. It was playoff football.
"I'm just proud of everybody, us as a team, how we battled this whole season."
The Jaguars pulled to within 27-20 on a 48-yard field goal by kicker Riley Patterson with :25 remaining. Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney recovered the ensuing onside kick.
The Jaguars, after rallying from a 27-0 deficit to beat the Los Angeles Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff last Saturday, and after rallying from a four-game deficit to win the AFC South, tied the game 7-7 in the first quarter and rallied to within three early in the fourth but never led.
"It's a disappointment," wide receiver Zay Jones said. "No one suited up today to go lose. We practiced to win. We prepared to win. We fell short. That's what it is."
Mahomes and Chad Henne both first-half touchdown passes for the Chiefs. Mahomes, the 2018 NFL Most Valuable Player and the favorite for the award this season, left the game for much of the second quarter with the injury.
He returned and played the entire second half.
Lawrence, playing in his second career postseason game, completed 24 of 39 passes for 217 yards and one touchdown with an interception. Etienne rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.
Mahomes completed 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Tight end Travis Kelce caught 14 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jaguars registered no sacks with no takeaways, allowing 10 second-half points.
"I thought overall the defense did a nice job of really kind of keeping things down," Pederson said. "The second half we forced them to punt the football and got the offense back on the field. Football games are all about playing complementary football.
"We can learn from it and get a little bit better.
Step by step:
- An eight-yard touchdown pass from Mahomes to Kelce gave the Chiefs a 7-0 lead on their first possession with 7:56 remaining in the first quarter; the Jaguars punted after three plays on the game's first series. Lawrence's 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk in the right side of the end zone on a wheel route with 5:04 remaining tied the game 7-7; a 63-yard kickoff return by Jamal Agnew set up the drive at the Chiefs 39.
- Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker's 50-yard field goal gave the Chiefs a 10-7 lead with 14:09 remaining in the second quarter, with Mahomes playing through the ankle injury during much of the series. Kelce caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Henne with 3:54 remaining in the second quarter for a 17-7 Chiefs lead; Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheko's 39-yard gain to the Jaguars 4 keyed the 98-yard drive. Jaguars kicker Riley Patterson's 41-yard field goal pulled the Jaguars to within 17-10 with :27 remaining in the second quarter.
- Butker's 50-yard field goal with :08 remaining in the third quarter was the lone scoring of the third quarter, pushing the Chiefs' seven-point halftime lead to 20-10. The Jaguars, after trailing 17-10 at halftime, forced two Kansas City punts to earn two possessions early in the second half with a chance to tie. They managed three first downs, punting each time.
- Etienne's touchdown run capped a seven-play, 75-yard drive immediately after Butker's 50-yard field goal, pulling the Jaguars to within 20-17 with 11:49 remaining.
- Lawrence and four other Jaguars players listed as questionable on the week's final injury report were active Saturday. Lawrence worked limited with a toe injury in all three days of practice this week, and had has played through the injury in the last six games. Other Jaguars players listed as questionable this week who were active Saturday: Right guard Brandon Scherff (abdomen), long snapper Ross Matiscik (back), Agnew (shoulder) and center Luke Fortner (back). The following five Jaguars players were inactive Saturday: Wide receiver Kendric Pryor (shoulder), cornerback Montaric Brown, cornerback Gregory Junior, outside linebacker De'Shaan Dixon and defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter.
Injury report: Kirk sustained a fourth-quarter knee injury and returned.
Playoff football! 😎 Swipe through to view the live action game photos from Jaguars vs. Chiefs matchup.