JACKSONVILLE – This was heart, guts and grit.
It was about a functioning second-half offense, too – and while that combination made for a dramatic finish, it didn't quite mean a winning one for the Jaguars.
With the offense improving after a slow start, and with quarterback Trevor Lawrence doing the same, the Jaguars fought and rallied throughout the second half Sunday. But it wasn't enough as the Atlanta Falcons held on for a 21-14 victory in front of 60,031 at TIAA Bank Field.
"They fought their tails off," Head Coach Urban Meyer said.
The Jaguars (2-9) lost a third consecutive game after winning two of three games around a late October bye. The Falcons (5-6) won for the first time in three games.
"Any loss is definitely just a bad feeling," Jaguars linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen said. "It's not a good feeling right now, man. We're sick and tired of it. We're just trying to figure out what the hell (is happening). I can't really answer that one. Just tired of it."
The Jaguars took possession with 2:13 remaining trailing by the final margin. They produced one first down, but Lawrence on 4th-and-10 from the Jaguars 29 threw incomplete to wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.
"It's frustrating," Lawrence said. "We've just got to get better and go make those plays in the biggest moments. I know we can do it, but we've got to go do it."
The Jaguars, who allowed points on the first five possessions of a loss to San Francisco at TIAA Bank Field last week, again fell behind early – with Falcons wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson scoring on two first-half touchdown runs.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passed 12 yards to wide receiver Russell Gage for a 21-3 Atlanta lead early in the third quarter. But the Jaguars rallied Sunday, with Lawrence capping an impressive third-quarter drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tavon Austin, then driving the Jaguars for a 34-yard field goal by kicker Matthew Wright midway through the fourth quarter.
Rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell knocked away a pass on 3rd-and-3 from Jaguars 46 on the ensuing Falcons drive, setting up the Jaguars' final possession.
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, completed 23 of 42 passes for 228 yards and one touchdown with one interception. He entered the game not having thrown a touchdown pass in three games and hadn't thrown an interception in 137 pass attempts before throwing one in the second quarter Sunday.
"I think today was a step in the right direction," Lawrence said of an offense that scored 10 points in the second half after entering the game averaging just over 10 points a game in its last four games. "I thought we were more efficient … still got a lot of work to do, got to get better.
Jaguars running back James Robinson, after being slowed by heel/knee issues for much of the last month, rushed for 86 yards on 17 carries.
Ryan, a former NFL Most Valuable Player, completed 19 of 29 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Patterson rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
Defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris registered the Jaguars' lone sack in the first quarter. The Jaguars also got their sixth takeaway of the season, with Campbell's first career interception late in the first half.
Step by step:
Both teams punted after short first drives, with the Falcons taking a 7-0 lead when Patterson capped a nine-play, 81-yard possession with a seven-yard run around left end with :38 remaining in the first quarter; Ryan converted 3rd-and-13 from the Falcons 16 with an 18-yard checkdown completion to running back Mike Davis. Patterson rushed three times for 37 yards on the series and running back Wayne Gallman also had a 15-yard run on the drive.
Jaguars mistakes allowed the Falcons to push the lead to double digits in the second quarter, with Patterson scoring on a 12-yard run to make it 14-0 with 6:40 remaining in the half; the Falcons moved 29 yards for the touchdown, with defensive lineman Tyeler Davison recovering a fumble by Robinson to start the drive and with an unsportsmanlike "leverage" penalty on Robertson-Harris turning a 43-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo into a first down one play before Patterson's 12-yard touchdown. The Jaguars made it 14-3 when Wright capped a 70-yard, 14-play drive with a 21-yard field goal with :45 remaining in the half.
The Falcons held the Jaguars on the first series after halftime, then pushed the lead to 21-3 when Ryan passed 12 yards to Gage with 7:47 remaining in the third quarter to cap a nine-play, 88-yard drive. Lawrence's seven-yard pass to Austin and two-point pass to tight end James O’Shaughnessy with :22 remaining in the third quarter cut the Falcons' lead to 21-11; Lawrence's 21-yard pass to O'Shaughnessy to the Falcons 7 set up the touchdown.
Wright's 34-yard field goal cut the Falcons' lead to 21-14 with 6:28 remaining.
Notable: Cornerback Shaq Griffin, the only active Jaguars player not practicing full Friday, was among six inactive players for the team Sunday. The others: linebacker Dakota Allen, offensive lineman KC McDermott, tight end Jacob Hollister, tight end Luke Farrell and defensive end/outside linebacker Jordan Smith. Center Brandon Linder and O'Shaughnessy were activated from injured reserve/designated to return on Saturday and played Sunday.
Injury report: Jaguars tight end Dan Arnold sustained a second-quarter knee injury and did not return. Linebacker Damien Wilson sustained an ankle injury in the second half.
Check out these top game photos of the Jacksonville Jaguars as they take on the Atlanta Falcons for Week 12 of the NFL Regular Season.