JACKSONVILLE – Trevor Lawrence played perhaps his best game of the season.
So did the Jaguars' defense.
The result? A wildly unexpected, entertaining 2021 regular-season finale – with a 26-11 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on a sunny January afternoon at TIAA Bank Field ending a long, difficult Jaguars season on a high note and hurting the postseason chances of their AFC South rivals.
"Just really proud of our guys," said Lawrence, the Jaguars' rookie quarterback. "Everybody was locked in."
Added Lawrence, "If they (the Colts) win this game, they're in (the postseason). The stakes don't get higher, and just to come out and dominate, it feels really good to finish the season that way."
The Jaguars (3-14), who led 13-3 at halftime and 26-3 in the fourth quarter before a Colts touchdown in the final five minutes cut into the lead, and snapped an eight-game losing streak. The Jaguars now have a seven-game home winning streak against the Colts.
The Colts slipped to 9-8.
"I thought the guys responded," Jaguars Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell said. "I told them today just a few minutes ago that I was inspired. It's an inspiring game to see guys go out and play as hard as they did with as much heart, with as much spirit, with as much passion, and it really showed, and I couldn't be happier for all those guys."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, completed 23 of 32 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He completed his first 10 passes and 14 of his first 15.
"He really did stay dialed in this whole season," Bevell said of Lawrence. "Tough season for everybody involved, but the way he did and the way everybody responded today, I couldn't be happier."
The game was just as defined by a smothering, aggressive and celebrating Jaguars defense that held Colts running back Jonathan Taylor – the NFL's leading rusher – to 77 yards on 15 carries. Colts quarterback Carson Wentz completed 17 of 29 passes for 185 yards and no touchdowns with an interception.
The Jaguars sacked Wentz six times. Their two takeaways led to 10 points, and were their eighth and ninth of the season.
"It feels great, feels good to end on a high note after all this turmoil that we went through the whole season, a lot of distractions, a lot of things," Jaguars defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot said. "It's good to just get back in and really just get that W, so it feels great."
The result was a victory dominated by the Jaguars from the opening possession, which Lawrence capped with a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Kicker Matthew Wright added four field goals – two in the first half and two in the second – and Lawrence all-but clinched the victory with a three-yard touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. late in the third quarter.
The Jaguars' defense stopped the Colts twice on 4th-and-short.
Defensive tackle Adam Gotsis stuffed Taylor for a one-yard gain on 4th-and-2 from the Jaguars 42 in the first quarter and cornerback Shaq Griffin and defensive end Josh Allen were among multiple Jaguars defenders stopping Taylor for no gain on 4th-and-goal from the 1 with 12:53 remaining.
That goal-line stand preserved a 23-3 lead.
The Jaguars had 318 total yards to 233 for the Colts. They had a 19-13 advantage in first downs.
"It's huge because that's the momentum that we need, understand that we can be that team that can go so far," Griffin said. "Knocking a team off that had a chance at a playoff berth, that's huge. It wasn't a slack-off team that we played against, and to get that W in this critical situation …"
"The main thing is I want these guys to build off that. I want to be so much better than I was this year, and I hope those guys feel the same way."
Step by step:
- The Jaguars took a 7-0 lead when Lawrence capped a 75-yard game-opening drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Treadwell. Lawrence completed eight of eight passes for 83 yards on the drive, converting three third downs into first downs with pass completions – including a 17-yard pass to Jones on 3rd-and-13 from the Jaguars 22.
- The Colts trimmed the lead to 7-3 with a 41-yard field goal by Michael Badgley with 9:08 remaining in the second quarter; Wentz set up the score with a 33-yard pass to wide receiver T.Y. Hilton on 3rd-and-7 from the Colts 23 and Allen's sack on 3rd-and-3 from the Jaguars 13 held the Colts to a field goal. The Jaguars pushed the lead to 10-3 with Wright's 22-yard field goal with 3:06 remaining in the second quarter, a play set up by Lawrence's 29-yard pass to Jones to the Colts 12. Wright's 20-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter made it 13-3, Jaguars; wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. dropped what might have been a two-yard touchdown pass on the previous play.
- The Jaguars extended their lead to 16-3 on their first possession of the second half, with Wright converting his third field goal in as many attempts – from 39 yards with 11:32 remaining in the third quarter; linebacker Damien Wilson set up the field goal with a sack/fumble of Wentz that defensive tackle DaVon Hamilton recovered at the Colts 23. Wilson set up another Jaguars score later in the third quarter, with his interception off Wentz giving the Jaguars first down at the Colts 45. Lawrence's touchdown pass to Jones – a toe-tapping reception in the back of the end zone – came six plays later and gave the Jaguars a 23-3 lead with 3:08 remaining in the third quarter.
- Wright's 31-yard field goal with 8:15 remaining gave the Jaguars a 26-3 lead. A 12-yard pass from Wentz to wide receiver Michael Pittman and a two-point conversion pass from Wentz to Pittman made it 26-11 with 4:26 remaining.
- Notable: The Jaguars' first-possession touchdown marked their first game-opening touchdown drive since a Week 2 loss to the Denver Broncos and marked the third time this season they had led 7-0. … Defensive lineman Taven Bryan was among four players inactive for the Jaguars Sunday, with the others being tight end James O'Shaughnessy (hip), wide receiver Tavon Austin (hamstring) and tight end Kahale Warring.
- Injury report: Jaguars guard Ben Bartch sustained an ankle injury in the first quarter and was replaced in the lineup by KC McDermott; Bartch returned to the game.
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