NEW ORLEANS, La. – They were big-time tough in a big-time tough situation.
A big-time, prime-time situation.
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence toughed through a knee injury, the Jaguars' defense played tough for three quarters – and tough enough late – and running back Travis Etienne Jr. again proved tough to keep out of the end zone. The result: The Jaguars' fourth-consecutive victory, this one by 31-24 over the New Orleans Saints in front of 70,009 in a Thursday Night Football game at the Caesars Superdome.
"We're happy with the win," Lawrence said. "It's tough to win in this league. We knew it wasn't going to be easy, especially on a short week. We had a lot of hurdles. We have guys that are banged up and playing through stuff.
"We just came together and found a way to win. That's what it's about."
Lawrence’s 44-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk with 3:08 remaining gave the Jaguars their margin of victory and helped the Jaguars negate a Saints rally. Cornerback Montaric Brown, starting in place of injured starter Tyson Campbell, defensed a fourth-down pass in the end zone with :21 remaining to secure the victory.
"We talked about this week: It's a 60-minute football game," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "Guys own their jobs and do their roles. That's all I asked them to do."
The Jaguars are 5-2 for the first time since 2007 and assured of remaining at least one game ahead of the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South.
"I think it shows a lot about the character, the professionalism in our room – not shying away from adversity," Kirk said. "I like where we're at right now. We definitely have a lot of work to do, but the fact that we're able to turn around, play four games in 19 days and be able to be go 4-0 just says a lot about our team."
Quarterback Taysom Hill ran for one Saints fourth-quarter touchdown and starting quarterback Derek Carr passed for another as the Saints turned a 24-9 fourth-quarter lead into a 24-24 tie with 6:38 remaining.
Linebacker Foye Oluokun returned a third-quarter interception for a touchdown. The play gave the Jaguars a 24-9 lead midway through the third quarter, with the Saints managing just three field goals to that point.
Lawrence, playing four days after sustaining a knee injury in a victory over the Indianapolis Colts and after being questionable entering Thursday, completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and one touchdowns with no interceptions. Kirk caught six passes for 90 yards.
"It felt pretty good," Lawrence said. "I was happy with it. It didn't bother me too much, definitely didn't set it back. So I'm really, really happy with that. That was the goal: Play, find a way to win the game and not set it back. It went perfect. That was really good."
Etienne rushed for 53 yards and two first-half touchdowns, with the first giving the Jaguars a 7-0 first-quarter lead and the second extending their lead to 14-3 early in the second quarter.
Carr completed 33 of 55 passes for 301 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
"The biggest stat that matters is the scoreboard, and that we won the game," Pederson said.
The Jaguars registered one takeaway after entering the game leading the NFL in the category with 15. They also registered one sack – by veteran outside linebacker Dawuane Smoot – and have 13 for the season.
"The defense has been playing outstanding all season long," Pederson said. "They played great again tonight. To hold them to field goals early was big. Guys came ready to play. My hat's off to the defense."
Step by Step:
- Etienne's two-yard run capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive on the game's first possession and gave the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 9:44 remaining in the first quarter; Lawrence completed five of six passes for 60 yards on the drive. Kicker Blake Grupe missed wide right from 51 yards to cap the Saints' first possession. The Jaguars committed turnovers on their next two possessions, with Kirk losing a fumble at the Saints 41 on the ensuing possession and Jaguars cornerback Tevaughn Campbell's muffing a punt shortly thereafter that was recovered by Saints cornerback Lonnie Johnson at the Jaguars 17. A 23-yard field goal by Grupe cut the Jaguars' lead to 7-3 with 1:26 remaining in the first quarter.
- The Jaguars turned in a seven-play, 75-yard drive to end the first quarter and start the second, with Etienne capping the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run to give the Jaguars a 14-3 lead with 13:09 remaining in the first half; Lawrence keyed the drive with a 26-yard scramble. Grupe's 35-yard field goal with 1:57 remaining in the second quarter cut the Jaguars' lead to 14-6. Jaguars kicker Brandon McManus' 43-yard field goal with :32 remaining in the half made it 17-6, Jaguars at halftime.
- Grupe's 42-yard field goal with 9:49 remaining in the third quarter cut the lead to 17-9, with Oluokun intercepting Carr on the Saints' next possession and returning it 23 yards for a 24-9 Jaguars lead with 6:47 remaining in the third quarter. Cornerback Darious Williams defensed the pass, and Oloukon returned it down the left sideline.
- Hill's one-yard run on fourth-and-goal cut the Jaguars' lead to 24-16 with 14:21 remaining in the fourth quarter, with Carr's 17-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Thomas and a subsequent two-point pass from Hill to running back Alvin Kamara tying the game 24-24 with 6:38 remaining,
- Right guard Brandon Scherff, who sustained an ankle injury against the Colts Sunday, started Thursday after being listed as questionable on the final injury report of the week Wednesday. Jaguars inactives Thursday: Wide receiver Zay Jones (knee), running back JaMycal Hasty, cornerback Tyson Campbell (hamstring), outside linebacker Yasir Abdullah and left guard Walker Little (knee). Campbell sustained his injury against the Colts, with Jones and Little missing that game after leaving a victory over the Buffalo Bills the previous Sunday. Also: Rookie Nathan Rourke was inactive as the designated third quarterback after being signed from the practice squad Wednesday.
- Jaguars safety Andre Cisco left with cramps in the second half.
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