EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – There was a lot of weirdness – and a key injury, too.
There were two teams missing many players – and for the Jaguars, guts and grit yet again weren't quite enough.
Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the offense pieced together some key plays and drives – but with multiple players out because of COVID-19, the Jaguars fell behind early and the New York Jets held on for a 26-21 victory at MetLife Stadium on a late December Sunday afternoon.
"It's disappointing," Lawrence said. "Everybody left it out there, but I'm proud of these guys the way they fought. We had a chance to win. Good teams find a way to win."
Lawrence's pass on 4th-and-goal from the Jets 1 with :12 remaining fell incomplete to secure the Jets' victory. Lawrence's 26-yard run to the Jets 5 with :32 remaining set up the final sequence.
"We have to be better executing," Lawrence said. "One play from the 2, we're right there."
The Jaguars held the Jets scoreless twice from inside the five-yard line, but the Jets' key play of the second half came on 4th-and-goal from the one. Quarterback Zach Wilson scrambled and found offensive lineman Conor McDermott – lined up as an eligible receiver – for a touchdown.
That made it 23-15, Jets, with 9:16 remaining.
While the Jaguars (2-13) rallied, they never led after halftime and lost a seventh consecutive game. The Jets (4-11) snapped a three-game losing streak.
"Even though we lost, I definitely feel like the momentum is definitely going in the right direction," Jaguars cornerback Shaquill Griffin said. "It's tough, it's painful, but we're all going through it. This team, this organization is going to flip around. I felt that today. I felt that."
Lawrence said, "We've still got two more games. We're trying to finish strong."
Jaguars running back James Robinson, the team's leading rusher and a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie last season, sustained an Achilles injury early in the second quarter and did not return. Running back Dare Ogunbowale rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and the Jaguars as a team rushed for 132 yards.
Interim Head Coach Darrell Bevell confirmed the injury as a tear shortly after the game.
"It's unfortunate that we lose a player of James' caliber," Bevell said. "He's such a rock for us. When one of your bell-cow players goes down, it's a tough blow."
Said Lawrence, "I hate it for him – more so than for us. A guy that works that hard, to go down with an injury like that, it's very unfortunate."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, completed 26 of 39 passes for 280 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. He has thrown one touchdown pass in his last eight games.
The Jaguars' lone first-half touchdown came when guard Will Richardson Jr. recovered a fumble in the end zone in early in the second quarter. That gave the Jaguars a 9-6 lead, with the Jets retaking the lead when wide receiver Braxton Berrios returned the ensuing kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown.
Wilson, the No. 2 overall selection in the '22 draft, completed 14 of 22 passes for 102 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He ran for a 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter that gave the Jets a three-point lead.
The Jaguars registered one sack Sunday – by defensive lineman Jihad Ward. They did not manage a takeaway and remain at a league-low seven for the season. The Jets rushed for 273 yards.
"We kind of let lots of plays get away from us," Griffin said. "There are some things we have to clean up."
Step by step:
- The Jaguars took an early 3-0 lead when kicker Matthew Wright ended the game's first drive with a 21-yard field goal with 8:12 remaining in the first quarter; the Jaguars converted a fake punt early in the drive when safety Andrew Wingard ran four yards with a direct snap on 4th-and-2 from the Jaguars 33 – and a 35-yard interference penalty on Jets cornerback Brandin Echols defending Jaguars wide receiver Laquon Treadwell gave the Jaguars 1st-and-goal at the Jets 4. Wilson's 52-yard run capped the ensuing possession and gave the Jets a 6-3 lead with 3:54 remaining in the quarter; Wilson evaded a sack by defensive lineman Dawuane Smoot, escaped outside and evaded a tackle by nickel safety Rudy Ford for the touchdown.
- The Jaguars scored in weird fashion when Richardson Jr. fell on a fumble in the end zone with 13:08 remaining in the half, with Jets cornerback Jason Pinnick having forced a fumble by Lawrence at the Jets 2. Lawrence had kept the ball on a read option on 1st-and-goal from the 3. After an offsides penalty on the Jets moved the ball to the 1, Ogunbowale's two-point run failed. Berrios returned the ensuing kickoff up the middle untouched for the go-ahead touchdown with 12:57 remaining in the second quarter. A 45-yard field goal by Wright with 8:15 remaining in the second quarter trimmed the Jets' lead to 13-12, with the Jaguars holding the Jets scoreless on a drive to the Jacksonville 2 late in the first half.
- A 42-yard field goal by kicker Eddy Pineiro capped the Jets' first drive of the third quarter and pushed their lead to 16-12 with 9:47 remaining in the third quarter. Wright's 40-yard field goal with :25 remaining in the third quarter made it 16-15, Jets.
- Wilson's pass to McDermott pushed the Jets' lead to eight early in the fourth quarter, with Ogunbowale's one-yard touchdown run with 5:25 remaining pulling the Jaguars to within two with 5:25 remaining. Pineiero's 21-yard field goal with 1:47 remaining made it 26-21, Jets.
- Notable: With the number of available players reduced because of COVID-19, the Jaguars deactivated just two players before Sunday's game: linebacker/defensive end Lerentee McCray (ankle) and running back Ryquell Armstead; center Brandon Linder played after being listed as questionable Friday with a quad issue. The Jaguars also were without four players who have been placed on Reserve/COVID-19: linebacker Myles Jack, linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen, guard Ben Bartch and wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr.
- Injury report: Jaguars linebacker Dakota Allen sustained a second-quarter shoulder injury. Jaguars defensive end/outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson sustained a fourth-quarter ankle injury.
Check out these top game photos of the Jacksonville Jaguars as they take on the New York Jets for Week 16 of the NFL Regular Season at MetLife Stadium.