HOUSTON, Texas – This one started tough, and got tougher quickly. Much, much tougher.
And it wasn't remotely the start Urban Meyer wanted.
Trevor Lawrence threw two first-half interceptions, and the Jaguars made too many early mistakes – including too many early costly penalties – in the 2021 regular-season opener Sunday. The result was a slow start that led to a twenty-point halftime deficit that led to a 37-21 loss to the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday afternoon.
Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in college football history, was coaching his first NFL game after taking over as Jaguars head coach in January.
"We've all gotten our ass kicked before; let's tighten up and go," Meyer said. "I believe in this team. I believe in our staff. We'll come back to work. I believe in those guys."
Lawrence, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft making his NFL quarterbacking debut for the Jaguars, completed 28 of 51 passes for 332 yards and three touchdowns with three interceptions.
"It obviously sucks," Lawrence said. "Losing's always hard, especially when you feel like you're prepared and had a great week. I really think we were ready. We obviously didn't play well. It starts with me. I played really bad tonight. It's disappointing for sure.
"I still believe in this team and still believe what we're capable of."
His early interceptions came on back-to-back series in the second quarter – shortly after he brought the Jaguars back from an early 14-0 deficit with his first NFL touchdown pass. That was a 22-yard completion early in the second quarter to tight end Chris Manhertz.
The Jaguars' offense struggled after that, going scoreless on six consecutive possessions – a stretch that included the two interceptions. The offense produced 37 yards in that span, with Houston stretching the lead to 34-7 late in the third quarter on a five-yard run by running back Phillip Lindsay.
Texans veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor completed 21 of 33 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Taylor's two first-half touchdown passes – to running back David Johnson and wide receiver Danny Amendola – helped the Texans to a 27-7 halftime lead.
Houston wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught four passes for 128 yards – and his receptions of 40 and 52 yards set up the Johnson and Amendola touchdowns, respectively.
The Jaguars were penalized 10 times for 82 yards Sunday, including seven for 53 in the first half. The first-half total included four holding penalties. Jaguars receivers also dropped multiple passes Sunday, including five in the first half.
The Jaguars registered one sack Sunday – by third-year defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen in the first quarter.
"We're going to come back next week and double up," Allen said. "We just have to come out and get better next week. This is one game, It's a long season. We need to comeback 100 percent the next week It's a long season. It's football.
"We're all grown men. We'll work on the things we have to work on and come out swinging. That's what we've got to do."
Step by step:
- The Texans took a 7-0 lead on their second series when running back Mark Ingram II scored on a one-yard run to cap a 14-play, 84-yard drive; the drive's key play: a 40-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 from Taylor to Cooks to give the Texans a first down at the Texans 2. After Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo missed wide left from 55 yards, the Texans drove for a touchdown on the ensuing series. The Texans capped their third drive of the game with Taylor passing seven yards to Johnson for a 14-0 lead with 2:25 remaining in the first quarter. The Texans outgained the Jaguars 145-75 in the quarter with an 8-2 first-downs advantage.
- The Jaguars cut the lead in half early in the second quarter, giving them some momentum when Lawrence found Manhertz down a seam on the left side of the field for a 22-yard touchdown; the touchdown came two plays after Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins was called for roughing the passer on 3rd-and-19 from the Texans 40. The Texans pushed the lead to 17-7 on the ensuing series, with kicker Joey Slye converting from 40 yards. After the Texans intercepted Lawrence on consecutive possessions, Slye gave the Texans a 20-7 lead with a 26-yard field goal with :59 remaining in the half. The Texans then pushed the lead to 27-7 when Taylor threw his second touchdown pass of the half – an eight-yarder to Amendola with :08 remaining in the half that Taylor set up with a 52-yard pass to Cooks.
- The Texans pushed the lead to 34-7 with a five-yard run by Lindsay with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter before Lawrence threw his second touchdown pass of the game – a 41-yarder to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. that made it 34-14 with 1:48 remaining in the quarter.
- Slye's 25-yard field goal with 11:56 remaining made it 37-14, Texans. Lawrence's four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. made it 37-21 with :05 remaining.
Notable:Jaguars rookie Tyson Campbell was active Sunday after being listed as questionable on the team's final injury report with a calf injury. Rookie defensive end/linebacker Jordan Smith, listed as questionable with a knee injury, was inactive. The Jaguars' other inactives Sunday: Rookie offensive tackle Walker Little, safety Daniel Thomas, defensive lineman Adam Gotsis, defensive tackle Jay Tufele and tight end Jacob Hollister. …
Injury report: The Jaguars reported no injuries Sunday.