LONDON – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 23-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in a 2023 Week 4 game at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday
John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…
- Boy, did they need this. The Jaguars needed a quick start and an early lead – and a touchdown – in a big way. They got it Sunday, and the effect was immediate and lasting. The Jaguars punted on their first possession, but when quarterback Trevor Lawrence found wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown, it did more than give the Jaguars a 7-0 lead with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. It seemed to relax and energize a team that had seemed to be pressing throughout home losses to defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City and Houston in Jacksonville the past two weeks. Kicker Brandon McManus' 56-yard field goal to start the second quarter gave the Jaguars their first double-digit lead since Week 1. If the team wasn't having fun then, it was when cornerback Darious Williams returned his first interception in two seasons with the Jaguars for a 62-yard touchdown and a 17-0 halftime lead. "I think they were much more relaxed," Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "The energy today was much better than last week [in a 37-17 loss to the Houston Texans at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville]. You saw it on the sideline, you saw it with the, with the guys, the demeanor, their play, all of that. It's about how we respond and the guys responded extremely well today." This wasn't a perfect performance. The Jaguars didn't need perfection on this day. They needed something good to happen and they needed a victory. They got both.
- Progress and work to do. Sunday moved the Jaguars to 2-2 and eased the frustration of back-to-back home losses. Perhaps as importantly, there was progress from the Jaguars offense Sunday. The unit deserves a lot of credit for some gutty, critical, clock-eating drives that sapped the momentum the Falcons were starting to build in the third quarter. Those drives mattered and showed that this offense can make critical plays at critical times. "We feel a lot better, but we feel great because we won the game and we did what we needed to do to win," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "I think that was the biggest thing is we complemented each other today. It's something that we haven't done in the past couple weeks – offensively, defensively special teams." This offense still isn't quite what it expected to be entering the season. An injury to wide receiver Zay Jones hasn't helped, and the unit will be a storyline until touchdowns come easier than they did Sunday. Still, this was an encouraging step.
Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …
- The laser. I knew the Jaguars would be okay on their second drive of the game. Not because Lawrence moved them efficiently into Falcons territory, though his 22-yard scramble to the Falcons 38 got the Jaguars' motor running. But when the drive stalled on 4th-and-1, I knew Pederson was going to go for it and I knew they were going to throw. They just haven't been very good running in short yardage. Lawrence's 10-yard strike to wide receiver Christian Kirk in the middle was an absolute laser between two defenders and the dependable Kirk came down with a first down. Two plays later, Lawrence shook off Falcons defensive lineman Calais Campbell and launched the touchdown pass to Ridley. The fourth-down play infused confidence into an offense that desperately needed some and gave the defense a lift. There is plenty of work to do on third down and in the red zone, but they were good Sunday when they needed to be offensively and that matters after the last two weeks.
- Four and three. The defense came up big with four sacks of Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder and three turnovers – interceptions on consecutive throws by Ridder and a fourth-quarter fumble after outside linebacker Josh Allen's sixth sack of the season. Williams scored on a Pick Six, safety Andre Cisco probably should have done the same and the late fumble recovery secured the victory. Leading 17-0 at halftime, it felt the Jaguars were on cruise control. Falcons rookie running back Bijan Robinson made them sweat in the second with a couple of nice runs, but the Jaguars' defense did an outstanding job when it was needed. It turns out playing with the lead is pretty beneficial to a defense and the Jaguars' defense got the job done Sunday.
Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...
- A breath of fresh air. The first-quarter touchdown grab by Ridley served as the relief valve after a trying couple of weeks for the Jaguars. One play won't fix everything, but it did seem to emotionally lift a team that has been struggling to find its identity this season. Ridley had several drops last week, but came through against his former team Sunday. The offense still has a ways to go but it's good to see it playing freely again.
- The best offense is a good defense? Questions remain on offense but the defense has been the backbone of this team so far in 2023. Allen continues to play like a man trying to earn his next paycheck. His pressure forced Ridder into mistakes and the Jags capitalized with three takeaways. Williams ran back one interception for a touchdown and Cisco had a chance to score on an interception as well. At this point, it's good to get points on the board no matter how it happens.
Jaguars are bringing the heat to Wembley Stadium 💥 Swipe through in game action ➡️