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Jaguars Struggle Through December: Shifting Focus to Week 17 After Loss to Buccaneers | Quick Thoughts

Quick Thoughts - Week 16 Postgame

TAMPA, Fla. – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Kainani Stevens offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 30-12 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 2023 Week 16 game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Sunday

John Oehser, Jaguars Senior Writer…

  1. This was off from the start. Some games, you're in until the end. Sunday wasn't close to such a game for the Jaguars, with the Buccaneers dominating from start to finish. And it wasn't so much the Buccaneers dominating as the Jaguars just never getting traction – and more disturbing, never looking like that would happen. That tone perhaps wasn't surprising in retrospect, what with quarterback Trevor Lawrence not clearing concussion protocol until Saturday and therefore practicing only on a limited basis Friday. The offense also figured to be challenged with the running game struggling for a month – and with wide receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones out with injuries. It felt all week that some surprise player or players needed to step up for the Jaguars to win. Or that the defense needed to play its best game of the season. None of that happened, with all three Lawrence turnovers leading to Tampa Bay touchdowns and the Buccaneers pulling steadily and decisively away. The Jaguars' running struggles also continued, with the team rushing for minus-three yards in the first half and 37 for the game. All of which means the Jaguars now have lost four consecutive games after an 8-3 start. You never like to be limping in December and January. It's hard to define the Jaguars these days as anything but that. "You want to see the guys come to this game and have that sense of urgency," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson said. "I give Tampa a lot of credit. They came ready to play. They're playing for the same thing we're playing for in their division. It just has mean something to everybody. Today I just didn't think it meant much as much to us as it did to them."
  2. Still in first place. Finding good news for the Jaguars (8-7) Sunday wasn't hard – even on an otherwise dismal afternoon. They remain in first place in the AFC South, which matters very much. The Indianapolis Colts (8-7) lost a road game to the Atlanta Falcons and the Houston Texans (8-7) lost a home game to the Cleveland Browns Sunday. While the Jaguars are tied with those teams in record, they are in first place because of a season sweep over the Colts and because of a better division record than the Texans. The Jaguars because of those tiebreakers will win the South if they beat the Carolina Panthers at home next Sunday and the Tennessee Titans on the road in Week 18. It's easy to say they "should" win those games. It's also fair to remember the Jaguars haven't won since a 58-yard field goal bounced back onto the field in Houston in late November. "Our goals are still in front of us," Pederson said. "Everything's still right there. Obviously, the division is kind of wide open. We kind of opened that door, but we have to focus on one game at a time. That's what we're going to do. But obviously we've got a lot of things to fix." Yes, the Jaguars should still win the division. At some point they must win to deserve it.

Brian Sexton, Jaguars Senior Correspondent …

  1. S.O.S. It was the same old story in Tampa that it was against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Lawrence threw an interception on the Jaguars' first offensive series, a short-field turnover the Bucs used to build a 10-0 lead. Jaguars wide receiver Tim Jones whiffed on a block of Yaya Diaby during wide receiver Calvin Ridley's reverse and turned a promising drive into second-and-22 – followed by another Brandon McManus missed field goal. When it looked like the Jags defense would finally get the Bucs off the field, safety Andre Cisco was hit with a roughing-the-passer penalty – and Tampa Bay was able to keep that drive alive long enough to add a field goal and build a 13-0 lead late in the first half.  On the next possession Lawrence overshot tight end Evan Engram and was intercepted by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. – and the Bucs took that down the field also, with Evans' second touchdown making it 20-0. You could also interpret S.O.S. to mean a distress call after a fourth consecutive loss, but thanks to the Browns and Falcons the Jaguars are still in the driver's seat for the AFC South title and a home playoff game. It just doesn't feel as if they are.
  2. Too many turnovers. Lawrence is stuck in a downward spiral when it comes to protecting the football, throwing five interceptions and fumbling three times in the last three losses. The Buccaneers scored touchdowns after both of his first-half interceptions and after his third quarter fumble to build a 27-0 lead. It's problematic. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen was far and away the most careless quarterback with the football with 97 turnovers since 2018. But with 69 turnovers since 2021, the most in the NFL the last three seasons, Lawrence is quickly approaching that kind of reputation.

Kainani Stevens, Jaguars Team Reporter/Producer ...

  1. Trevor plays, but he can't save the day. For the third time this season, Lawrence played in a game after not practicing the week before due to injury. The past two occasions led to mixed results, with a win over the New Orleans Saints and a loss to the Browns. Sunday was drastically worse. Lawrence was present but limited at practice on Friday after missing every other practice during the week. He cleared concussion protocol on Saturday in time to travel with the team and started against the Buccaneers. Whether due to injury, missed practice or just a "bad day," it was clear Lawrence was struggling all game long. He mercifully left the game in the fourth quarter and may have tacked on his fourth injury of the season as well. This was Lawrence's worst game this season and it came at the worst possible time.
  2. Somehow, they are still in the playoff mix. As abysmal as the Jaguars played in Tampa, they somehow still sit atop the AFC South. The Colts and Texans also lost on Sunday and the three-way tie across the division remains. The tiebreakers are in Jacksonville's favor with two games left to play, but a four-game losing skid leaves me little confidence in the Jags winning out. A home game against the Panthers seems daunting at this point, let alone a season finale on the road against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, TN. An amazing 8-3 start continues to buoy this team after a winless December.

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