LONDON -- Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 21-17 loss to the Denver Broncos in a 2022 Week 8 game at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday
1. Takeaway time. The Jaguars' defense struggled in recent weeks. The unit began Sunday in a dramatically different fashion, with defensive lineman Arden Key sacking Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson to end the first Denver series and cornerback Tyson Campbell intercepting Wilson to end the second Denver series to set up the game's first points. The sack was the Jaguars' third in the last four games, with Campbell's interception the team's 10th takeaway of the season – and the first since safety Andre Cisco's 59-yard first-quarter interception return for a touchdown in a Week 4 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Most importantly for the Jaguars, Campbell's interception came at the Broncos 37 and led directly to the Jaguars' first touchdown: a 22-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Trevor Lawrence to tight end Evan Engram for a 7-0 Jaguars lead with 7:40 remaining in the first quarter. "We started the game extremely well," Head Coach Doug Pederson said of a defense that finished with three sacks – their second-highest single-game total of the season. "When they needed to get a pass rush, they got the pass rush there, and that was good to see today."
2. Red zone … uh-oh. The Jaguars missed a huge opportunity to take a two-touchdown lead early in the second quarter, with safety Justin Simmons intercepting a pass from Lawrence to wide receiver Zay Jones a yard deep in the end zone. The interception kept the Jaguars' lead at 7-0 with 12:42 remaining in the second quarter and ended a drive that reached the Broncos 1 after beginning at the Jaguars 19. "Probably obviously not the best location for the ball there," Lawrence said. "But really don't think that it was necessarily the wrong decision, just didn't throw a good ball and didn't keep it away from those guys on the goal line." The interception marked Lawrence's third red-zone interception of the season, his second in the end zone in the last four games. Pederson was asked afterward if he second-guessed the play call. "No, because it's first and goal," he said. "It's a relatively safe play. If it's not there – and Trevor knows this – just sail the ball and you have two or three more downs to do whatever you want to do there. We just have to learn from it, throw the ball away, live to play second down and take a chance that way."
3. ETN again. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne has been remarkably productive in recent weeks – and remarkably consistent in producing big plays. The second-year veteran kept that trend going in the first half Sunday, rushing for 94 yards on 11 carries and setting up the Jaguars' second score with yet another explosive run. Etienne, the No. 25 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft who has started the last three games, ran left on second-and-10 from the Jaguars 27. He got free down the sidelines for a 49-yard gain to the Broncos 24, Etienne's third consecutive game with a run of at least 48 yards. Kicker Riley Patterson's 37-yard field goal four plays later pushed the Jaguars' lead to 10-0 with 8:43 remaining in the half. Etienne finished the game with 156 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries, his second consecutive 100-yard rushing game. "Just being a competitor, it sucks," Etienne said. "When you have an L in the stats, it doesn't matter. Although we did some good things out there, we didn't come out with a W, so therefore I didn't do enough to win the game."
4. First and 98. The defense had a real chance early in the second half to turn the game in the Jaguars' favor. The Broncos instead turned it into an impressive drive to take momentum and a four-point lead. After Jaguars safety Daniel Thomas downed Logan Cooke's 45-yard punt at the Broncos two, Denver faced first-and-10 from there. Wilson found rookie tight end Greg Dulcich for 22 yards on the drive's first play, then found Dulcich for 38 yard to the Jaguars one later in the drive. Veteran running back Melvin Gordon's one-yard run gave the Broncos their first lead of the game, 14-10, with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter.
5. Uh oh … The Jaguars took a 17-14 lead on Etienne's one-yard run with 3:54 remaining, but the Broncos immediately drove to retake the lead. The key play on the drive came on the first play of the possession when Wilson found wide receiver K.J. Hamler deep down the right sideline behind Jaguars cornerback Tre Herndon for a 47-yard gain to the Jaguars 33. Running back Latavius Murray's two-yard run six plays later gave the Broncos a 21-17 lead with 1:47 remaining.
5a. … and oh no. Lawrence completed 18 of 33 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions Sunday. His second interception came on the first play following Murray's touchdown, with Broncos cornerback K'Waun Williams intercepting a pass on first-and-10 from the Jaguars 25 intended for wide receiver Christian Kirk with 1:36 remaining. "No panic, no rush at all, and I've just got to get the drive started and get us moving," Lawrence said, "and I wasn't able to do that."