LONDON – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars’ 23-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in a 2023 Week 4 game at Wembley Stadium in London Sunday
1. Big one early. The Jaguars needed a fast start Sunday and got it from wide receiver Calvin Ridley. Playing against the team that selected him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Ridley got open behind a secondary on a miscommunication on the Jaguars' second drive. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence found Ridley for a 30-yard touchdown just behind the defense for a 7-0 lead with 5:44 remaining in the first quarter. Lawrence set up the touchdown with two big plays – a 22-yard scramble on 2nd-and-7 from the Jaguars 31 and a nine-yard pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk on 4th-and-1 from the Falcons 38. Ridley caught two passes for 38 yards Sunday and also drew a 40-yard pass interference penalty that led to a fourth-quarter field goal. "He's just doing things right," Pederson said of Ridley.
2. A loooooong one. A first-half field goal might not normally be one of the game's biggest plays. But the Jaguars entered Sunday needing confidence and hadn't led by double digits since Week 1. That made the first series of the second quarter big. A Jaguars drive that began in the first quarter stalled at the Falcons 38. Kicker Brandon McManus, who signed as a free agent in the offseason in large part because of long-range reliability, converted a 56-yard field goal with 14:51 remaining in the second quarter to give the Jaguars a 10-0 lead – their largest since Week 1.
3. Pick Six. The Jaguars' defense hadn't played with a lead much until Sunday. They took full advantage in the second quarter and extended that lead with the unit's first defensive touchdown of the season. Atlanta, trailing 10-0, drove to the Jaguars 45. On 1st-and-10 from there, Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder passed to wide receiver Drake London. Jaguars cornerback Darious Williams cut under the route and returned the interception 61 yards for a touchdown. "The Pick Six was huge," Pederson said, with Williams adding: "Just going through film, we knew they're a good quick game team. I got my look, I saw [nickel corner] Tre Herndon go out. He kind of slowed him down for me and I just jumped it." That gave the Jaguars a 17-0 lead with 4:31 remaining in the half. Safety Andre Cisco intercepted Ridder on the ensuing series, but the Jaguars turned the ball over on downs at the Falcons 12.
4. Robinson run. The third quarter wasn't full of huge plays, but it was a strong quarter for Falcons running back Bijon Robinson as he showed why he is one of the NFL's top rookies. After the Jaguars held Robinson to 18 yards on seven first-half carries, he rushed for 74 yards on six third-quarter carries as the Falcons inched back into the game. Robinson, who finished with 105 yards on 14 carries, turned in one of the key plays of the third quarter with a 38-yard run to the Jaguars 28 on 2nd-and-1 from the Falcons 34. Ridder six plays later passed 15 yards to London for a touchdown to cut the Jaguars' lead to 17-7 with 11:38 remaining in the third quarter.
5. Grinder. Little came easy for the Jaguars' offense Sunday after Ridley's touchdown. But while a drive that ended the third quarter and started the fourth was far from simple, it was really important and ended with a 43-yard field by McManus for a 20-7 lead with 10:36 remaining. The drive covered 65 yards in 13 plays and used 7:21. Lawrence converted 3rd-and-7 from the Jaguars 26 with an 11-yard pass to Kirk and also converted 3rd-and-10 from the Falcons 40 with a 10-yard run. "I thought the offense did some good things today, picked up some big first downs in the second half," Pederson said.
5a. Clutch defense, right time. Herndon midway through fourth quarter turned in one of the biggest plays of his Jaguars career. The Falcons trailed 20-7 and faced 4th-and-3 at the Jaguars 6. Ridder rolled right and threw to London, who caught the pass in the back of the end zone. But Herndon forced London out of bounds before London got two feet in bounds and the Jaguars took possession at their 6 with 6:01 remaining. "I thought the defense played pretty solid all day," Pederson said. Outside linebacker Josh Allen secured the victory with his third sack of the game, a sack/fumble that defensive lineman Angelo Blackson recovered at the Falcons 44 with 1:28 remaining. "That's what he's capable of doing," Pederson said of Allen.