CINCINNATI, Ohio – Senior writer John Oehser, senior correspondent Brian Sexton and team reporter Ashlyn Sullivan offer quick thoughts on the Jaguars' 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in a 2021 Week 4 game at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Thursday.
- Impressive everywhere early … It's difficult to single out one area for praise for the Jaguars for Thursday night's first-half performance. Thursday nights are historically difficult for road teams, and a young Jaguars team with rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence playing on the shortest week of his career seemed at a particular disadvantage. That theory proved false quickly, with the Jaguars' dominating the first half offensively and defensively, holding the Bengals to four first downs and 107 yards and controlling both lines. The offense looked particularly prepared, moving into the Bengals' red-zone three times and taking a 14-0 lead that could have been 21-0 at the half-had Lawrence not been stopped at the Bengals 1 on fourth-and-goal in the final minute. The Jaguars and Head Coach Urban Meyer have been criticized in many circles early in the season. They should be given credit for being prepared Thursday and for clearly not being overwhelmed by an 0-3 start or the franchise-record 18-game losing streak entering the game. This was as impressive as the Jaguars have looked in some time.
- … and impressive on some important fronts late. No, the Jaguars didn't win. And there were major defensive concerns in the second half, rookie corner Tyson Campbell allowing two field-position-changing deep passes chief among them. The defense also allowed 24 second-half points, the second consecutive game in which the unit allowed game-defining drives at key moments. But there was one major positive to take from the second half – and that was the resolve shown just after the Bengals tied the game 14-14. Recent Jaguars teams in that situation failed to respond and let down too easily. This team turned in a big drive to retake the lead and Lawrence showed poise in a big situation. The Jaguars will regret what Meyer called a "heartbreaking loss." But they may soon view the second half as a major step forward for the franchise quarterback.
- I loved the call at the end of the first half. Meyer said it was his nature to be aggressive and the Jaguars were by going for a touchdown on the goal line at the end of the first half. But it probably should have been a field-goal attempt – and a field goal might have sent the game to overtime. The Bengals stopping Lawrence from the one was probably the shot in the arm they needed to rally in the halftime locker room. The Bengals have explosive offensive weapons; Ja'Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon – and you knew the Jaguars wouldn't be able to hold them off the entire second half. It turned out they couldn't hold them at all. Cincinnati scored on every drive in the second half and the Jaguars came up with one play on that side of the ball – a sack on third and one on the final drive. But just as they celebrated getting the ball back, they saw the flag that gave the Bengals a first down. Maybe you wondered, like I did, if the Jaguars were ready to go punch for punch; we found out that they're not. They need more guys who can win their one-on-one battles on both sides of the football. They just don't have enough.
- I like the way Meyer wants to play offense. It was balanced and kept the Bengals off-balance in the first half. The loss of wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. took away the lone deep threat and allowed the Bengals to crowd the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars' running game wasn't very effective in the second half. Plus, the absence of running back Carlos Hyde took away the second of a pretty good one-two punch. But I like what they're working towards and the way they want to play. They just need more guys who can win their one-on-one matchups. Because when they do, they have the quarterback who can get them the ball.
- UGH! Frustration is at a high this season… as it should be. This loss hurt this locker room, more so than the previous three losses. Many players stayed on the field postgame just looking around, in disbelief that their team lost after being ahead 14-0 at halftime. Meyer was incredibly frustrated in his postgame press conference, pounding the podium when discussing how Lawrence had zero turnovers, yet the team still lost. Meyer told the FOX broadcast at halftime his message to the locker room was protect the football and go win the game. One only of those things happened. Credit Lawrence. He played his best game of his NFL career and played well enough for this team to win, not throwing an interception after that was such a huge emphasis. This loss stings, and it will for a while, as the Jaguars have to wait ten days to play another game. For now, be optimistic with how the rookie quarterback played and understand this team needs to learn how to win these close games. That comes with experience.
- What happened? Everyone was asking this question postgame. What happened to the Jaguars defense that held the Bengals to only fourteen rushing yards in the first half? How did the Bengals score 24 points in the second half? Well … the Bengals offense made major halftime adjustments and drove immediately down the field the first drive of the third quarter. The Bengals made big plays in the second half; the Jaguars didn't make enough. The defense forced just three incompletions in the entire second half; the Bengals had four second-half drives and scored on all four. Defensive tackle Malcom Brown said it best. The Jaguars are only a couple plays away – and those plays decide who wins the game.
Check out these top action photos from the Jacksonville Jaguars Week 4, Thursday Night Football, matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals.