JACKSONVILLE – In a weekly feature for the 2021 season, NFL Media and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks breaks down the Jaguars' performance in a 31-19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in a 2021 Week 3 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville
The Jaguars played with great energy and passion Sunday, but turnovers and critical errors undermined their effort. The team was unable to overcome four turnovers, including a pick-six on an ill-fated flea-flicker attempt from their young franchise quarterback. Although the loss does not completely fall on Trevor Lawrence, the rookie's struggles overshadowed a solid offensive performance that included an impressive workmanlike effort from running back James Robinson (15 carries, 88 rushing yards and a touchdown). Defensively, the Jaguars can build upon a performance in which the unit held its own against one of the NFL's most explosive offenses. Despite surrendering 400-plus yards, the Jaguars kept the Cardinals under wraps and were in a position to win heading into the fourth quarter.
KEYS TO VICTORY
If the turnover battle is the biggest deciding factor in football, the loss should not come as a surprise with a minus-three margin on the stat sheet. The giveaways not only provided the Cardinals with extra possessions, but a turnover thwarted a scoring drive and another miscue enabled the opponent to put seven points on the board without one of the NFL's top offenses taking the field. Given the razor-thin margins in this league, the Jaguars' turnover woes negated a solid overall effort from a team desperately seeking a "W."
The rookie has been a mixed bag at the position with his turnovers overshadowing the flashes that have Jaguars coaches salivating over his potential. Lawrence certainly teased the 904 during the early stages of the game Sunday with a handful of laser-like throws into tight windows. The rookie's 12-yard toss to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. was a perfect dime delivered up and over two defenders in the corner of the end zone. The precise ball placement showcased Lawrence's accuracy and arm strength when he is aggressive and decisive in the pocket. The highlights from Lawrence were short-lived with a handful of questionable decisions and off-the-mark throws resulting in turnovers. Some of those miscues proved costly in a close game that was ultimately decided by a handful of plays in the third quarter. From the red-zone interception to the poor decision on the flea flicker attempt, Lawrence's mistakes hurt the Jaguars in key moments. Overall, Lawrence's effort (22-of-34 completions for 219 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions) was solid, but the mistakes were too much to overcome in a tight game.
UNDER THE RADAR
Wide receiver/returner Jamal Agnew was a key signing for the Jaguars as a dynamic returner with All-Pro credentials. The veteran has played up to expectations with consistent production in the return game. Agnew chalked up a second game-changing play in as many weeks with a 109-yard field goal return that showcased his explosive stop-start quickness, wiggle and closing burst. The spectacular touchdown was Agnew's second score of the season, as he has reached pay dirt in back-to-back games.
The Jaguars finally got the running game going behind a solid effort from the offensive line and running backs. Left tackle Cam Robinson and Co. moved defenders off the ball to create running room for Robinson and running back Carlos Hyde between the tackles. The ground-and-pound tactics enabled the Jaguars to control the action with a mix of runs and passes designed to help the team keep the Cardinals on the sidelines for almost three quarters. The ill-fated flea-flicker attempt turned the game on its head, as the pick-six enabled the Cardinals to surge in front after being outplayed by the Jaguars. The turnover crushed the team's momentum and set the table for the Cardinals to walk away with a win.
The stat sheet will suggest the Jaguars' defense did not play well, but a closer look at the game reveals a solid performance from an improving unit. The unit coordinated by Joe Cullen troops surrendered a lot of yards but controlled the Cardinals' running game (30 rushes for 90 yards). With the Cardinals forced into a one-dimensional game, the Jaguars were able to dictate the terms for most of the game. Although the defense allowed a pair of 100-yard receivers (A.J. Green, five catches for 112 yards; Christian Kirk, seven catches for 104 yards) to make a couple of explosive plays, the Jaguars were able to contain white-hot Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray for most of the day.