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The Day After: Cardinals 31, Jaguars 19

The Day After

JACKSONVILLE – A day after, senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 31-19 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in a 2021 Week 3 game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday

1. The Jaguars are improving. Sunday wasn't good enough because losing isn't good enough in the NFL. But the Jaguars trailed by 27 points just after halftime in Week 1 against Houston, trailed by three at halftime Week 2 against Denver and led by nine points in the third quarter against Arizona. They were controlling tempo Sunday. That didn't last, but it was improvement from Weeks 1 and 2. "You look on the won-lost column, it's not good," Head Coach Urban Meyer said. "I still believe we've got a good enough team to make some moves this year and win some games. I do believe we're making progress."

2. But not all is rosy. Yes, much was good Sunday. The Jaguars were good defensively for much of the game and were impressive offensively on a 75-yard third-quarter drive to take a 19-10 lead. But they allowed two long scoring drives on the Cardinals' next two possessions and mixed in a pick-six touchdown. Whatever happened early, 21 points allowed that easily isn't good.

3. Meyer's belief remains strong. Meyer postgame: "The locker room is as good a locker room as I've ever had. I told them that. I appreciate that. I just have too much belief in these players. We've just got to finish it."

4. Analyzing NFL strength of schedules in the preseason usually is a waste. Remember in the offseason? When observers considered the early Jaguars' schedule "easier" than the rest? The Cardinals and Broncos are two of the NFL's five remaining unbeaten teams.

5. The offensive line for the most part is playing well ... That's undeniable, as evidenced by a season-high 159 yards on 28 carries. "I kind of thought we controlled the line of scrimmage," Meyer said.

6. … but it wasn't perfect. The Jaguars have allowed just five sacks this season, with three coming against a good Cardinals defensive line. But guard Andrew Norwell allowed Cardinals defensive end J.J. Watt to disrupt a third-quarter trick play, a play that might have been a touchdown to wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. had Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence had time. Instead, Lawrence threw an interception that Cardinals cornerback Bryon Murphy Jr. returned 29 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Photo by James Gilbert / Jacksonville Jaguars

7. Lawrence is improving … This felt in many ways like improvement for Lawrence. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 219 yards and his 12-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Chark that tied it 7-7 was a big-time throw and catch. "Honestly besides the one pick on the flea-flicker play, I thought my decisions were great," he said. "I thought we moved the ball, we executed well. I thought I was a lot more accurate today than the past two games, and I thought the receivers did a great job making plays." Meyer on Lawrence: "He's going to continue to get better and we're going to go win a game with him."

8. … but turnovers hurt. The statistics show Lawrence with four turnovers: two interceptions and two lost fumbles. One interception was a second-quarter pass that tight end Jacob Hollister should have caught and instead bounced from his hands to Murphy's. Meyer called the drop "unacceptable." Lawrence lost a fumble when sacked and another when running back James Robinson hit his arm pass protecting, something that can't become a long-term issue. The four turnovers weren't all Lawrence's fault, but you can't win turning the ball over so often.

9. The defense is improved. The Jaguars' defense allowed 407 total yards, but for much of the day this performance felt better than that. Three unit didn't allow Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray a touchdown pass and Arizona scored just one touchdown on six first-half possessions. The unit also registered its first takeaway of the season when safety Andrew Wingard intercepted Murray in the third quarter. A couple of issues: the Jaguars didn't pressure Murray consistently enough, and the Cardinals scored too easily on two second-half drives as they took control of the game.

Photo by James Gilbert / Jacksonville Jaguars

10. The kicker situation is now a major situation. Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo missed two of three extra points Sunday. He entered having missed all three of field-goal attempts in the first two games. Meyer supported Lambo last week and sounded Sunday as if he wanted to remain supportive. But as Meyer said after the loss, the Jaguars are now missing extra points. It's hard to support kickers when that's the case.

11. The Jaguars have two effective running backs. Robinson rushed for 88 yards on 15 carries and running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 44 yards on eight carries. Robinson has earned the go-to position here, but Hyde has run well this season and this feels like a two-headed situation. "Those guys are running hard, and we're going to continue to get them the ball," Meyer said

12. Jamal Agnew is a weapon. What else to call the veteran returner/wide receiver who now has 100-yard-plus plays in each of the last two games? "That kid is a dynamic guy with the ball in his hand," Meyer said of Agnew, whose 109-yard return with a missed field goal gave the Jaguars a 13-7 halftime lead Sunday. "That's a game changer." Defensive end/linebacker Josh Allen said of Agnew, "He's an All-Pro. I just want to get that out there."

Check out these top photos from the Jacksonville Jaguars Week 3 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals

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