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Unpacking Jaguars' Loss: Five Key Plays That Defined Buccaneers Matchup

Five Key Plays That Defined Jaguars -Buccaneers Matchup

TAMPA, Fla. – Senior writer John Oehser examines five key plays from the Jaguars' 30-12 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a 2023 Week 16 game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Sunday

1. Pick, and uh oh. A lot went right for the Buccaneers early Sunday, and little went right for the Jaguars. The first quarter's key play: An interception by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White off Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence that ended Jacksonville's lone possession of the quarter. That gave the Buccaneers possession at their 44, and they drove 56 yards for a three-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield to wide receiver Mike Evans for a 10-0 Tampa Bay lead with 12:53 remaining in the second quarter. Jaguars defensive tackle Adam Gotsis' third-down pass defensed on the game's opening possession stopped that drive and led to a 24-yard field goal by Buccaneers kicker Chase McLaughlin.

2. Wide right. The Jaguars showed life in the second quarter, with rookie free-agent wide receiver Elijah Cooks giving the offense a needed lift on the drive immediately following Evans' touchdown. Cooks, who signed with the Jaguars as a collegiate free agent after the 2023 NFL Draft, caught three passes for 38 yards on the drive. His 23-yard reception from Lawrence turned third-and-12 from the Jaguars 35 into a first down at the Buccaneers 42. His 13-yard reception from Lawrence turned third-and-seven from the Buccaneers 39 into a first down at the Buccaneers 26. But the drive stalled, and Jaguars kicker Brandon McManus missed wide left from 52 yards to keep the Buccaneers' lead at 10-0 with 6:20 remaining in the second quarter. McManus missed field goals of 55 and 50 yards in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week.

3. Oh no, no, no. Mistakes in key moments have haunted the Jaguars in recent weeks, and another in this vein came late in the first half. The Jaguars appeared to have stopped a Buccaneers drive when cornerback Tyson Campbell broke up a long fourth-down pass from Mayfield to Evans near the goal line. But safety Andre Cisco hit Mayfield late after the pass and was called for roughing the passer. Instead of the Jaguars having a first down at their 34, the Buccaneers had a first down at the Jaguars 19. That led directly to a 31-yard field goal by McLaughlin that pushed the Buccaneers' lead to 13-0 with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter.

4. Fumble and yet another uh oh. If the game didn't feel over after McLaughlin's second field goal, it pretty much did a few minutes later. With the Jaguars still within two scores, Lawrence on second-and-five from the Jaguars 41, threw deep down the middle for tight end Evan Engram. Lawrence threw high, with Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield executing a sliding interception at the Buccaneers 35 – Tampa Bay's second interception off Lawrence of the game. The Buccaneers drove 65 yards on seven plays, with Mayfield throwing a second touchdown pass to Evans – this one down the middle for 22 yards – to extend the Buccaneers' lead to 20-0 with :45 remaining in the second quarter. "We're just not winning," Engram said. "It was an instance [earlier in the season] of us hurting ourselves, but now we're hurting ourselves and we're flat-out getting beat. We have to figure it out. There's a lot of damned work we have to do."

5. Extending the lead. Sunday's second half didn't feature many highlight moments; such is the nature of such one-sided games. Whatever chance the Jaguars had of a comeback all-but ended early in the half when Lawrence committed his third turnover of the game – one that again led to a Tampa Bay touchdown. Lawrence on the opening possession of the third quarter was sacked on first-and-10 from the Jaguars 49 by outside linebacker Yaya Diaby, who recovered the ensuing fumble at the Jaguars 37. The Buccaneers drove 37 yards in five plays, with running back Rachaad White's two-yard run extending the lead to 27-0 with 11:30 remaining in the third quarter.

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