The Jacksonville Jaguars fought hard to prevent a third-straight loss, but it was simply not to be as the Jaguars fell to 2-9 after a 21-14 failed comeback against the Atlanta Falcons.
From the start of the game to the end, the Jaguars were playing catchup and hoping to finally get to an even point with their opponent. Unfortunately for them, it never happened. From offensive mistakes to defensive miscues, we examine below what we learned during the Jaguars' latest loss and what it means moving forward.
The Jaguars started to finally make plays on offense, but it came too little, too late
The Jaguars looked like they had two different offenses on the field against the Falcons. In the first-half, the Jaguars' offense looked completely broken as they failed to consistently pick up first downs against a bad Falcons defense and turned the ball over twice. The offensive line was getting bullied, the quarterback was missing throws, and receivers were making miscues. Outside of one drive, it was purely bad offensive football.
The Jaguars changed this in the second-half as Lawrence picked apart the Falcons' defense on two separate scoring drives. Were it not for a Jawaan Taylor hold, it is very likely each drive would have resulted in a touchdown. And on those drives, the Jaguars simply looked comfortable on offense for the first time in a long time, using increased tempo and getting the ball out of Lawrence's hand quickly to all levels of the field. The issue is, the Jaguars didn't get these drives going until it was 21-3. The Jaguars had the same issue against the Colts, not putting together any drives until already being down by multiple scores. This has been a season-long trend and on Sunday it helped result in another loss.
Jaguars' defense fails to slow down a team's top rusher for third week in a row
The last three weeks have been pretty simple for the Jaguars' from a defensive game planning standpoint. Each team they have faced has made it clear what they are going to do -- hand the ball off. From Jonathan Taylor, Deebo Samuel, to Cordarrelle Patterson, the Colts, 49ers, and Falcons have all made it obvious who the ball would be going to for four quarters. And so far, the Jaguars are 0-3 in stopping them, with Patterson turning the Jaguars into minced meat on Sunday despite the Jaguars talking throughout the week about the challenge he presented.
Patterson rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries and made it look easy. The Jaguars' defensive front rarely provided much resistance and when they did, Patterson and the Falcons' offensive line rebounded with an equally positive play. The Jaguars' rush defense was the key to their victory over the Bills and was what the unit hung their hat on for weeks, but the last three weeks has shown the Jaguars have quite a ways to go in even that department.
It is time for Urban Meyer to start micromanaging
Urban Meyer has noted at several points this year that he isn't a micromanager of his assistants, especially on offense. If a player is in the game at a certain point, it is because Meyer's staff thinks they are the right player for that situation. This has became an issue at a few different points with the offense this year, however, as the Jaguars have had stretches of key plays without their best player -- James Robinson -- on the field.
This happened again on Sunday when Robinson didn't play the final 16 snaps and two drives of the first-half following his first career fumble. One of those drives can be excused because the Jaguars had the ball for just 19 seconds at the end of the half, but the other drive was the team's first red-zone trip of the game. Robinson was also nowhere to be found on a handful of final plays on the team's final drive of the day while down 21-14.
In both instances, a running back not named Robinson dropped a pass. In the first case, Dare Ogunbowale dropped what very likely would have been a touchdown from Trevor Lawrence. Robinson could have helped the Jaguars in a big way each time, but he was on the sidelines watching.
"You'd have to ask [Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell] Bev and [Running Backs Coach] Bernie [Parmalee] on that one. I don't micromanage that," Meyer said after the game when asked about Robinson not being in on the red-zone drive. "But Carlos is a good player, too, so they might have had him in there for that reason."
Meyer has had this answer before. And it makes sense in many regards. But as the head coach, Meyer needs to be able to put his foot down and simply say "put our best player in the game." Meyer obviously wields ultimate authority, but by opting to not micromanage who is on the field in key moments, he is failing to take control of what has been an already disjointed offense. It doesn't make Meyer any less accountable to not take a handle of the situation, so why not do just that?
Jaguars look ill-prepared in the biggest moments of the game yet again
If there is one serious flaw that has shown up in each Jaguars game this season, it has been the team's performance in big moments. There are moments in almost every single game where a team can decide right then and there who they are and how the game will unfold. The best teams stay composed in high-leverage moments and situations and treat them like normal. Typically, the team who freaks out the least and brings the least pressure on themselves comes out on the other side as the winner. Too far often this year, though, the Jaguars haven't been that team. That continued on Sunday.
There are three different occasions on Sunday that come to my mind. Both of the Jaguars' red-zone drives that ended in field goals and the team's final offensive drive. In each of those key situations, the Jaguars beat themselves and simply looked like a team that didn't have any clear answers for the defense's questions at the most important parts of the game. From drops to penalties to miscommunications to missed throws and poor game management, the Jaguars looked out of sync in critical situations on Sunday. This has been a trend throughout the year, too, making this simply concerning.
Tyson Campbell has a breakout performance at the right time
Things haven't always been easy for Tyson Campbell in his rookie campaign, but the No. 33 overall pick has back battling each week and has come into his own over the last month. Campbell has still had rookie moments here and there, but it is impossible to say he hasn't improved by leaps and bounds over the last month. And on Sunday, Campbell had his best game yet, recording three pass breakups and one interception, including a key pass-breakup on the Jaguars' final defensive third-down of the game. He did this all while being injured just one week ago, too.
"Yes, on that play, we were playing cover two, so my main focus was to reroute the receiver that I was lined against, and make sure I had width and depth for the safety to be able to play his half," Campbell said after the game. "They just so happened to run a seven [route] and I saw the ball and got the ball."
The Jaguars badly needed the Campbell pick to hit in 2021 and the last month and Sunday both showed why the Jaguars are confident it will. Campbell is quietly one of the most important players in the organization considering how important it would be for the franchise to not have the No. 2 cornerback spot be a place of need entering the offseason. Campbell has gotten much better and on Sunday showed why he is making an argument to be a key piece of the Jaguars' rebuild.
"I think he's going to be a really good player. I really love his attitude. He had a bad shoulder, fought through it, and almost had a second one today. Stepped in front of one -- he's a really good worker. Glad we've got him," Meyer said on Sunday.