Close, but no cigar. If there is any way to currently sum up the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2, 0-1) and their slow start to 2021, it is with those four simple words.
The Jaguars had another game slip out of their hands at key points on Sunday, losing 23-13 in the season's home opener against the Denver Broncos (0-2). And just like in Week 1, the Jaguars have nobody to blame but themselves when they examine just how this one got away from them.
Jacksonville started Sunday's game as hot as they have any game in years, with rookie quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence looking flawless on his first drive.
Lawrence led the Jaguars on an 11-play, 83-yard touchdown drive on his first-ever regular-season possession. Lawrence was fantastic to open the game, completing five of seven passes for 73 yards (10.4 yards per attempt), with the bulk of that production coming on third-down, including a 25-yard touchdown throw to Marvin Jones to cap off the drive.
But things went downhill quickly for the Jaguars following a fiery start. And they never quite picked up, either, with Urban Meyer's team once again looking weaker and a step slower than their opponent.
"It's an us issue. We have to make some plays. We have to do a lot of things better as a team, and that includes when I say team, it's always us," Meyer said after the game.
"The one thing I'll never do is take a player and do that or a coach and do that. But do we have to get better? We're 0-2. You made that point. We have to do we -- when I say we, I'm talking about the whole team has to do a lot of better things."
Denver didn't have many issues driving down the field following Lawrence's touchdown, driving 56 yards in 13 plays as Teddy Bridgewater picked apart the Jaguars' secondary. Luckily for the Jaguars, they were bailed out by a Josh Allen sack that forced Denver back 16 yards after Denver put the ball at Jacksonville's 10-yard line.
After a Jaguars' drive that electrified the home crowd to start the game, the Jaguars' offense was completely grounded. This was a result of a few different issues, such as two drops from Laviska Shenault Jr. on third-down, a false start on Shenault, and some questionable decisions from Lawrence.
The Jaguars scratched and clawed to get back into the end zone throughout the first half, but Vic Fangio and his unit stifled the Jaguars' and Lawrence from the start. The Jaguars picked up just 49 yards on 21 plays in the second-quarter, with the bulk of these coming on a two-minute drill from Lawrence.
"We just had a lull. We just had lulls. I think it was a common theme after that drive in the second and third quarters," Jones said after the game. :It's just something that we need to figure out and we have to find that energy and that spark and keep it. So yeah, I think that's what it was.
The Broncos didn't face the same struggles, ending the first-half with 11 first downs and 194 yards of offense on 34 plays. The Broncos especially found success against former first-round pick CJ Henderson before Henderson left the game with a hip injury, beating him for a key red-zone third-down pick up and then isolating him on Tim Patrick's 12-yard touchdown.
The Jaguars ultimately failed to impact Bridgewater much outside of sacking him twice. The Jaguars limited the Broncos to 2-for-11 efficiency on third-down, but Bridgewater and the Broncos still moved the ball with ease, with Courtland Sutton having a career day (nine catches for 159 yards).
The Jaguars had their chances to fight back, though. It wasn't a game in which they easily were pushed aside from the first snap. But it was a game where, outside of a string of strong plays on the very first drive, the Jaguars failed to generate any kind of positive momentum or consistency.
And even when the Jaguars' struggling offense was able to move the ball, other parts of the team faltered. The Jaguars had a first-down in Broncos' territory before a swing pass to Laviska Shenault lost eight yards and doomed the possession, leading to a Josh Lambo attempt.
And while Lambo was once considered automatic, those days are long gone. Lambo missed a 52-yard field goal early in the first-half, but he was given a chance to redeem himself and tie the game going into halftime with a 48-yard field goal.
But, just as his first two field goals in 2021 missed, this one missed as well. Lambo missed the 48-yarder with a kick that simply never came close, with the embattled veteran kicker Lambo coming the field with his head down as Andrew Wingard and Meyer attempted to speak to him.
Things never improved for the Jaguars moving forward. The defense failed to stop big plays, with Sutton catching a 55-yard pass on the second play of the second half -- a play in which he beat Chris Claybrooks deep down the field as Henderson watched from the sidelines.
A few short plays later, Noah Fant caught a third-down pass in front of Damien Wilson and defeated a poor tackle attempt to score a 14-yard touchdown, effectively taking all of the momentum and shifting it toward the Broncos. The Broncos never gave it back.
The Jaguars attempted to throw their way back into the game, but Lawrence threw two interceptions to Kareem Jackson and Patrick Surtain II that doomed the offense. Lawrence finished the game with just 14-of-33 passing (42.4%) for 114 yards and one touchdown, finishing with his second-consecutive multi-pick game.
"I think we were in the game the whole game. Really first half should have had the lead. Then after that I didn't think we kept playing like we did in that first quarter," Lawrence said.
"Just figuring out what that is, what's happening in that 2nd and 3rd quarter that we can get better at. Obviously I'll have to go back and watch the tape for some of it, but for me, same thing. Two turnovers, got to get better at that. [Patrick] Surtain made a great catch on the go-ball, so that's one of those he made a great play. It happens. But the other one was a bad decision by me. Just keep taking care of the ball.
Jacksonville got some life late in the game when Jamal Agnew returned a Denver kick off 102 yards to make it 23-13, but Lawrence threw an incompletion on the two-point attempt before Lambo's onsides attempt was recovered by Denver.
The Jaguars will next host the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 26.