The Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-3. Even on a day in which they showed life and fight against one of the NFL's best teams, the Jaguars couldn't get out of their own way.
With the 31-19 loss now officially in the rearview mirror as the Jaguars move forward to an eventual Thursday Night Football matchup, we take a look at the biggest takeaways from the game. Who played well, what did we learn, and what does it all mean for the Jaguars moving forward? We break it all down below.
That was one of the most bizarre Jaguars games in years -- which is saying something
I can honestly say that was the most bizarre Jaguars game I have ever covered, which says a lot considering, well, *gestures at everything*. The Jaguars have lost some heartbreakers over the last 35 games, but Sunday's loss was more than a heartbreaker. It was a game that simply made no sense on any level, with the Jaguars doing nothing to take away from the hysteria.
First, a referee forced a muffed punt by throwing a penalty flag AT the ball in the air, which is a first. At first, it looked like the Jaguars didn't pick up the fumble out of ineptitude, but I am now convinced they were as confused as everyone else at how the ball actually ended up on the ground.
Then there is Jacob Hollister dropping a first-down catch in the red-zone, leading to a Byron Murphy interception. You don't often see unforced drops become interceptions, but that is exactly what the Jaguars saw on Sunday.
"You can't do that with a young quarterback. Can't do that. That's unacceptable. It's unacceptable with an old quarterback, but you just can't do that," Urban Meyer said after the game.
That isn't even getting into the pure insanity that was the following two big plays. First, Kliff Kingsbury attempted a 68-yard field goal, which is one of the most baffling decisions one could ever contemplate. Yes, Matt Prater is a good kicker who can boom field goals from 60 yards out, but 68 yards with Jamal Agnew set to return a potential miss is a horrible idea. Agnew made it look that bad, too, returning it 109 yards for a touchdown, tying the NFL record.
And how could anyone forget the worst-executed flea flicker in recent memory? From Andrew Norwell's lack of a block to Lawrence's bad decision and throw that resulted in a pick-six, it was a truly manic play that made little to zero sense. That is a play that Meyer said it will be hard for him to get out of his head, and he isn't alone. All in all, Sunday was a wildly entertaining game in large part because it was absurd at every single turn.
Breaking down Trevor Lawrence's four turnovers: was the rookie quarterback as mistake-prone as the numbers say?
Trevor Lawrence turned the ball over four times on Sunday, bringing his season total to nine. This included two interceptions and two fumbles, though the final fumble came on the last play of the game when the game was already decided. While many will look at Lawrence's otherwise solid stat line and marvel at the four turnovers, it is fair to examine each one to see how much was on Lawrence.
First, the Hollister interception. Lawrence could have led Hollister better, but that is a catch Hollister HAS to make. That is a catch any NFL skill player needs to make. It wasn't a great throw by Lawrence, but it certainly wasn't a turnover-worthy throw.
Then the flea-flicker. Andrew Norwell let J.J. Watt completely blow up the play (which did help DJ Chark get wide open for a potential touchdown), but Lawrence needs to take all of the blame for the pick-six. That is a throw he needs to simply get rid of, not throw to the other sideline while backpedaling with pressure in his face. He didn't have much help on that play, but that was on Lawrence.
Lawrence's first fumble, which was recovered several yards past the line of scrimmage, came with the Jaguars in the red-zone. While any red-zone turnover is as disastrous as a play as one could fathom, Lawrence fumbled on this play in large part because James Robinson (yes, the Jaguar) bumped into Lawrence and the ball. Had he not, it likely would have ended as an incompletion as opposed to a fumble.
The final fumble was poor ball security against a pressure look. The Cardinals blitzed more defenders than the Jaguars had blockers, and Lawrence took the sack quickly while failing to secure the ball. That is 100% on Lawrence and something he will need to monitor moving forward.
The Jaguars are a week late on addressing the kicker issue
It would be a shock if the Jaguars didn't address the kicker position in some facet this week, even if it meant simply working out a kicker before Thursday Night Football's clash against the Bengals. But for the Jaguars, it is at least one week too late on that front, if not longer. Josh Lambo has done some terrific things for the Jaguars on and off the field over the years, but the time for emotions are gone; Lambo has become a liability, potentially the biggest on a bad Jaguars team.
After missing two field goals in Week 2 by a considerable distance (neither were close to going in), Lambo was 1-of-3 on extra point attempts on Sunday against Arizona, missing each of his last two. Lambo went 8-of-9 in pre-game warmups, but even his makes looked like they fluttered into the goal post instead of boomed into the net. The Jaguars should have looked to address kicker last week when Lambo proved his downward slide was legitimate. Now, he is getting worse, and the Jaguars have only themselves to blame if it costs them a win sooner than later.
"On Lambo, I made that comment, man, he's the hardest working specialist I've ever had, but it's also a reality we're now missing extra points," Meyer said on Sunday.
"I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I'm like everybody, I want to see him make it because he works so damn hard on it."
The defense improved on Sunday, but was still not close to good enough, especially down the stretch
The Jaguars' defense was decidedly better in Week 3 than the previous two weeks, especially on key downs. The Cardinals were blanked on third-down in the first-half and had four of their first five possessions end in punts, with the only drive that didn't end in a punt starting at their own 44-yard line. They limited yards after the catch, defended the sticks, kept Murray from beating them with his legs outside of the red zone, and were tough against the run. But even with his in mind, it certainly shouldn't be considered an effort that was good enough or the new standard. This was a defense that was a step up and an improvement, but it wasn't a winning performance.
At the end of the day, the Jaguars recorded just one quarterback hit and gave up too many easy drives for the Cardinals in the second-half. Kyler Murray's yards per attempt nearly doubled in the second-half, with the Jaguars allowing 14 first downs and two fourth-down conversions over the final two quarters. The Jaguars had an okay game defensively, but they still allowed Murray to throw for over 300 yards on 82% passing. That simply isn't good enough to knock off a good team.
James Robinson has finally arrived to the party for the 2021 Jaguars' offense
It took quite some time -- too long, in fact -- but James Robinson has finally arrived to the scene for the Jaguars in 2021. It was never Robinson's fault that he was being sparingly used through the preseason and first two weeks of the regular season, but it didn't matter. Because the Jaguars refused to ride their workhorse 1,000-yard rusher during the start of the season, Jacksonville missed an explosive element to the running game. But that changed on Sunday, with the Jaguars finally leaning on Robinson for the first time all season.
Robinson carried the ball 15 times for 88 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown on Sunday, including multiple runs over 15 yards and one run of 21 yards. Coming into Sunday, Robinson had carried the ball just 16 times for 72 yards, with a 12-yard scamper as his longest. Robinson ran the ball six times on his scoring drive and the Jaguars opened the game by attempting to establish the run. Had the game not gotten away from the Jaguars following Lawrence's flea-flicker, Robinson likely would have seen even more work on the ground. It was a terrific outing for Robinson, and a good sign that the Jaguars finally decided to let him be the key piece to the offense that he was always supposed to be.
"I thought he was fantastic. He's been practicing like that," Meyer said about Robinson after the game.
"I thought Carlos ran hard. Just probably need to give him the ball even a little bit more. Yeah, that was impressive, especially who you're playing. That team is a good team, and just had them on their heels, and I think it was eight straight runs in that third quarter. Yeah, those guys are running hard, and we're going to continue to get them the ball.