The Los Angeles Rams tried to give the Jaguars a storybook Sunday, but the Jaguars didn't do nearly enough on their part to turn the game into the underdog story the Rams so badly tried to make it.
The Rams spent the entire first half shooting themselves in the foot and attempting to allow the Jaguars to crawl into the game, but the Jaguars never obliged, eventually leading to a 37-7 loss to drop the Jaguars to 2-10.
"Yeah, I'm not going to give you guys a lot because I wish I had all the answers, and I'd give them to you. I don't know the answers other than I know this, that you're going to keep swinging and keep working together," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said after the game.
"Is there a confidence issue? Any time you're not successful, that's something we've got to fight through. Confidence is a result of success, and right now we're struggling with that."
It is the fourth-consecutive loss for the Jaguars and the sixth game in a row in which the Jaguars have failed to score more than 17 points, with the Jaguars averaging just 11.4 points per game in the five games leading up to Sunday. And the tilt against the Rams was no different, with the Jaguars' offense once again looking anemic, turning every possession into a series of mistakes and head-scratching decisions.
The Jaguars once again had a shoddy start, a continuing theme in not only the Urban Meyer era but for the last several seasons. With a special teams unit that has been struggling in return coverage in recent weeks, the Jaguars once again gave up a big special teams play, allowing Brandon Powell to take back the game's opening kickoff 65 yards, all the way to the Jaguars' 34-yard line.
Thanks to a terrific tackle from Rudy Ford on second down and a drop on third down, the Jaguars were able to limit the Rams to a field goal. Things didn't exactly improve for the Jaguars even after limiting the Rams to a field goal, however, with the Jaguars' history of self-inflicted mistakes and slow starts creeping up yet again.
After being stuffed on the first offensive play from scrimmage, the Jaguars gave the ball to James Robinson yet again on second-down but, like on the first play of the game, disaster once again struck. With Robinson running toward the right side of the line, Aaron Donald blew up his block and pounced on Robinson, tossing him to the ground and stripping the ball from his hands all in one motion, creating the second fumble of Robinson's career just one week after his first.
"He's still not 100 percent. He's not practicing during the week. James is as good a guy, a tough a guy, team player as you've got, that I've ever been around. Your heart bleeds for the guy just because he's not able to do what he does well," Meyer said. "He hasn't been that way since Seattle. He's not able to practice, but he wants to play, and he's still a very good player. You've just got to take care of the ball."
The ball would be ironically recovered by former Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and the Rams would get the ball at the Jaguars' 27-yard line. One 27-yard gain to Odell Beckham Jr. later and the Rams would be able to easily punch it in from five yards out to go up 10-0 with not even five minutes off the game clock.
Robinson would remain off the field in the two drives after his fumble, with the Jaguars handing running back duties off to Carlos Hyde while also deploying Laviska Shenault into the backfield. While the running game didn't get much going without Robinson on the field, but Trevor Lawrence did rip off a 28-yard completion to Laquon Treadwell and a 4th-and-2 conversion to Marvin Jones to push the Jaguars into Rams territory.
But even without Robinson on the field, the Jaguars were able to create some plays -- though the Rams certainly helped. With the Jaguars in the Rams' red-zone following a 3rd-and-8 conversion from Lawrence his legs, the Rams were called for two different flags to put the Jaguars at their two-yard line: a taunting on Jalen Ramsey and a holding in the end zone, each of which helped set up Carlos Hyde for a two-yard touchdown.
The Rams were able to turn a 4th-and-inches quarterback sneak from Matthew Stafford into a field goal drive after the Jaguars and Adam Gotsis forced a failed third-down, giving the Jaguars a much-needed win in the red-zone.
But the Jaguars' next drive went nowhere despite starting with prime field position, while Robinson remained on the sidelines. Following the Rams being flagged for kicking the ball out of bounds, the Jaguars followed it up with a stuffed Hyde run, a drop from James O'Shaughnessy, and a sack. Even with the best field position in weeks, the Jaguars couldn't avoid a three-and-out.
"Yeah, we're searching for answers right now. How do you find answers? You go to work, and we're going to go back to work. I don't mean to be redundant and coach-speak, but there's nothing else I can tell you," Meyer said.
"Is it frustrating for everybody involved? Absolutely. Are we better than that? Absolutely are better than that. Do we have better players than that? Yes. Do we have better coaches than that? Yes. Now it's time to go produce, and like you said, we're right there, so 13-7, I believe you're right, and then we have the ball, and then we get it also in the second half. That's when a team that knows how to win right there, you take a lead and you play field position football with them.
This became a theme for the Jaguars on Sunday. Allow the Rams to drive down the field, stiffen in the red-zone and on third-down, and then get optimal field goal position. After the next drive, the Rams once again gifted the Jaguars stellar field goal position, placing the ball at the Jaguars' 49-yard line after the Rams impeded with Jaydon Mickens on a fair catch.
Despite the gift from the Rams, the Jaguars threw two incompletions and then Lawrence fumbled on third-down on a read-option exchange with Hyde, who was still on the field in place of Robinson. As such, the Jaguars would enter the half down 16-7 with just 85 net yards -- 3.1 yards per play. Other than one solid drive from Lawrence and his skill players, the Jaguars suffered through drops, lack of execution, and poor player usage throughout the first half, digging them a hole they were never able to recover from.
Fast forward to the second-half and things got no better for the Jaguars. The first drive of the half saw the Jaguars pick up just five yards before a punt, while the Rams made quick work of the Jaguars' defense. After an entire first-half of the Jaguars defense bending but not breaking, the break finally came in the second half as Cooper Kupp torched Andrew Wingard for a 29-yard touchdown to go up 23-7, forcing a missed tackle and finding nothing but green grass the rest of the way.
The Jaguars' offense continued to flounder as the game progressed. By the 8:36 mark of the third-quarter, Lawrence was just 9-of-19 for 83 yards as he dealt with accuracy issues and as the Jaguars dealt with drops from their skill group, primarily James O'Shaughnessy.
Sans for the touchdown drive, the Jaguars looked like a team that didn't know how to get things done on the offensive side of the ball. And even when the Jaguars did string together some plays back-to-back, they continued to make self-inflicted mistakes to set the offense back. Whether it be misses from Lawrence, miscommunications with his receivers, or a late third-quarter fumble from Hyde, the Jaguars didn't get out of their own way, even when the Rams opened uo a door to allow them to do so.
The Rams, meanwhile, continued to pour it on with a 14-point third-quarter. Following the Kupp touchdown, the Rams moved the ball up and down the field on the Jaguars' defense before a two-yard touchdown from Van Jefferson gave the Rams a 30-7.
The Jaguars weren't helped by injuries to key players, with center Brandon Linder leaving with a back injury and Tyson Campbell exiting with an abdominal injury, though Campbell returned after missing a few series. Add in some untimely penalties like two roughing the passer calls on Roy Robertson-Harris and the Jaguars' defense wasn't much better than its offense on Sunday.
Lawrence finished the game 16-of-28 for 145 yards, while the Jaguars were outgained by the Rams 418-197. Robinson finished with eight carries for 24 yards and a fumble, while Hyde ended the game with nine carries for 24 yards, a fumble, and a touchdown.
In short, the Jaguars look overmatched from the jump. And even with the Rams doing their part to allow the Jaguars to find their footing and potentially make it a tight game, the Jaguars simply never looked like they were capable of taking advantage. It wasn't a matter of want to, but instead an issue of whether they actually could execute or not. And on Sunday, they couldn't execute at any point outside of a five-minute period on offense.
The Jaguars will next travel for a Week 5 rematch vs. the Tennessee Titans, who defeated the Jaguars 37-19 in Jacksonville earlier this year.