The biggest play of the night for the Jacksonville Jaguars in their 24-21 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals was a cruel one. It was one in which the Jaguars were a mere few feet away from going up on their home opponent 21-0 before halftime, the kind of momentum that can push a winless team like the Jaguars out of the gutter.
But instead, the Jaguars were stuffed. Lining up in shotgun from the one-yard line on 4th-and-1, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence kept an option call and attempted to smash his way through the middle of the Bengals' defense for the score.
It would all be for nothing, though, as Bengals' linebacker Logan Wilson and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi combined for a stop to prevent Lawrence from getting the ball over the goal line.
The Jaguars would lose the ball on downs and then go on to score just one more time over the next 30:00 of game time, being outscored 24-7 in the second-half on their way to another loss. What was at one point an encouraging drive that saw the Jaguars nearly put an early nail in the Bengals' coffin instead became a play defined by failed execution.
“Yeah, it was actually designed to get James [Robinson] on the outside," Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer said on Friday.
"We were going to fake like we were going inside because there was going to be a real expectation that it was going to be real heavy defense inside and then flip to James, and the end went up field on us. There were the two thoughts, and you look back now and James is running the ball hard, our offensive line was playing well too.”
In the end, nothing quite went right on that play. Lawrence kept the ball, the Jaguars were stopped, and Jacksonville's bell cow running back who had dominated the Bengals was left without the ball in his hands on the biggest play of the game.
“I can’t disagree with you," Meyer said when asked if getting the ball to Robinson on a traditional hand off would have made sense.
The Jaguars will now have over a week to mull on the "what if?" left on the field in Cincinnati. For now, the dreaded goal-line play will be remembered as one of the defining points of a disappointing and winless start to the Jaguars' season.
Jacksonville will get a chance to mend their wounds and come back swinging at home against the Titans in Week 5. After three James Robinson touchdowns in the last two weeks, it would be surprising to see the Jaguars ignore Robinson on the goal-line yet again next Sunday.