Gene Frenette: Lawrence turnovers, Jaguars defense waste chance to be special in Philly

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PHILADELPHIA — For Jacksonville's NFL franchise, this could have been its own version of a Philly Special.

On a rain-drenched Lincoln Financial Field, everything the Jaguars could have wanted from arguably their biggest road trip since the 2017 AFC Championship game was available for the taking.

A chance to end an annoying, NFL-record, 17-game losing streak to NFC opponents. A chance to retain solo first place in the AFC South division. A chance to put away the league’s only remaining unbeaten team.

Teams can’t whiff on that kind of opportunity, not when they have the cushion of a 14-point lead and the Philadelphia Eagles are getting booed in their own house.

Gene's previous 3 columns

This ball did not slip out of Trevor Lawrence's hands as he gets ready to pass during the first half of Sunday's 29-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
This ball did not slip out of Trevor Lawrence's hands as he gets ready to pass during the first half of Sunday's 29-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

But out of nowhere, the Jaguars’ intended path of becoming an NFL up-and-comer hit a major speed bump. It wasn’t just the wind and rain that did them in, but a tsunami of turnovers from quarterback Trevor Lawrence and a shaky defense foiled what would have been their best win since taking down the New England Patriots in 2018.

The Jaguars and their prized franchise quarterback have 24 hours to kick themselves over leaving coach Doug Pederson’s former place of employment with a disgusting 29-21 loss.

Some wounds are easier to lick and move on from than others. This one will be a little more challenging simply because there was so much self-destruction, particularly from No. 16.

Not one, not two, not three, but four lost fumbles by Lawrence (he had five in his entire 2021 rookie season), including a second strip-sack by linebacker Haason Reddick with 1:48 left to seal the outcome. Plus, Lawrence’s only interception came on second down when the Jaguars were 16 yards from the end zone, on the cusp of regaining a lead they had frittered away.

“I’m just pissed I let those guys down and just had too many turnovers,” said Lawrence. “Obviously, it starts with me. All of them were me today, so no one else to blame there. To let those guys down, it’s disappointing.

“It felt like we had a chance to win that game and we did the same thing at the end there.”

Ball security issues

There’s no getting around the fact most of this defeat, not all of it, falls on the player who played lights-out the past two weeks in routs of the Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts.

Mike Caldwell’s defense must certainly bear some of the blame, particularly the NFL’s top-rated run stoppers, which surrendered 210 yards on the ground and 134 to Eagles' back Miles Sanders. The threat of QB Jalen Hurts calling his number on zone reads also disrupted Jaguars’ defenders.

“The RPO [run-pass option] in their game plan made them more difficult,” said safety Rayshawn Jenkins. “I knew it could potentially pose some problems because we hadn’t seen it.”

A bigger thing, one that proved more costly, that the Jaguars did not witness from Lawrence since last year was repeated giveaways.

When it came to holding on to the football, at least on two of his fumbles, he looked more like Tremor than Trevor. Aside from Reddick’s two strip sacks, Lawrence lost one ball on a third-and-1 sneak off a routine snap, then another when the ball just came out of his right hand as he was rolling to his right to buy extra time to look for a receiver.

Mistake after mistake didn’t just put the defense back on the field or set up 23 points for the Eagles, it limited the Jaguars to a measly 46 plays and a microscopic possession time of 20:09.

“I have to secure it,” Lawrence said of the fumbled snap that was also recovered by Reddick, setting up the Eagles’ go-ahead TD near the end of the first half. “Obviously, it’s pouring [rain] at that point. I’m going under center and everyone is pushing and trying to get that one yard. Those are the situations where you really have to secure it.

“That’s the main thing, but you get a little bit ahead of yourself and you’re straining to get that one yard, and that’s when you see some mishaps with catching the snap. The communication was good, it was just on me.”

Pederson, who received a rare pre-game introduction for an opposing coach and got a standing ovation from appreciative Eagles’ fans for delivering their only Super Bowl title, was too miffed after the game to engage in a whole lot of Philly reminiscing.

“The guys are mad and they’re a little bit ticked off, and they should be,” said Pederson. “They should hate losing more than they enjoy winning. That’s what I told them after the game.”

Weathering the storm

After northeast Florida luckily escaped any significant damage from Hurricane Ian, the Jaguars did a poor job of handling weather conditions that made for a less-than-ideal football day.

Rain fluctuated between steady and a downpour all game, but it messed with the Jaguars far more than Philly.

“It was tough, nothing else to describe the conditions,” said Jaguars receiver Marvin Jones. “The swirl of the wind, that’s what it was. When you add wind to the rain, it’s not a day a quarterback or receiver would want.”

Philadelphia just coped better with the stormy environment and that made all the difference.

The Eagles’ only fumble issue came as a snap to Hurts, when he wasn’t looking, fell to the ground. No damage done as Sanders quickly fell on it.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars only recovered one of their five fumbles. That came in the first quarter when running back James Robinson got the ball poked out from behind and receiver Christian Kirk recovered at the Eagles’ 3. That led to a Jamal Agnew TD catch and the 14-0 lead.

“We’re going to be in games like this where the conditions aren’t going to be favorable,” Pederson said. “We just have to do our part to hang on to the ball.”

A combined three drops by Kirk and Jones weren’t too costly (two came on their last TD drive), but Lawrence’s inability to secure the pigskin was a major contributing factor in the Eagles climbing out of a 14-point hole.

When you combine an 11-of-23 throwing day for Lawrence, taking four sacks and the Eagles finding all those running lanes the last three quarters, it added up to an 18th consecutive NFC defeat.

“I think we beat ourselves more than they beat us,” said Jaguars’ outside linebacker Josh Allen. He later added, “we’ll see [the Eagles] again,” presumably meaning in a Super Bowl since the teams won’t likely meet in the regular season until 2026.

This was more of a blown opportunity (a 59-yard TD interception return by Andre Cisco was wasted) than a killer loss, seeing as how the 2-2 Jaguars are still tied for first place with the Tennessee Titans.

With a favorable four-pack schedule (Houston Texans, at Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and Denver Broncos in London) the rest of October, there’s no reason to think they can’t still be atop the AFC South a month from now.

Providing Lawrence hangs on to the ball. (904) 359-4540 

Gene Frenette Sports columnist at Florida Times-Union, follow him on Twitter @genefrenette

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Trevor fumbles, Jaguars' shaky run defense wastes chance at Philly special