Struggling Jaguars are facing a reality check after buying into preseason hype

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars may have gotten too comfortable or too confident.

Or both.

The Jaguars delivered one of their most disappointing performances in franchise history, a 37-17 stinker against Houston on Sunday in which they were 7½-point favorites.

Little went right for the home team, which has now dropped five in a row to Houston in Jacksonville and 10 of 11 overall in the series.

Calvin Ridley dropped three passes, including two in the end zone, and was flagged twice for false starts. Trevor Lawrence threw an interception. Jamal Agnew fumbled.

The defense failed to pressure a rookie quarterback who had been sacked an NFL-leading 11 times in his first two games. And the special teams missed a field goal, had a field goal blocked and allowed a 255-pound fullback to break five tackles on his way to an 85-yard touchdown return.

“If you don’t execute and you do stuff like that, you won’t win a game,” Lawrence said. “You won’t beat anybody. And the way we played today, we just can’t expect to win playing that way. There has to be a sense of urgency. It’s not OK to make the same mistakes that we’ve been making, to have the dumb penalties.

“It’s not all right. We all have to look in the mirror, take accountability, take that and own it and move on.”

The Jaguars (1-2) have now lost three of four since the end of the previous season. Coach Doug Pederson suggested his team may have bought into all the preseason hype that carried into a Week 2 matchup with defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

“I think that’s real. I do. I think that’s real,” Pederson said. “I’ve been around this game too long to know that you can’t live in the past or you’re going to fail in the future. … We just got to focus in on the week at hand. That part of it starts with me, in making sure that the guys are hearing that message loud and clear from me. We’ll make sure that they get that message.”

Jacksonville won six consecutive games late last season to clinch the AFC South. The team went toe-to-toe with the Chiefs in the divisional round of the postseason and seemingly banked on young players taking a developmental step along with the addition of Ridley and 11 draft picks.

The Jaguars returned 20 of 22 starters and essentially wanted to run it back for another shot at making their first Super Bowl.

It seems silly now, considering how the offensive and defensive lines have played and how so many of the problems from last season — slow starts and short-yardage woes — are still issues.

“We’re hanging on too much to last year,” tight end Evan Engram said. “That’s over.”

The Jaguars will now try to regroup in London over the next two weeks. They travel across the pond following practice Thursday and will play a “home game” against Atlanta and then switch hotels and play Buffalo as the visiting team the following week.

It’s a daunting schedule that could make or break what had been a season filled with expectations.

“I didn’t picture that here. I didn’t,” running back Travis Etienne said. “I feel like we can’t worry about the outside noise. I think that has been our problem – worrying about the outside noise. I feel like we have to lock in as a team, block out everything and continue to grind and get better.

“I feel like every man in this room needs to look at himself in the mirror, watch that film and just be critical. Be their biggest critic. We just have to find ways to get better. We just have to find ways to play harder. We just have to start fast. … We can’t come out here and expect to win.”

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