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The Jaguars Are Burning Out

Luke Farrell of the Jaguars is tackled after a reception
Mike Carlson/Getty Images

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence is in the concussion protocol after something that happened in the fourth quarter of his team's loss to the Ravens on Sunday night. (He never left the game.) If the doctors declare that Lawrence is not OK in time for Christmas Eve, the Jags will have to travel to Tampa with C.J. Beathard as their quarterback. Beathard (pronounced beth-erd), the Iowa guy with the Football Hall of Fame/country music pedigree, hasn't started in the NFL since 2020, and he's won only two of his 12 career decisions. But because of the way the 8-6 Jags have played these last few games, they still need to shake off the 8-6 Texans and 8-6 Colts to find a way into the playoffs. They'll be ruing the mistakes of this month if they don't.

When the Jaguars began December, they did, in fact, feel as though they were in the most wonderful time of the year. Doug Pederson's boys sported an 8-3 mark that towered over a nonthreatening AFC South, with seven of those victories coming in their last eight games. But at home against Jake Browning's Bengals, the Jaguars blew a 28-21 fourth-quarter lead, missed a key field goal, lost Lawrence to an ankle injury on a sack, and let Evan McPherson's foot beat them in overtime. Then last week, against the Browns, they got their ass beat by Joe Flacco as a recovering Lawrence threw three picks.

“We just shot ourselves in the foot over and over,” the QB said afterward. "It was not one of our cleaner games. Just too many mistakes. We were so inconsistent and didn’t get into rhythm. There were too many miscommunications."

Another week of practice didn't do them any good. The big problem early on was Brandon McManus, who couldn't hit the target on two 50-ish yard field goals that could have delivered Jacksonville a 6-3 second-quarter advantage, had they gone in. But the almost inexplicable unforced error came with the score still 3-0 Ravens, near the end of the half. On third down, Lawrence took it upon himself to scramble. However, as soon as he looked at a defender, he lost control of his limbs and just dropped the football on the ground.

The Ravens strung together 13 plays for the game's first touchdown, but the Jaguars did have one more opportunity to score before the break. With 30 seconds left, Lawrence pulled off a long completion to Zay Jones right in front of the goal line, and as he hurried to the new spot, a spike would have given him probably two shots at the end zone. Instead, Lawrence opted to run a quick play, which isn't in itself a problem. Where it all went wrong was in the QB's choice to throw to no man's land—in bounds but not in the teal paint. Parker Washington's catch only served to drain the rest of the clock.

A Ravens punt and an emphatic strike to Jamal Agnew gave the Jags new life in a 10-7 ball game, but that was the offense's last gasp. Lamar Jackson delivered on one side, and Lawrence's crew went three-and-out, three-and-out, fumble to let the Ravens stand tall.

"We can't get out of our own way and that's the frustrating part," Pederson said in the postgame.

Losing to the Ravens isn't so bad. Even having a shot at the playoffs for a second straight season after firing Urban Meyer is something to celebrate, too. Their final three games—Bucs, Panthers, Titans—are winnable even with Beathard at the helm. But the Jaguars, having tasted what it's like to be a team on the rise with a developing franchise quarterback, aren't in a great spot as Lawrence's health and their respectable record both slip away. In these losses, worst of all the one that just happened, the Jags look like they're contorting themselves to do mid-flight repairs while a fire blazes on the wing. When that's the case, the only place you can go is down.

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