Jaguars eager to push past playoff loss

Jaguars eager to push past playoff loss

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Jacksonville Jaguars’ AFC South title and berth in the AFC divisional round were certainly among the most unexpected developments of the NFL season.

Coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Trevor Lawrence agree that should no longer be the case.

Winning a division title and competing for a spot in the conference championship game and Super Bowl should be the bottom line for the franchise going forward.

“We worked so hard to get here and nobody thought we were going to be here and we had our shot and that’s what hurt,” Lawrence said Saturday night after the 27- 20 to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. “We will be back. I am confident of that. This is more the beginning than the end of something.

“This is just starting for us. We got a taste of it and guys are already hungry to get this opportunity again.”

You can’t blame anyone for not believing the Jaguars would be a postseason team when the season started. The No. 1 overall pick was 1 in back-to-back drafts, had a combined four-game winning streak in 2020-21, and were still trying to bounce back from head coach Urban Meyer’s dysfunctional 11-month tenure.

The franchise appeared headed for its 11th season with double-digit losses in the last 12 seasons after falling to 3-7 following a loss to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Nov. 13. Instead, a win they won five of their first six games to set up a winner-take-all matchup with the Tennessee Titans in Week 18. The Jaguars won that game in Jacksonville 20-16 to win the second AFC South title in franchise history and make the playoffs for first time since. 2017.

After committing five turnovers – including four interceptions by Lawrence – and falling behind 27-0 in the first half, the Jaguars rallied for a 31-30 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at TIAA Bank Field in a Wild Card playoff game. That set up Saturday’s rematch with the Chiefs.

The Jaguars could not stop Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (14 catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns), committed two turnovers (including one in the red zone), and were unable to press on Patrick Mahomes injured in the second half. An up-and-down season that included a five-game losing streak in October and a five-game winning streak to end the regular season ended one game shy of the AFC title game.

There are definitely more ups ahead, Pederson said. Mainly because the Jaguars finally have the one thing that has eluded the franchise for more than twenty years: A franchise quarterback.

“I think it’s everything,” Pederson said. “I’ve said this before that the success of your football team rests with your quarterback and you have to get that piece and that player right and I think Jacksonville got that person right. And it is to get better.”

Lawrence finished his second season with 4,113 yards and 25 touchdowns with eight interceptions. He completed 66.3% of his passes and his 95.2 passer rating was 10th in the NFL. The Jaguars offense ranked 10th in yards per game and 11th in scoring in the first year of Pederson’s system and Pederson and Lawrence expect the offense to be even better in his second year – and with receiver Calvin Ridley, traded they him. in November.

There are certainly still problems with the roster – the pass rush needs improvement and arguably the biggest need is cornerback – but the Jaguars are in the best shape of any AFC South team because on Pederson and Lawrence.

That’s why they believe the Jaguars will be playing deep into January (and hopefully February) for the foreseeable future.

“We’re all hurt because of the loss, but we’re all hurt because it’s the last game of the year and that’s the hard thing,” Pederson said. “But, as I told the guys, these are the games that we are going to learn from and we are going to be better because of. the end of the season.’ We want to be one of the four, five or six teams in the AFC every year.”

Lawrence said it might take him a while to get over Saturday’s loss, but he also said the 2022 season will be a turning point for the franchise.

“I think this year was obviously huge for this organization, for our city, for our franchise going forward,” he said. “That kind of sets the bar for who we’re going to be and what we’re going to do moving forward and that’s the mindset and we’re not going to settle for anything less than that. We got a taste of being here but there is more left and we all feel that.

“It’ll make us better. This won’t be the last you hear from us. We’ll be back.”

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