Whatever happened in London for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they’ve come back from their two overseas wins more refreshed stateside and on a roll.
This time, facing a New Orleans Saints team that showed grit from being down 24-9, the Jags swatted away the comeback attempt 31-24 on Thursday Night Football. In the process, they are now sitting atop the AFC South at 5-2 with a four-game winning streak that marks the team’s best start through Week 7 since 2007.
Travis Etienne Jr. Becoming a Multiple Scoring Threat
Travis Etienne Jr. is already on a pedestal with few peers. In the last three weeks, the running back has crossed the end zone two times in each game.
How many other NFL players, regardless of position, have accomplished what he has? Absolutely no one.
Travis Etienne makes history for the #Jaguars❕
Etienne has two-plus rushing touchdowns in three-straight games, a Jacksonville franchise record 👀
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 20, 2023
Etienne, 24, began his tear through defenses in London by carrying the ball 26 times for 136 yards and scoring twice on the Buffalo Bills. He followed that with 18 carries for only 55 yards but crossed the goal line twice more versus the Indianapolis Colts once Jacksonville returned to the U.S.
Against the Saints, Etienne immediately set the tone with two touchdowns, including on this misdirection run.
— Reel Analytics (@RAanalytics) October 20, 2023
Etienne was held to 53 yards on 14 carries, but his ground assault against the Saints ignited the Jaguars offensive early.
“I just think the guys are gelling together,” head coach Doug Pederson said of the offense having an aggressive mindset. “They’re coming together as an offense. You know, we were able to run the ball successfully in a couple of those drives there.
“Trevor [Lawrence] was pretty accurate with his throws. Guys were making plays on some third downs. It just comes down to execution, you know? The last couple of weeks we were able to do that. Obviously, the end result was points.”
Christian Kirk on His Way to a Career-Best Season
Last season, in his first season in Jacksonville, Christian Kirk finally got to taste what it’s like to be an 80-catch, 1,000-yard receiver. Now, he’s on pace to shatter those marks.
In the matchup against the Saints, Kirk recorded six receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. His 39 receptions this season are the fifth-most among wide receivers through Week 7 in franchise history.
Kirk quickly gave Lawrence credit in a postgame interview for his success and also when describing the biggest play of the night when he took a short pass to the house in the fourth quarter to put the Jaguars ahead for good.
“We didn’t want to have to wait that late, but we were able to get it done. Just a great call by Press [Taylor], and Trevor did a great job hanging in the pocket, giving me some time to work. It’s a little option route and the rest was just on me being able to put the ball into the end zone.”
Kirk expanded on it in his formal interview with the media after the game.
“It was actually a play that we had ran in London but didn’t have the opportunity to hit. It’s a play that we know well and in situations like that, it’s kind of good for us all but when I motioned over, they had [Saints S] Tyrann Mathieu down low,” said Kirk.
“I didn’t think he was going to match me, but you know, after he popped out after the snap, I knew I was running my option route off of him so, it was just really beating him and then [QB] Trevor [Lawrence] did a great job stepping up in the pocket and give me an opportunity to catch a run.”
Jaguars’ Franchise QB Continues To Play With Efficiency
Speaking of Lawrence, it seems his disastrous rookie season has become more and more of an afterthought. After the 3-14 campaign that saw 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, here’s what Lawrence has done since then.
- Has thrown 33 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions in his last 24 games.
- Has racked up 5,756 passing yards.
- Has led the Jaguars to a 14-10 mark post-Urban Meyer.
In three seasons, Lawrence has established himself as a fan favorite for the Jags’ fan base, and a big part of that is because of his leadership, including his ability to lead Jacksonville to a 10-2 record in their last 12 regular season games.
“There’s a belief throughout the whole team from ownership all the way down to every player on the team and staff and sports staff,” Lawrence said on the Amazon Prime postgame show. “I think that’s what you’re seeing in the confidence that we’re playing with. We’ve got the right guys.
“We’ve got a locker room full of great guys who are not selfish, and they play for each other. I think you see that, and when we come together, it’s special. Regardless of circumstances, we’re going to rally and find a way, and we’ve created that belief. It’s a cool thing to be a part of.
Despite being questionable to play on #TNF with a knee injury and never having won at the Superdome (college or pros), Trevor Lawrence gutted it out for the #Jaguars and earned a big road victory❕ #PFN365 QB Rankings ➡ https://t.co/NQBSML13g7 pic.twitter.com/DbIqF7GOT0
— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 20, 2023
That leadership continued to be on full display when Lawrence went from potentially not playing versus New Orleans to earning Pro Football Network Player of the Game accolades after the victory.
Count Kirk as someone who was not surprised with the way Lawrence performed even after not taking a single rep in practice on the short week.
“He’s resilient. He doesn’t blink. Once he knew he was ready to go, he came out there and didn’t miss a beat,” Kirk said. “He didn’t take snaps all week in practice, but he stepped in there and he didn’t miss a beat at all. Just so proud of him. Just his toughness and his ability to lead this team. We’ll go as far as he wants to take us.”
Jacksonville’s Defense Has Flipped a New Switch After Week 3 Loss
While the Jaguars’ most dynamic pieces reside on offense, the defense has turned into a different animal compared to their Week 3 showing.
That was the afternoon that saw the Houston Texans — led by a new head coach in DeMeco Ryans and rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud — light up the Jaguars’ defense with a 37-17 romp.
Since then? Jacksonville hasn’t allowed more than 24 points, and fans are beginning to see the return of “Sacksonville.”
Josh Allen has seven sacks and is pursuing his career-best season. As a team, the Jags have snatched a combined 13 sacks in their last four games. That includes the latest they collected on Derek Carr. And when it matters most, the Jacksonville defense always seems to get it done.
“We have a lot of trust in them,” Kirk said of watching the defense close out the game against the Saints. “They’ve been playing outstanding all year long, and we have the utmost trust in them to be able to step up in moments like that, and they did a great job just winning the game for us.”
Overall, it’s clear the Jags are more refreshed following a two-week stay in London and are now in the hunt for back-to-back AFC South titles after four straight wins.
“It’s huge. Obviously we dropped two games early in the year that we were disappointed with,” Kirk said. “But to get four wins over some really good football teams is big for us. We’ll take the long weekend to recover and come back ready for Pittsburgh and go into the bye week hopefully on a good winning streak.”
And in the locker room following the game, Pederson said, “This never gets old. This does not get old. Winning is contagious. If you get in your blood, there’s something about it. It makes you want to do just a little bit more, and we saw it at the end of this football game.”