INGLEWOOD, Calif. – It had been 1,015 days since the Jacksonville Jaguars last won a road game, a nearly three-year stretch that ended Sunday with their 38-10 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium.
The victory is important for more reasons than just snapping a losing streak that dates back to a victory over the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 5, 2019, in the last game played at the Oakland Coliseum.
The Jaguars, who have won just four games combined the last two seasons, are starting to look like a team that could be in the playoff hunt in December. With a 2-1 record, they currently lead the AFC South -- a division that is looking shaky at best.
“It’s everything for this team,” head coach Doug Pederson said of the franchise’s fourth victory in 19 games played in the Pacific Time Zone. “And that’s exactly what the guys were talking about, the ones that have been here. It’s good to get a road win against a great football team. Travel across the country like this, it’s a credit to the guys in the locker room for doing that.
“Hopefully it’s the start of things to come and [they are] heading in the right direction.”
It might sound a little premature because it’s only three weeks into the season and the Jaguars did blow an eight-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Washington Commanders in the season opener. But it’s the way the Jaguars have won the last two weeks that shows they could be for real.
The Jaguars out-gained the Chargers by more than 100 yards, Lawrence threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns, James Robinson ran for 100 yards and a touchdown, rookie Devin Lloyd intercepted his second pass in as many weeks and Dawuane Smoot forced a fumble that Foye Oluokun recovered.
More than the stats, though, is this: The Jaguars didn’t turn the ball over, committed just two penalties and went on a 22-0 run after the Chargers kicked a field goal to cut the Jaguars’ lead to nine points early in the third quarter. It’s the second week in a row the team closed out a victory with a dominant second half.
The team seems to be coming together.
Lawrence has arguably been the league’s top quarterback these past two weeks. His Total QBR of 84.6 is second only to Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa (87.0) and he leads the league in completion percentage (76.8 %). He’s thrown five touchdown passes and no interceptions in routs of the Colts and Chargers -- and those were the second- and third-highest rated games of his career.
Through three weeks, he’s sixth in the NFL in Total QBR (72.9) and seventh in completion percentage (69.4). Most importantly, he's not turning the ball over (just one interception).
“The guys are doing a great job up front with the protection,” Pederson said. “Guys are getting open and we had opportunities to take shots and we completed those down the field. There were some opportunities there [for explosive plays] and we hit them, and we were efficient in the passing game. That’s all we can ask of our guys. It takes 11 [players] to do it, but [Lawrence] was very efficient, very accurate.”
And the Jaguars haven't been making the kind of mistakes that have been a hallmark of the franchise the past several seasons. They’re an NFL-best plus-seven in turnover margin (they were an NFL-worst minus-20 last season), have committed just five penalties in the last two games (they had 13 in the first game and averaged seven per game last season), and are converting 47% of their third downs the past two weeks.
“We played a complete game,” Lawrence said. “To stack two weeks in a row is big to us.”
To make it three weeks in a row would really be an indication the Jaguars are for real because it would mean beating the Philadelphia Eagles on the road. In addition to the sub-plot of Pederson returning to the city that he led to a Super Bowl title is the fact that the Eagles (3-0) are likely the best team in the NFC and potentially the NFL.
The Jaguars have lost their last 18 games against NFC opponents dating back to a victory over the New York Giants in the 2018 season opener. Snapping that streak would get the rest of the NFL talking.
“I think the way we’ve played you can’t deny that we’re a really good team,” Lawrence said. “But at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what it says about us. We know who we are. Our only goal on Sunday is to go win the game, and what other people think about is doesn’t really matter. Every week we’re going to prepare the same way. We’re going to be ready to play.”