Jaguars offense takes baby steps in win over Falcons in London

LONDON -- Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence dodged a free rusher by sliding left, took a big step to his right and released the ball as he got hammered in the chest by Falcons linebacker Kaden Elliss.

Thirty yards downfield, receiver Calvin Ridley stood all by himself in the end zone while cornerback A.J. Terrell sprinted to close the gap.

But the throw got there first, and Ridley plucked it out of the air for a touchdown, giving the Jaguars a seven-point first-quarter lead in their eventual 23-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in front of 85,716 fans at Wembley Stadium in London.

It was the third touchdown the Jaguars have scored in their last three games, and the first they’ve scored in the first half.

The Jaguars offense isn’t humming along the way it did at the end of last season, but they made big plays against the Falcons that showed progress.

They showed growth with a key fourth-down conversion on the lone touchdown drive, a 65-yard, seven-plus-minute drive into the fourth quarter that ended with a field goal, and a 74-yard, four-minute drive late in the fourth quarter that ended with another field goal. It sometimes wasn’t pretty, but it was effective -- which a continued evolution after the two previous weeks.

“The offense did some good things today,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “Picked up some big third downs in the second half. Obviously those last two drives, the ball was at the 10-yard line. You go down and get a field goal, ball at the six-yard line, go down and get three and then finished the game the same way.

“There's still some things we've got to work on and clean up, but obviously much better today by the offense.”

The Jaguars (2-2) totaled only 300 yards, had another sub-40% day on third downs (five of 14, 36%) and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. But after the previous two games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans -- in which the offense scored two touchdowns at home -- it looked better.

“It's a step in the right direction, and it started early on this week,” said receiver Christian Kirk, who had a team-high eight catches for 84 yards. “We kind of talked about it, just our sense of urgency and our execution and discipline throughout the week of practice. You kind of felt that we were going to get back on track with where we needed to be and just to go out there and be ourselves, and I thought we did that.

“We have a long way to go to be a really good offense. There's still some mistakes and some things that we didn't do as well today, but we were able to make enough plays to go out there and get enough points to get a win.”

The Jaguars lost two players from last year’s offense -- right tackle Jawaan Taylor and No. 3 receiver Marvin Jones Jr. -- but they added Ridley and first-round pick Anton Harrison (to replace Taylor). Offensive coordinator Press Taylor handled playcalling in the second half of games in 2022 (Pederson did the first) and took over playcalling full time in 2023. So, there's no logical reason for the unit to regress.

But that’s what has happened over the season’s first month.

They entered Sunday's game ranked 16th in total offense, 21st in points and 29th in third-down conversion rate -- and that’s after putting up 404 yards in Week 3 against Houston and 31 points in Week 1 against Indianapolis.

The offensive line has struggled, ranking 26th in pass block win rate and 29th in run block win rate over the first three games. Pass-catchers dropped a league-high eight passes, and Lawrence’s 49.7 total QBR is lower than last season (56.1 QBR).

Lawrence completed 23-of-30 passes for 207 yards and the touchdown for a 78.1 QBR against the Falcons. He also ran for 42 yards on eight carries. He did get sacked twice, but there were no dropped passes.

There were a few missed opportunities -- including Kirk wide open in the end zone on a fourth down and Kirk breaking free for a potential big gain, but Lawrence couldn't get the ball to him because of pressure or moving to the opposite side of the field.

“There's always going to be things that you can do better for all of us each week,” Lawrence said.

“There's a ton more out there for us offensively, a couple plays that I missed that I am kind of kicking myself over, but we're going to turn the page and go into Buffalo and make the corrections and get ready to put a game plan together to go win that game.”

Kirk said it’s easier to critique when you’re not lamenting a missed opportunity.

“Thankfully, we're sitting on the other side of it with a win,” he said. “If we were in a different situation right now, obviously, that would be a situation to where we'd look back on where we shot ourselves in the foot and whatnot, but we were able to make enough plays to get a win today.

“… When you go back-to-back losses [against the Chiefs and Texans], it weighs really heavy on you, weighs heavy on the locker room. ... just great for us to get this thing back on track and get our confidence back.”