Jacksonville Sports Day

Moeller: Jaguars Make Strides in Heartbreaking Loss to Bengals

photo courtesy Jacksonville Jaguars

This one hurt, and that’s not a bad thing.

The Jaguars’ obvious shocked and disenchanted feelings over their 24-21 loss at Cincinnati left a bump in the night in northeast Florida.

This time around, the Jags are for real.

Head coach Urban Meyer appeared to be traumatised in his post-game press conference, and you can sense these weren’t just another set of typical platitudes about his players. Meyer has realized how difficult the pro game can be, and a last-second loss in this format is truly demoralizing.

If he is true to his word, Meyer has to allow himself to grow in the process. It won’t be easy as he found out.

Getting close is good in horseshoes and hand grenades. It doesn’t cut it in the NFL.

For the Jaguars, this is different.

Think about the progress this team has made since their opening drive in their opening game. Thursday’s night performance justified it.

Yes, they are 0-4 and have lost 19 straight games. Yes, they are considered one of the worst teams in the league.

They did what they are capable of doing Thursday night. Trevor Lawrence ran the ball instead of overthrowing a target or forcing a throw to one. Lawrence proved he can make things happen out of the pocket.

James Robinson was the workhorse everyone thought he could be with his 18-carry, 78-yard, two-touchdown night.

The offensive line did an admirable job, as they have in recent weeks, as they created lanes for Robinson and allowed a lone sack.

The Jags’ defense bent-and-did-break in the second half after a valiant effort in the opening half. They couldn’t make a key stop when they needed one.

Meyer will be questioned for allowing Lawrence to run on fourth-down for a first half score that could have severely wounded the Bengals, but he ended up short of the goal line. A chip-shot field goal would have changed the dynamic.

Yet, Meyer had the guts to allow his quarterback to try and make a play when he looked like he was in mid-season form.

If anyone noticed, Lawrence arguably had his best game in his short career, as he completed 17 of 24 passes (70 percent), his average pass was a best 8.5 yards, and he had a high rating of 96.5, and also threw his longest completion (52 yards). This is despite not throwing a touchdown or an interception.

Don’t judge and evaluate the Golden Boy simply on his five-touchdown, seven-interception, 66.4 rating overall performance. That’s a great sign for the rookie, and the cast has to stay stable around him.

However, the Jags are still the Jags.

They still have some ways to go, and a good team wouldn’t have allowed Cincinnati to win and would have found a way to close out their 14-0 halftime lead.

Still, the Jags made major strides in a heartbreaking loss.

It’s now a matter of seeking to maintain it beginning with Tennessee on Oct. 10.

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