HOUSTON – Trevor Lawrence had the luxury of plenty of time, calmly standing in the pocket to deliver spirals all over the field.
Some of the Jacksonville Jaguars strong-armed quarterback’s throws were of the deeper variety, and quite a few connected against the Texans’ vulnerable defense.
Between a lackluster pass rush that never made Lawrence uncomfortable and multiple lapses in coverage and a few defensive pass interference penalties, the Texans’ defense was outgunned during a 24-21 loss to the Jaguars that leaves them two games behind the AFC South division leader.
A former top overall pick from Clemson, Lawrence took advantage of the Texans’ defense as he completed 23 of 38 passes for 364 yards and one touchdown. Although intercepted once by cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., that was essentially the only thing that didn’t go right for Lawrence after struggling against the Texans in a September loss.
Operating primarily in man coverage, never sacking Lawrence and only hitting him twice with a lot of four-man pressure packages, the Texans allowed long completions of 57, 42, 42 and 21 yards in the defeat. Lawrence averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, and 13 of the Jaguars’ 22 first downs were on passes.
“The explosive plays, you can’t have them, right?” said Texans coach DeMeco Ryans, the defensive play-caller. “You give up explosive plays, it equals points, and that’s what happened. We gave up too many explosives on defense. They just beat us on a couple of plays. Good plays by them, we didn’t execute the details of our job. When you don’t execute versus a really good team, that’s what happens.”
Former Atlanta Falcons first-round draft pick Calvin Ridley was the Jaguars’ most dangerous wide receiver Sunday. He caught five of six passes thrown to him for 89 yards with one touchdown as he got behind nickel Tavierre Thomas for a one-yard score in the red zone.
“That’s a good question, I still got to look at the tape and figure out what it really was,” safety Jalen Pitre said. “I think, overall, we just can get better at communication and oneness as a defense. I think that was probably the biggest thing.
“Just poor execution. Communication could have helped us out there. That’s probably the biggest thing, making sure everybody is on the same page and execution. That’s probably the thing we missed on the most and led to the explosives.”
The Texans’ defense had its moments, including a huge stuff on a goal-line stand to end the first half as nickel Desmond King and linebacker Blake Cashman stuffed Jaguars running back Travis Etienne for no gain.
“That stop at the end of the half, that was a really big play for us, felt the energy from the defense,” Ryans said. “Felt like that should get us some momentum, get moving there. Then we come back out the second half, and we allowed them to convert on third down, and they just continued to drive. For us to win this game, we knew we had to be better. We had to win third down, and of course, they were better on third down than we were.”
The Jaguars converted 7 of 13 third downs, extending drive after drive as they finished with 445 yards of total offense and averaged 6.5 yards per offensive play.
It didn’t matter that the Jaguars were fairly one-dimensional as Etienne was held to 56 rushing yards on 20 carries for a 2.8 average per run boosted by 20 of those yards coming on one run. They rushed for 81 yards with one touchdown on a Lawrence quarterback keeper, averaging 2.7 yards per rush.
Through the air, the Jaguars thrived.
“Just details, whether it’s technique or eyes or any small detail that allowed for something like that to happen,” said Stingley, who intercepted his second pass in the past two games. “We’ll clean it up.”
Drafted third overall out of LSU last season, Stingley’s interception was one of the few bright spots on defense along with cornerback Steven Nelson breaking on the football for a near-interception.
Stingley picked off a pass intended for tight end Evan Engram as Pitre got away with a grab and no call.
“It was a stack,” Stingley said. “I had the back. Pitre had the person who normally blocks. The blocker went into a fake block into a slant and I looked and seen the ball thrown. It’s nice. It’s a good feeling, but I just got to get back adn see what I messed up on. As a defense, we can do better.
“I just feel like this game had a lot more emotions in it, people playing harder, faster, some people trying to make plays. I just feel like the difference is the little small details.”
Lawrence connected with former Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk four times for 89 yards, including a long throw of 57 yards.
“They hit us on a few plays,” safety DeAndre Houston-Carson said. “They got us on a boot twice before the half. Right place, right time. This team, there isn’t any hanging our heads. It’s next play,”
Aaron Wilson is a contributor to Sports Talk 790.