JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars have ended all sorts of skids this season, so it shouldn’t have been that surprising to see them stop a six-game road losing streak in prime-time games with a 19-3 victory at the New York Jets on Thursday night.
These aren’t the Jaguars of the last two seasons — or the last two decades.
They have seemingly flushed years of futility while winning three consecutive games and five of their last seven. Jacksonville (7-8) is now closing in on a winner-takes-the-AFC South game against Tennessee in the regular-season finale and, with Trevor Lawrence leading the way, looks poised to take control of the feeble division for the foreseeable future.
The Jags need to beat Houston (1-12-1) next week or have division-leading Tennessee (7-7) lose one of its next two games — against the Texans and Dallas — to create what essentially would be a home playoff game in Week 18. It would be a huge turnaround for a franchise that won four games over the previous two years.
“I think we've moved on past last season and all that," coach Doug Pederson said Friday. "I think the guys are in a good place mentally. But I think the guys sense that, feel that, believe that. That's just where we are. If that means we've fixed some things, then, yeah, we've fixed some things.”
The rebuild started when Jaguars owner Shad Khan hired Pederson to replace Urban Meyer in February. Pederson fostered a healing environment for players who endured Meyer’s troubled tenure and then, along with general manager Trent Baalke, spent big in free agency to fill holes created by years of less-than-ideal drafting.
The results showed early and really have been evident of late, culminating with the team's first three-game winning streak since 2017.
Already this season, the Jaguars:
— Beat the Chargers to end an 18-game road losing streak overall, a victory that was Jacksonville’s first road win against the Chargers in six tries.
— Beat Tennessee to end an eight-game skid in Nashville, a losing streak that started in 2014. That victory also snapped a 14-game road slide to AFC South opponents.
— Beat Dallas to end a 20-game skid against NFC teams, the longest cross-division losing streak in NFL history. It also was the first time in 38 games that Jacksonville won while having more turnovers than its opponent.
— And, most recently, won a prime-time game outside Jacksonville for the first time since beating Pittsburgh in 2000.
“There have been a lot of firsts this season, which is crazy,” Pederson said. “There's no magic. There's no pixie dust. It's just what I feel is right for our football team and where we are.”
Jacksonville’s defense has been stout in the second half of its last three games. The Jaguars have allowed 21 points — two touchdowns, two field goals, a 2-point conversion and an extra point — after halftime against Tennessee, Dallas and the Jets.
They have forced six punts, created four takeaways and stopped opponents on downs three times in 16 second-half possessions.
“Honestly, we’re just doing our stuff better than offenses are running their stuff, you know what I’m saying?” safety Rayshawn Jenkins said.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Ball security remains an issue. Travis Etienne nearly fumbled twice in the rain at MetLife Stadium, and Lawrence committed his league-leading eighth fumble of the season. Five of those came in sloppy conditions.
“We definitely felt the weather,” Etienne said.
Tight end Evan Engram has 26 catches for 337 yards and two touchdowns in Jacksonville’s last three games, showing he’s a matchup issue for opponents and making a strong case for the Jags to sign him to a long-term deal before he reaches free agency in March.
Riley Patterson missed a 44-yard field goal against the Jets and had a kickoff go out of bounds for the second time in as many weeks. The weather in New Jersey surely had something to do with the minor miscues.
Pederson said Friday he's still awaiting test results on DE Dawuane Smoot, who appeared to injure his right Achilles tendon against the Jets. RG Brandon Scherff (ankle) should be fine with extra time to heal, and the Jaguars expect to get LB Travon Walker (ankle) and DT Foley Fatukasi (ankle) back next week.
1 — number of 1,000-yard rushers in Pederson's six-year head coaching career. Etienne hit the mark with 83 yards rushing against the Jets. He has 1,000 yards on 204 attempts, averaging 4.9 yards a carry.
Jacksonville gets to sit back and watch Tennessee play twice before its next game. The Jaguars could end up with a meaningless Week 17 matchup at Houston, which owns the next streak on Jacksonville's to-end list. The Texans have won nine in a row against the Jags.
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