The Jacksonville Jaguars controlled the first half of Thursday night's game in Cincinnati, jumping out to a 14-0 halftime lead, but couldn't hold on at the end of the 24-21 loss to the Bengals.
Despite getting stuffed at the goal line to close the half and seeing their lead whipped out quickly in the third quarter, Urban Meyer's young team didn't just go into the fetal position. Trevor Lawrence and the offense regained the lead with a James Robinson TD early in the fourth quarter.
But the defense couldn't get off the field late, allowing the game-tying TD drive and a 5:33 field-goal drive to lose it.
"I've said this from Day 1, at the core of this team are good players, and I thought we brought in some good players, and we're getting better each week," Meyer said after the loss. "We are getting better each week. Just sickening that you didn't win that thing. But like I told you, I'm not wrong about that. I'm not wrong about those guys in that room, and they're going to keep swinging as hard as they possibly can."
Lawrence played the best game of his young career, coupling wow-shots with multiple zone-read runs and precision darts. The rookie's best game coming on a short week on the road displays that Jags OC Darrell Bevell needs to tailor the offense better to fit Lawrence's skill set and just let the rookie cook. Thursday marked the first time this season Lawrence didn't turn the ball over.
However, with the Bengals offense unstoppable in the second half, the Jags stalled at midfield with 5:40 left in the game. Meyer decided to punt even though his defense was a sieve. Jacksonville never saw the ball again.
The Jags lost a game in which they held a 14-point lead and could have made it three scores to close the first half. It was their first time leading by 14 or more points in a game since Week 17, 2019.
"It's heartbreaking," Meyer said. "That's a heartbroken locker room. We'll take a few days off and get ready for Tennessee. There are good people in that locker room."
The Jags showed heart, particularly on offense. But in the NFL, talent wins. Jacksonville just doesn't have enough right now.