Lawrence, Jaguars continue playoff push, outclass Jets 19-3
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Trevor Lawrence was in a celebratory mood, decked out in an ugly Christmas sweater while acknowledging it wasn't exactly the prettiest performance he and his Jacksonville Jaguars have had during their playoff surge.
It was plenty good enough, though. The Jags' 19-3 victory over an embarrassed Zach Wilson and the slumping New York Jets on a rainy, windy Thursday night has them in control of their postseason destiny.
"It's just a big win," Lawrence said. "It shows this team is growing. We don't have to have 40 points to win. We don't have to have all these yards. Whatever it takes to win, we're able to do. To be able to adjust was really good for us."
Lawrence finished 20 of 31 for 229 yards and ran for 51 yards, including a leaping touchdown, on seven carries for the Jaguars (7-8), who moved within one-half game of skidding Tennessee in the AFC South. Jacksonville would win the division title with victories in its final two games - including the season finale against the Titans.
"We understand the task in front of us," Lawrence said. "Every game is a must win for us. That's how we're treating it. We understand it and we love it."
The second matchup between last year's first two draft picks - Lawrence at No. 1 and Wilson No. 2 - wasn't even close.
While Lawrence sliced through the Jets' normally strong defense, Wilson couldn't get anything going and was booed frequently - all the way to the bench. Chris Streveler, elevated from the practice squad before the game, replaced Wilson late in the third quarter.
Wilson went 9 of 18 for 92 yards with an interception and a dismal 41.9 rating for the Jets (7-8), whose playoff hopes took a devastating hit with their fourth straight loss. That's the worst skid under second-year coach Robert Saleh.
And it came in their regular-season home finale - in front a national audience on Amazon Prime Video.
"It's not about playoffs right now," Saleh said. "It's about about getting off this mat and trying to freakin' find a way to put together a football game."
Wilson, who returned from a three-game benching last Sunday in place of an injured Mike White, couldn't make any plays and his offensive line gave him little protection.
"I just felt like I didn't have any rhythm out there," Wilson said.
Things actually got off to a promising start for the Jets when Quinnen Williams strip-sacked Lawrence on the Jaguars' third play from scrimmage. Carl Lawson recovered to put New York at Jacksonville's 16. It was Williams' career-high 12th sack and Lawrence's eighth lost fumble, tops in the NFL.
But the Jets couldn't get into the end zone and settled for a 37-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein after Andre Cisco sacked Wilson on a safety blitz on third down.
Riley Patterson kicked a 32-yarder to tie it on Jacksonville's second possession.
Lawrence jumped over the pile for a 1-yard go-ahead touchdown early in the second quarter to cap an impressive 16-play, 96-yard drive. The Jaguars faced just one third down on the drive - on Lawrence's score. It was Jacksonville's first scoring drive of 95 yards or more since 2018.
The Jets had just 66 yards of offense in the first half and three first downs. While boos rained down throughout the first half, the poncho-clad crowd really let New York - and Wilson - have it when he was intercepted by Devin Lloyd on a Hail Mary just before halftime.
After Patterson added a 41-yarder midway through the third quarter to make it 16-3, Wilson was booed again when he jogged onto the field with the offense. But then, the Jets put Streveler in at quarterback on their next possession - and the fans went wild. And New York's offense finally found a short-lived spark.
There were cheers after his 30-yard duck of a throw that C.J. Uzomah caught for a first down. The crowd loved Streveler's consecutive runs of 14, 10 and 8 yards before he was stopped for a 2-yard loss. On fourth-and-4, Streveler completed a 4-yard pass to Garrett Wilson and he led the Jets to the Jaguars 13.
But the drive stalled when his throw to Wilson sailed wide of the receiver, turning the ball over on downs.
Streveler, who went 10 of 15 for 90 yards, became a fan favorite during the summer when he led the Jets to three fourth-quarter comeback victories in the preseason. He also helped lead the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to a Grey Cup victory during the 2019 season, but couldn't deliver a victory for the Jets in this one.
Instead, Lawrence - who lost 26-21 to Wilson and the Jets last season - and the Jaguars maintained control.
"When our number was called in the passing game, we made enough plays," Lawrence said. "Obviously it was a little sloppy. There's going to be a lot of stuff to correct. The elements played a little bit of a factor. At the end of the day, we made the plays we needed to make."
Jaguars: RG Brandon Scherff left in the second quarter with an ankle injury, but returned. ... DE Dawuane Smoot appeared to injure his left leg late in the game.
Jaguars: At Houston on Jan. 1.
Jets: At Seattle on Jan. 1.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated December 23, 2022