KANSAS CITY, MO — A magical run cut just short.
The Jacksonville Jaguars (10-9) suffered heartbreak to end their season after the team fell 27-20 to the Kansas City Chiefs (15-3) on Saturday in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Far too many mistakes were made in the contest, with Jacksonville turning the ball over on two-straight possessions in the fourth quarter with the game still in reach at 27-17.
After ripping off six-straight wins to advance to the second round of the playoffs, Jacksonville looked to be in good shape but fell just short.
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In a somber locker room, the Jaguars were disappointed with the result, especially after a tough battle to get to the position they put themselves in.
“We are all hurting because of the loss, but we are all hurting because it is the final game of this year. That is the hard thing,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said after the game Saturday.
Jacksonville didn’t hold a lead once throughout the contest, surrendering an early touchdown before playing catch-up the remainder of the game.
Still, Jacksonville nearly mounted yet another comeback after getting within three points early in the fourth quarter on a four-year touchdown run with running back Travis Etienne.
In the end, getting past Mahomes, who completed 22-of-30 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns, wasn’t possible. Surrendering 14 receptions, 98 yards and two touchdowns to tight end Travis Kelce throughout the game also made the task more daunting.
Jaguars linebacker Foye Oluokun said after the game the team had to be more “matchier” with Kelce, or tackle him as soon as he catches the football.
“We can’t let him catch and run. Maybe we learned a little bit how to go against them in big games and what their game plan is going to be. Maybe get a little more man on them, stick to them or in zones, maybe really match them up there going to the sticks,” he explained.
Jacksonville’s offense mustered four scoring drives, including two touchdowns and two field goals.
Lawrence completed 24-of-39 passes for 217 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The team ran for 144 yards on 19 carries, including 10 rushes for 62 yards and a touchdown for running back Travis Etienne.
“Some of the same ugly mistakes that showed up in this game were the things that showed up early in the season,” Pederson said of the team’s one-score loss.
“Those are the things we have to eliminate. Those are the things we have to move on from in order to win against great football teams like the Chiefs are.”
Late in the fourth quarter, as Jacksonville attempted to mount yet another miraculous comeback, Lawrence was picked off by Chiefs cornerback Jaylen Watson.
Still, Lawrence and the Jaguars got themselves in field goal range to cut the Chiefs’ lead to seven at 27-20. Ultimately, they ran out of time, though.
“He is learning how to put those plays behind him,” Pederson said of Lawrence. “Again, we had some protection issues there and tried to get a quick ball up to Zay (Jones) and the guy made a heck of a play. We had him, but the guy made a great interception there. He was able to shake it though and come back from it.”
‘We’ll be back’: Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars confident in team’s progress this season
Though the Jaguars weren’t able to advance past the Divisional Round, the team understands their progress this season wasn’t for naught.
“Nobody expected us, the Jaguars, to be in this football game. From the beginning of the season to today,” Pederson said.
The Jaguars went from the worst team in the league last year at 3-14 to the AFC South champions that advanced to the second round of the playoffs as one of four teams remaining in the AFC for a chance at the Super Bowl.
The team was able to bounce back from a 27-0 deficit against the Los Angeles Chargers last week in the Wild Card Round, ultimately putting together the third-best comeback in NFL playoffs history.
Though the team fell short of expectations, the signs of life from the team remain.
“I told them we are going to learn from this and grow from this. Our expectation is to be in these games every year. That is our expectation. This was a good first year for all of us,” Pederson shared.
Ultimately, the Jaguars expect to be back. What they accomplished wasn’t a fluke to the team and they’ll look to build on that momentum moving forward.
For Lawrence, though it’s hard to talk about just after a game, he said that it is “special” what the team was able to accomplish this year.
“No one thought we should be here, and we just kept believing. It was really cool to be a part of, it was special,” said Lawrence.
“It’s just the beginning. This year was huge, obviously, for this organization, for our city and for our franchise moving forward. It sets the bar of who we’re going to be and what we’re going to do.”
The Jaguars will look to return to the playoffs next year with added firepower via the NFL Draft, free agency and the return of WR Calvin Ridley, whom the Jaguars traded for earlier this season but who was suspended for the year for gambling.
They’ll be tasked with taking on the juggernaut of quarterbacks within the AFC, including a likely rematch with Mahomes and Herbert or contests against the Bengals and Joe Burrow and the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen — both of whom also made it to the second round of the playoffs.
Lawrence is certain that the team will have success again: “This won’t be the last you guys hear from us, we’re going to be back.”
Demetrius Harvey is the Jacksonville Jaguars reporter for the Florida Times-Union. You can follow him on Twitter at @Demetrius82.