Mon, 04 Dec 2023

Falcons, Jaguars search for win in London showdown

Field Level Media
28 Sep 2023, 09:05 GMT+10

(Photo credit: Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Two teams searching for a win will be on display when the Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons hook up Sunday in London.

Jacksonville (1-2) has lost two straight and is coming off a surprising blowout loss at home to the division-rival Houston Texans. During the two-game slide, the Jaguars' offense has been its crutch.

After scoring just nine points in a 17-9 loss to Kansas City, Jacksonville failed to score in the first half and went on to lose 37-17 to the Texans last week. The Jaguars' first five drives concluded with a missed field goal, punt, blocked field goal attempt, punt and a fumble.

The Jaguars also allowed Houston fullback Andrew Beck to return a muffed kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. It was the first time a fullback had returned a punt for a score since, ironically, former Jacksonville player Derrick Wimbush pulled it off in 2005.

If the Jaguars are to pull out of their rut, their young core of offensive stars will need to play better. And that starts with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has just one touchdown pass in the last two games.

Travis Etienne (284 total yards, TD) has been an all-purpose threat out of the backfield. Tight end Evan Engram has been terrific and leads the Jaguars in receptions (18) and yards (tied with Christian Kirk with 173).

But wideouts Kirk and Calvin Ridley need to do more in the passing game. Kirk did have four receptions for 54 yards and a score in last week's loss. But Ridley dropped two passes in the end zone and was flagged twice for false starts.

Jacksonville's defense also allowed rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud to pass for 280 yards and two scores, which helped the first-year quarterback along with head coach DeMeco Ryans earn their first NFL wins in their respective roles.

"We need to coach better. We need to play better. We need to execute better," Jacksonville head coach Doug Pederson said. "We need to evaluate ourselves, beginning with me. We have to figure out how to win a game."

Like Jacksonville, Atlanta (2-1) struggled to move the ball in last week's 20-6 loss to the Detroit Lions. It also failed to protect quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was sacked seven times.

The Falcons' rushing attack, which was one of the league's best through two games, was limited to just 44 yards. Rookie Bijan Robinson, who ranked second in the NFL in rushing entering last week's game, had only 33 yards on 10 carries.

The Falcons are built on running the ball and when they fail to do so effectively, it puts a lot of pressure on the second-year Ridder to make plays through the air.

Atlanta has still yet to figure out how to get tight end Kyle Pitts and wideout Drake London going in the passing attack. Pitts has nine catches for 100 yards through three games, while London has only eight receptions for 98 yards and a score.

"It's not for a lack of trying, but we've got to hit some more explosives," head coach Arthur Smith said.

The Falcons have been solid defensively, but the unit took a hit when starting linebacker Troy Anderson was placed on the injured reserve list due to a pectoral injury. Linebacker Andre Smith was signed to the 53-man roster to help fill the loss of Anderson.

Two Atlanta players were limited at Wednesday's practice -- running back Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) and wideout Josh Ali (ankle).

The Jaguars sat both wide receiver Zay Jones (who missed Week 3 with a knee injury) and linebacker Devin Lloyd (thumb) during Wednesday's practice, with five others doing limited work: linebacker Josh Allen (shoulder), safeties Andrew Wingard (shoulder) and Antonio Johnson (hamstring), tackle Anton Harrison (ankle) and defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi (shoulder).

Lloyd will miss both London games after undergoing surgery Wednesday. Pederson called Jones a longshot to play Sunday, but the WR will make the trip with a chance to return in Week 5, also in London.

--Field Level Media

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