Lawrence stopped short of goal line; Jags miss playoffs with loss to Titans
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence called his own number on fourth-and-goal at the 1, stretching the ball out with the right arm that had him questionable for a game the Jacksonville Jaguars had to win to reach the playoffs for a second straight season.
Tennessee stopped him short with 7:13 left. With one final chance, Lawrence couldn't pick up a first down before turning the ball over on downs again with 1:47 left as the Tennessee Titans eliminated the Jaguars 28-20 Sunday in their regular-season finale.
Lawrence defended his decision to change to a play he's scored on previously near the goal line.
“They trust me with those things, and it didn’t work,” Lawrence said. "I’ve got to take accountability for that and, at the end of the day, that’s on me if I decide to do it and don’t get in. It’s one of those plays where, if you do it, you better score and I didn’t. It’s unfortunate.”
The Jaguars (9-8) missed a chance at their first back-to-back AFC South titles since 1998 and 1999. Their loss makes Houston the division champs, costing the Jaguars their only way into the postseason after Pittsburgh also won Saturday.
Jacksonville controlled its fate starting 8-3 only to finish losing five of six. Lawrence, who returned after missing last week with a sprained shoulder, was intercepted twice. The Jaguars also turned the ball over on downs three times — twice when it mattered most.
Lawrence tried to rally the Jaguars from a 15-point deficit with a 14-yard TD pass to Evan Engram at the start of the fourth quarter.
Jaguars coach Doug Pederson passed up a field goal on that key fourth-and-goal, wanting a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie it up. He called it “unfortunate” being a couple of inches away.
“Obviously, he had success in the past on it, just came up inches short,” Pederson said of Lawrence switching the fourth down play. “But you can’t fault him for trying to make a play.”
The Titans, with the NFL's stingiest defense inside their 20, stopped Lawrence about a foot short as he tried to reach the ball across the goal line.
“Told them at halftime, ‘Guys, you’re the best red zone defense in the league, and we’re going to need a stop to win the game,’” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said. “And that’s what they did.”
Once the Jaguars got the ball back with 2:18 remaining and no timeouts, Lawrence scrambled on first down. His deep pass went off Calvin Ridley's fingertips, then Lawrence threw incomplete on the next two downs with the last one nowhere close to Engram.
The Jaguars tight end finished with 10 catches for 79 yards, giving him 114 receptions this season for the second most by a tight end in NFL history.
“I’m lost for words, honestly,” Engram said.
Tennessee's win makes the Texans the AFC South champs and the No. 4 seed, who will host No. 5 seed Cleveland in the wild-card round. Pittsburgh and Buffalo, who visits Miami in the final game of the regular season on Sunday night, both clinched playoff berths with Jacksonville eliminated.
Pittsburgh now needs Miami to beat Buffalo to clinch the No. 6 seed, though the Steelers would be the seventh seed with a Bills’ win. Some Steelers fans waved Terrible Towels at Nissan Stadium, cheering as the Titans helped their team reach the playoffs.
Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen called this disappointing in a series where Jacksonville had won three straight.
“Nobody came here and expected us to lose, obviously,” Allen said.
Derrick Henry ran for a season-high 153 yards and a touchdown even with the Jaguars putting eight and nine defenders close to the line. That helped the Titans (6-11) finish on a winning note after they had been eliminated from playoff contention earlier than at any prior point in Vrabel’s six-season tenure.
This win snapped a three-game skid and also gave them a measure of revenge after the Jaguars kept the Titans from a third straight AFC South title in last season's finale.
Henry, fresh off being voted to his fourth Pro Bowl, got a huge ovation when introduced last. He turned 30 on Thursday, and this is his last game under contract. The two-time NFL rushing champ put on a show. Henry ran for an 18-yard touchdown to put Tennessee up 7-3 early.
Henry broke off a 69-yard run on the first drive of the third, setting up Tannehill's 6-yard TD pass to DeAndre Hopkins for a 28-13 lead. Tannehill also started his last game under contract with rookie Will Levis sidelined by an injured right foot.
“This is a great way to go out, especially against a division opponent, an opponent that I grew down the street watching and looking at and following as a kid growing up," Henry said. "So it’s all full circle, which is great to be able to finish with the win and finish with class.”
Tennessee came in with only four interceptions all season. The Titans ended consecutive drives in the second quarter to help them take a 21-13 lead into halftime.
Safety Terrell Edmunds got his hands under a ball dropped by Engram for the Titans' fifth interception this season. Tyjae Spears finished the short drive with a 3-yard TD run for a 21-10 lead late in the second. Lawrence overthrew Zay Jones on the next drive, and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting got the pick.
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