Jaguars' 6-game losing streak puts them in contention again for No. 1 overall pick

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malcom Bryan (90) makes a sack on Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) during early second quarter action. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida Sunday, December 19, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Malcom Bryan (90) makes a sack on Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills (10) during early second quarter action. The Jacksonville Jaguars hosted the Houston Texans at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida Sunday, December 19, 2021. [Bob Self/Florida Times-Union]

The Jaguars are back in the same spot as last year, at the bottom of the standings but taking over the top spot for the No. 1 overall pick with three games remaining in the regular season.

And their chances to hold onto the spot appear to be good considering Sunday the Jaguars were routed 30-16 at home by a Houston Texans team that had lost 11 of their past 12 games and was surrendering 27 points a game.

It was the Jaguars' eighth consecutive loss to the Texans, a streak that dates back to the 2018 season.

If they couldn't beat the Texans, how can they expect to beat the Jets, Patriots, or Colts to close out the season?

Nonetheless, the Jaguars are the frontrunner for the 2022 No. 1 overall pick because the hapless Detroit Lions upset the Arizona Cardinals 30-12.

The Jaguars' problem again Sunday was a lack of scoring touchdowns. Jacksonville had one touchdown drive; Houston had three.

For the sixth time in seven games, rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence failed to throw a touchdown pass. He completed 22-of-38 for 210 yards but other than a 10 play, 75-yard drive in the second quarter that ended on a 1-yard touchdown run by running back James Robinson, the Jaguars were forced to settle for three field goals of 38, 35, and 22 yards by kicker Matthew Wright.

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''Offensively just to get more and more consistent,'' Lawrence said. ''Like today I thought the first half was really good. We didn't come away with as many points as we would have liked. I thought we should have finished some of those drives, but we were moving the ball really consistently, and then the second half started out bad, then got a couple drives and then just didn't finish well. We had two opportunities at the end and didn't take advantage of them.''

Before the game, the Jaguars' players appeared to be spirited. Making his interim head coaching debut, Darrell Bevell was seen posing for pictures with his family before the game.

Yet, Bevell had the same frustrating glare after Sunday's game like Urban Meyer used to have before he was fired as head coach on Thursday.

The Jaguars' receivers, running backs and tight ends combined to drop five passes. On a fourth-down drive early in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars needed 12 yards for a first down at the Houston 17, but tight end James O'Shaughnessy caught a pass from Lawrence for a 7-yard gain that led to Wright's making a 35-yard field to cut the deficit to 23-16.

On the Jaguars' next two successive drives, Lawrence threw incompletions intended for wide receiver Laquon Treadwell on each of the third-down plays on the drives.

''When you get your opportunity to make a play, you've got to make your play,'' Bevell said. ''These guys are professionals, we talked about it before, and we have to catch the ball. That's your job. A receiver, his description is to receive, so he needs to catch the ball.''

The Texans scored on four of their first five drives, including touchdowns on their first two, to take a 20-10 halftime lead. The Texans' point total in the first half was the most they scored in four of their last five games.

The Texans had 11 players who tested positive for COVID-19, and they were without five offensive starters.

The Texans (3-11) entered the game allowing 27 points and 385 yards a game, the third-highest in the NFL in both categories. The Jaguars still have yet to score more than 23 points against an opponent this season.

Robinson had combined for 14 carries for 28 yards in the previous two games before Sunday. He regained his status as a featured tailback against the Texans, unlike when Meyer coached the team. Robinson had 56 yards on 12 carries, averaging 4.7 yards, in the first half before finishing with 75 yards on 18 carries.

Robinson got an injury late in the second quarter when his knee appeared to buckle. He sat out the final two plays in the first half before returning for the start of the third quarter and finishing the game.

Like throughout the season, the Jaguars couldn't get out of their own way, this time the most significant miscues occurred on special teams.

On Texans' opening drive, the Jaguars' defense forced a three-and-out. However, during the punt, defensive tackle Adam Gotsis was flagged for illegal use of hands, a 5-yard penalty that gave the Texans a first down in which they eventually scored on the drive.

Later in the first quarter, the Jaguars' players couldn't get off blocks and left an open seam for Houston's Tremon Smith to bolt for a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In the third quarter, Jaydon Mickens made a mistake of fielding the punt at the Jaguars 1, but made a 48-yard return.

However, defensive tackle Dawuane Smoot was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct because he bumped into the sideline judge while trying to celebrate with a teammate.

''We've still got to go tomorrow, watch this film, get better at it,'' said Jaguars defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who had his first sack of the season Sunday. ''There's a lot of stuff we've got to analyze. Tuesday brings another day of whatever, rejuvenate, get the body back right.''

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jaguars return to top spot for No. 1 pick after extending losing streak to 6 in a row