Tuesday, May 30 2023

The Jaguars‘ Week 10 loss to the Chiefs encapsulated everything Jacksonville was early in the season: a team that could look good — at times, really good — but also one that couldn’t consistently finish or execute. 

In the first half of the 27-17 loss, the Jaguars were plus-3 in the turnover battle and reached plus territory five times. Those are typically numbers of a winning team. Yet, they came away with just seven points and trailed by two scores entering the third quarter. 

Jacksonville’s offense punted after a successful onside kick to start the game. Then it punted after a red-zone takeaway. Then kicker Riley Patterson missed a 51-yard field goal. Then the Jaguars got another special teams takeaway in the closing seconds of the first half, only for Patterson to miss a second field goal. 

The Jaguars of January? They know how to finish. They’ve learned how to consistently tackle obstacles within games. The experience of six losses by one possession this season has been one of their greatest teachers.

“The positive is that we have dug ourselves out of those holes and we’ve been able to kind of hang in there and keep chipping away,” coach Doug Pederson said Monday. 

Jaguars shock Chargers by erasing 27-0 deficit

Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars came back from 27 points down to beat the Chargers 31-30 on Saturday. Shannon Sharpe explains why this game was more about the Chargers than the Jags.

Jacksonville pulled off the miraculous Saturday, overcoming a 27-0 deficit and five turnovers in the first half of its wild-card game against the Chargers to pull off the third-largest comeback victory in NFL playoff history. A week earlier, the Jaguars beat the Titans for the AFC South title with a sack fumble for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, which gave them their first lead of the game. In Week 15, they beat the Cowboys in overtime with a pick-six. 

Over and over again late in the season, with mounting stakes, we’ve seen the Jaguars rise to the occasion.

It’s why this time around, they’ll be a much tougher out for Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs in Saturday’s divisional-round game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (4:30 p.m. ET).

“This team had to learn that,” Pederson said of finishing. “I think a year ago, maybe [this team] only played for two quarters or two and a half. This year, you’re seeing it more and more where we get behind in football games and they keep battling, and they’re right there in the end and put themselves in a position [to win].” 

Other thoughts across the AFC South: 

Sean Payton’s interest in Texans is real

On Monday, FOX NFL analyst and former Saints coach Sean Payton addressed head-coach openings on “The Herd,” including his interest in the Texans. 

The Super Bowl-winning coach said he’d “absolutely” consider the Houston job. He noted that he already has some familiarity with general manager Nick Caserio and the McNair family, which owns the Texans, through joint practices his New Orleans teams had with Houston and New England (while Caserio worked there).

Payton interviewed with the Texans later Monday. 

“They’ve got really good draft capital,” Payton told host Colin Cowherd. “I think there’s growth potential immediately there from the [three] wins that they had this year.”

Sean Payton addresses head-coaching options

Sean Payton joins Colin Cowherd to address NFL head-coaching vacancies as he begins interviewing with various teams, including the Broncos, Texans and Panthers.

Payton’s on-the-record comments should come as thrilling news for the Texans. There has been reason to question the attractiveness of their coaching job in spite of their draft capital and cap-space flexibility — they’ve had back-to-back one-and-done coaches, for instance — and here you have one of the best available candidates speaking highly of their opening. 

In the end, Houston could be one of the teams that is most competitive for Payton’s services — and not just because the ex-Saints coach is a fan. 

Since he’s still under contract with the Saints, the team that wants him must compensate New Orleans. Payton estimated that the Saints would want a mid to late first-round pick. The Texans have four first-round picks in the next two drafts (two additional — one this year, one next year — from the Deshaun Watson trade). There’s not a head coach-needy team better positioned than Houston to grab him and still have the premium assets to build an impressive young core.   

Colts have a long list of HC candidates. What does it mean? 

The Colts have eight confirmed candidates for their head-coach opening: interim coach Jeff Saturday, in-house special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, Broncos DC Eji Evero, Lions DC Aaron Glenn, Lions OC Ben Johnson, Rams DC Raheem Morris and Eagles OC Shane Steichen. Three others are also in the mix: Giants OC Mike Kafka, Giants DC Wink Martindale and Niners DC DeMeco Ryans.

The long list means that general manager Chris Ballard is committed to putting as many qualified candidates as possible in front of owner Jim Irsay, who will make the final call. Last week, Ballard noted how he learned from Indianapolis’ previous coaching search in 2018 that you can’t start with the end in mind during the process. 

There’s a perception among many NFL observers that Saturday is in the lead for the job, considering Irsay’s strong affinity toward him. In an interview with ESPN that aired earlier this month, the Colts owner said Saturday is an “outstanding” candidate and will be competitive for the job despite the team’s struggles under his stewardship. 

Ballard’s approach is meant to combat any early fixation on one person. 

“I don’t care if it takes until mid-February to hire the head coach,” Ballard said. “It’s about getting it right.”

Titans lose Monti Ossenfort to Cardinals

The Cardinals hired Titans director of player personnel Conti Ossenfort to be their general manager, the team announced Monday. Ossenfort, who had interviewed for Tennessee’s own GM opening last week, spent three seasons in Nashville after 15 years in the Patriots scouting department. 

While losing Ossenfort is a blow to the Titans’ front office, the franchise is still in great position as its general manager search continues. It’s now the only team with a GM opening, giving it great leverage. 

Apart from Ossenfort, the Titans have completed interviews with five other candidates: in-house interim GM and vice president of player personnel Ryan Cowden, Bears assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, Cardinals vice president of player personnel Quentin Harris, Browns assistant GM/vice president of player personnel Glenn Cook and 49ers director of player personnel Ran Carthon.

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for SeattlePI.com for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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