The Dallas Cowboys appeared to be on the verge of accomplishing something they hadn’t done in 15 years: making the playoffs in consecutive seasons. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars forced them to wait at least another week, thanks to their 40-34 overtime win.
The Jaguars trailed 27-10, before finishing the game with a 30-7 run. They sealed the win with their defense as Rayshawn Jenkins landed his second career interception off a deflected Dak Prescott pass, and he took it 52 yards for the game-ending touchdown. The game was incredibly clutch as the defense needed a stop to save their offense after going out three times at the start of overtime.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, compiled the signature game of his career thus far, recording a career-high four touchdowns in addition to 318 yards and an interception on 27-of-42 passes. On a 53-yard field goal by kicker Brett Maher that increased the Cowboys’ lead to 27–10, Lawrence threw a touchdown on three consecutive drives—a career-long 59-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Zay Jones, a 10-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Marvin Jones and another three-yard touchdown throw to Jones.
With the go-ahead passing touchdown to Zay Jones making the score 31-27, Lawrence became the first Jaguars player with a passing touchdown on three consecutive drives since Blake Bortles in 2015. Jones’ three receiving touchdowns set a new career high and surpassed his season total of two accumulated in the first 14 weeks of the season. Lawrence has now thrown 14 touchdowns and just one interception in his last six games dating back to Week 9, making him one of the most boxed quarterbacks in the entire NFL.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott almost played well enough to win despite the two interceptions. He threw for 256 yards and three scores, including a go-ahead 13-yard strike to wide receiver Noah Brown with just over three minutes left in the game that gave the Cowboys a 34–31 lead. On the next drive, Lawrence escaped the pressure and sprinted down the field inside the Cowboys ’40, but Dallas safety Jayron Kearse came in from behind to knock the football loose. Naturally, linebacker Micah Parsons jumped on top of the football and swung the game in the Cowboys’ favor.
However, the Jaguars defense came up with a giant three-and-out, giving Lawrence the ball back for one last chance trailing 34-31 with 1:13 left and one timeout of his own 29. Lawrence delivered off and led a seven-play drive that gained 41 yards to set up kicker Riley Patterson for the tying 48-yard field goal that forced overtime.
The Dallas defense did not come out of Jacksonville unscathed, losing linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to a neck injury and defensive lineman Dorrance Armstrong to a knee injury. Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn will have to put in one of the best coaching performances of his career to put the brakes on NFL MVP candidate and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in Week 16.
Why the Jaguars won
The Jaguars could have lost 27-10 to the Cowboys, the top wild card team in the NFC. No one would have blamed them. They are a team that has had the first overall draft pick in each of the last two drafts, and they are still building the team they hope to be. However, Lawrence turned it on and continued his top-five quarterback level of play that he has brought to the field in each of his last six games.
Staring at a three-scored hole and responding by throwing three consecutive touchdowns is All-Pro level play. After a tough rookie season, the Jaguars can now rely on having their franchise quarterback. Timely play by their defense should also not be overlooked. The two interceptions by Jenkins were huge, as his first created the opportunity for Lawrence’s three consecutive touchdown passes, and the second won the game. They also forced Dallas to go three-and-out after Lawrence fumbled at the end of regulation. That range gave their offense just enough time to get in range for the 48-yard field goal that forced overtime.
Why the Cowboys lost
This loss is much more on Prescott’s arm and the offense than the defense. Leading 27-17, Prescott made the costly mistake by throwing an interception within his own 20. Four plays later, Lawrence threw his second of three consecutive touchdowns, and the Jaguars trailed only 27–24.
Additionally, failing to score a single first after the defense stripped Lawrence during a scramble is glaring. Two first downs may have sealed the regulation win for Dallas, but it went three-and-out instead. The Jaguars proceeded to move the ball on a tired Cowboys defense and kicked the game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime.
Prescott’s protection nearly cost the Cowboys a week ago against the NFL’s worst team, the Houston Texans. In week 15 it happened. He has thrown 11 interceptions in his nine starts this year, a troubling trend that will surely doom them against the Eagles and further down the playoffs if not corrected.
Jaguar’s safety Rayshawn Jenkins’ first interception gave Jacksonville the life it needed. The Jaguars were able to begin offensive possession in Dallas territory shortly after Lawrence threw the longest touchdown pass of his career, 59 yards to Zay Jones. Four plays after Jenkins’ interception, Lawrence threw another touchdown to Marvin Jones, putting them within three points, 27–24. Game on.
Game of the game
The play of the game couldn’t be anything other than Jenkins’ game-winning, 52-yard pick-six. After the Jaguars offense couldn’t get going and was forced to punt, their defense was in a precarious place: give up a field goal and the game is over. However, Jenkins was again in the right place at the right time and showed great concentration to reel in a deflected pass and power up the jets to seal the come-from-behind victory.
Next week, the Cowboys return home to face the NFL-leading 13-1 Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Eve in a battle for NFC East supremacy. The Jaguars head to The Meadowlands to face the New York Jets, the team that picked former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson one spot after Lawrence finished first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.