September woes: Jacksonville Jaguars have to start finding success in season's first month

LANDOVER, Md. -- Championships aren't won in the first month of the NFL season, but sometimes it's easy to make a good guess about which teams are headed for a top-10 draft pick instead.

That has pretty much been the Jacksonville Jaguars over the past decade.

No team has had fewer victories (10) in September since the 2012 season began than the Jaguars -- and after Sunday’s 28-22 loss at the Washington Commanders there doesn't appear to be a favorable path for them to add to that total.

Not with matchups against the Indianapolis Colts (0-0-1) and the Los Angeles Chargers (1-0) to round out the month. Especially if the Jaguars continue to hurt themselves the way they did against the Commanders: a dropped touchdown pass, an overthrown would-be TD pass, 13 penalties, 3-for-12 on third down and just one touchdown on three red zone trips.

But if this franchise is going to ever drag itself out of the NFL's cellar, the team is going to have to start playing better in September.

"I don't focus on the end result," Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said when asked about the importance of starting the season strong. "I focus on the process and the journey, and if you take care of the small things, those big things will take care of themselves, and that's the final score.

"... I don't focus on necessarily wins and losses. You just hope at the end of the day you have more points than they do. But it's a process to get there."

The process did not get off to a good start against the Commanders. The Jaguars trailed 14-3 at the half after back-to-back possessions in the second quarter that saw Travis Etienne Jr. drop a touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence on fourth down, then Riley Patterson bang a 37-yard field goal attempt off the right upright.

They did rally to take a 22-14 lead, but Carson Wentz led the Commanders on a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown drives. The Jaguars walked out of FedEx Field with their 18th consecutive road loss and 17th consecutive loss to an NFC team.

"We shot ourselves in the foot a lot," Lawrence said. "There's a lot of things that we control that we didn't do a great job of controlling. We have to play smarter all the way around."

And quickly.

This week the Jaguars play host to a Colts team that has lost its last seven games in Jacksonville -- but this time they'll be facing a quarterback they've never beaten: Matt Ryan is 4-0 against the Jaguars. After that game, they take a trip to Los Angeles to play the Chargers on Sept. 25. The Jaguars are 3-15 all-time in games played in the Pacific time zone, with all the victories coming in Oakland.

The regular season extends into early January, so a poor September isn't a killer, but finding a way to beat the Colts and Chargers would be a sign that the franchise is at least making progress. Especially if the Jaguars clean up some of the issues from the opener, the offensive line protects better and Lawrence learns when to take a sack instead of trying too hard to make a play.

Linebacker Josh Allen said there's too much talent on this team for them to continue to struggle the way it has since its last playoff appearance in 2017. The addition of receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones, tight end Evan Engram, cornerback Darious Williams, right guard Brandon Scherff and linebackers Foyesade Oluokun, Travon Walker and Devin Lloyd make this team significantly better. Allen has seen it on the practice field for months and he's convinced it’s going to show up on the game field soon.

"This team is built to win," Allen said. "Like I don't care what we did, three, four [seasons ago], last year. I don't care about 2017. I don't care about none of that. This is a whole new team and I know the work we put it. We put in this work to win games and that's what we're going to continue to do. Unfortunately we took a loss. It's a part of the process. Trust the system, trust the process, continue to grow, continue to work.

"This team is built to win and we're going win. That's all I need to say. That's all I can say. And we all know that."

We'll really know when September ends.