Jacksonville Jaguars are not where they want to be -- yet

KANSAS CITY – The Jacksonville Jaguars are not the pushover that they have been the last several seasons.

Their offense ranks in the top 10 in the NFL, they’re on pace to have a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver in the same season for just the second time since 2004, and all but one of their seven losses have been by one score or less.

But Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium proves they’re still not at the point where they can consistently compete with the NFL’s best teams. They’re able to beat one of those teams sporadically -- such as their 38-10 rout of the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in September -- but their margin for error is too small for them to be a legitimate factor in the loaded AFC.

“We’re not there yet,” receiver Christian Kirk said. “We can be. We have the guys. We have the belief. We have everything that’s here, but we’re just not there yet and it’s on us as leaders and the guys that are out there to make sure that we’re on point every time we step on the field.”

The Jaguars (3-7) recovered an onside kick, converted two fourth downs and forced three turnovers (without turning the ball over). These are all things an underdog would need to do to steal a victory on the road.

But they got no points off the onside kick recovery and two of the turnovers, they missed two field goals and they had a touchdown wiped out by an ineligible player downfield penalty on left tackle Cam Robinson. And they never got closer than 10 points in the second half.

“The missed opportunities [cost them the game],” head coach Doug Pederson said. “When you play great football teams -- and the Chiefs are one of those great football teams -- you've got to capitalize. I know they pride themselves on taking care of the football and when you can create those opportunities as a team, we have got to take advantage of that and we didn't do it.”

That has been the theme all season.

The Jaguars have failed to hold fourth-quarter leads in losses to the Washington Commanders, Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants and the Denver Broncos. They also were tied in the fourth quarter at home to the Houston Texans in a game they lost (which remains Houston’s only victory). Quarterback Trevor Lawrence has thrown two end-zone interceptions that likely cost the Jaguars games against the Texans and Broncos. Linebacker Travon Walker had an unnecessary roughness penalty that wiped out a long third down against the Texans and linebacker Foye Oluokun had a roughing the passer penalty that wiped out an interception against the Giants.

“I think it’s [important to start] developing that ability that when other teams give you the opportunity to capitalize on those things you’ve got to be able to capitalize on them,” Robinson said. “Just more than anything, playing complementary football. If the defense goes on the field and gets an interception we should be able to go take that field position and go right back down the field. Stuff like that.

“We’ve just got to do a better job of developing that. Ultimately that’s just the next step for this team.”

The rest of the schedule features plenty of development opportunities against four potential playoff teams: the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets and Tennessee Titans (twice). That’s five of their seven remaining games, with the other two against the Detroit Lions and a Texans team they haven’t beaten since 2017.

But if they don't stop floundering opportunities, the Jaguars could finish the season with double-digit losses for the 11th time in the last 12 seasons.

“We need to make those plays and keep that momentum and that's where we're at right now,” Lawrence said. “… Everybody believes in what we're doing. Everybody believes where we're heading. We know that. But it's just still frustrating when you feel like you're in these games and you don't make all the plays that you have to make to win.”