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Joe Burrow, Bengals spoil Trevor Lawrence’s best game

After a 14-0 first half that saw Trevor Lawrence make multiple big plays, the Jacksonville Jaguars looked on the verge of a breakthrough for their rookie quarterback and head coach Urban Meyer on Thursday. 

Joe Burrow had other ideas.

The Cincinnati Bengals responded with two unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter to tie the game after getting booed off the field in a listless first half. They went on to score on every second-half possession en route to a 24-21 win capped by a late drive that set up a game-winning field goal by Evan McPherson as time expired.

Burrow finished the night completing 25 of 32 pass attempts for 348 yards with two big touchdowns to tight end C.J. Uzomah. Another late completion to Uzomah for 25 yards set McPherson up for his 35-yard game winner.

Unprecedented losing for Lawrence, Meyer

Lawrence easily played his best NFL game, but it wasn’t enough as Jacksonville dropped to 0-4, leaving the Jaguars rookie and Meyer seeking their first NFL wins. The loss marks the first four-game losing streak in Meyer’s career as a head coach. The four defeats double Lawrence’s loss total in three seasons at Clemson (34-2). They match his career loss total when considering his 52-2 high school record.

Lawrence didn’t throw a touchdown. He also didn’t turn the ball over after throwing multiple interceptions in each of his first three Jaguars games. The Jaguars set up their offense early behind running back James Robinson, who scored the game’s first touchdown and paced the Bengals offense as they tallied nine first downs in their first 19 plays.

Sep 30, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) throws a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Burrow outdueled his fellow No. 1 overall pick to send the Jaguars to 0-4. (Katie Stratman/Reuters)

Lawrence flashed big-play ability

The run game set Lawrence up for early success with his arm and his legs as the Bengals struggled to contain Jacksonville’s read option. After scoring 18 rushing touchdowns in three seasons at Clemson, Lawrence tallied his first NFL rushing touchdown on a read-option keeper to extend the Jaguars lead to 14-0 with 4:45 left in the first half. 

After a defensive stop, the Jaguars had a chance to post another score before halftime. That’s when Lawrence flashed the big arm that made him the NFL’s most coveted quarterback prospect in years. As the two-minute warning approached, Lawrence ran a play-action bootleg to his right an unleashed a 50-yard strike to Laviska Shenault Jr. that set Jacksonville up inside Cincinnati’s 15-yard line. 

First-half gamble costs Jags

But a Jaguars gamble backfired as the first half ran down. Jacksonville called for a Lawrence run on fourth-and-goal from the Bengals 1-yard line. Cincinnati’s defense stuffed Lawrence short of the goal line, and the Jaguars went into the half with a two-possession lead. 

The Bengals made them pay for the missed gamble with a dominant second half. After failing to score in the first half, the Bengals outscored the Jaguars 24-7 in the second half and outgained them in total yardage 420 yards to 341.

The first-half boos quickly turned into cheers as Cincinnati secured a 3-1 start that leaves them hoping for playoff contention.

For the Jaguars, things look considerably better after starting the season with three straight double-digit losses to the Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. Lawrence completed 17-of-24 passes for 204 yards without a turnover and added 36 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Robinson had his best game of the season with 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

But the moral victories won’t mean much for Meyer or Lawrence, who have never experienced anything resembling this kind of losing in their football careers. 

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