London eye-opener: Lawrence, Jags on rise after overseas low

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Trevor Lawrence boarded the eight-hour flight home, grabbed a seat near teammates, pulled out his tablet and pushed play.

He wasted no time painfully reliving every offensive snap from the Jaguars’ 21-17 loss to Denver at Wembley Stadium in London, an Oct. 30 game that essentially ended with Lawrence’s second interception of the day and his ninth turnover of the season.

Lawrence was frustrated and fed up. The Jaguars’ season was unraveling. They had just lost their fifth consecutive one-score game, and Lawrence had chances in several of those to rally his team — and failed.

The No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, a generational quarterback prospect who rarely lost in high school or college, found himself facing another season of adversity. He figured it was time to do something different.

“Obviously, it wasn’t a good day for me, and I really just felt like … I let the team down,” Lawrence recalled. “Should’ve won that game. I never forgot how I felt in that locker room because I never want to feel like this anymore.

“I’m going to start taking care of the ball. I just want to be the player that I know I can be, and I think that kind of flipped a switch in me.”

He’s been lights out since.

Lawrence has 15 touchdowns — 14 passing, one rushing — and just four turnovers in the six games that followed that London loss. He completed 70% of his passes for 1,680 yards in a span that saw Jacksonville win four times and chipped in 140 yards on the ground.

In short, he’s looked every bit like the guy the Jaguars (6-8) thought they were getting when the New York Jets won two of their final three games in the 2020 season and essentially handed Jacksonville the top draft spot.

Lawrence returns to New York for the second time in as many years when the Jets (7-7) host the Jaguars on Thursday night. This one features AFC playoff implications — and a much more polished and productive version of Lawrence.

“I have a little bit more of a chip on my shoulder now just because (of) the last year and a half,” he said. “I don’t really forget what’s been said and what people have written, and now you see people change their mind after a couple weeks, but I remember everything.

“I don’t use that necessarily as my only fuel, but I definitely use that.”

Lawrence certainly has been edgier in recent weeks. He was caught talking trash to Las Vegas linebacker Denzel Perryman in November and then waving goodbye to Tennessee fans in the waning minutes two weeks ago.

He was in a much different state of mind at the end of October, a winless month that receiver Zay Jones called “spooky.”

“You saw the dejection in him,” offensive coordinator Press Taylor said. “I remember him coming up and sitting next to me on the plane for a long time. We just had a long conversation about where we were.”

Lawrence returned to the facility the following day determined to make changes. He was focused on finding ways to stop dwelling on poor games and to bounce back from in-game errors. No more repeating mistakes. No more snowball effects. No more excuses.

“You don’t put on a smile and act like everything’s all right,” Lawrence said. “It’s not. Everybody’s (ticked) and frustrated, not at each other. There’s no pointing the finger, but we all understand and we’ve had that dialogue of what we need to do. Everybody knows what we need to do, and we’ve just got to go do it.”

They have, and Lawrence’s play has been instrumental in the team’s turnaround. Beating the Cowboys 40-34 on Sunday may have provided the best evidence of Lawrence’s makeover. After throwing an interception in the third quarter that Dallas turned into a 17-point lead, Lawrence responded with three consecutive touchdown drives.

And after he fumbled at the Dallas 38-yard line late in the fourth, defensive teammates found him on the sideline and vowed to give him another chance. They did, and Lawrence drove the Jaguars into position for Riley Patterson’s 48-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime.

“He found his groove, and this is the Trevor Lawrence that we knew we all had,” linebacker Josh Allen said. “It was never, ‘Oh, you got to do better.’ It was never like that. It was about getting it right.

“He’s going to continue to grow, and I think he’s going to get better than the performance he had (Sunday).”


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