JACKSONVILLE, Florida – What was supposed to be a triumphant and history-making night for the Jacksonville Jaguars took a shocking turn for the worse when star quarterback Trevor Lawrence gruesomely injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Jaguars Were Poised for Greatness in a Pivotal Primetime Matchup
Heading into Monday night’s high-profile home game on national television, spirits were sky-high for the franchise and its long-suffering fanbase. At 8-4 on the season and atop the AFC South division, the Jaguars had a golden opportunity against the 6-6 Bengals to bolster their position for the AFC’s #1 playoff seed. It would have been their first Monday Night Football victory in Jacksonville in over 12 years.
But in a flash, the game and the trajectory of the Jaguars’ Cinderella season changed entirely.
Lawrence Goes Down With Alarming Ankle Injury Caused By Teammate
Midway through the tense fourth quarter with the game knotted at 28-28, quarterback Trevor Lawrence dropped back for a passing play but was quickly under duress. As he scrambled and attempted to reset, left tackle Walker Little collided feet-first into Lawrence’s lower right leg in a gruesome incident.
Replays showed Little inadvertently twisting Lawrence’s ankle at an alarming angle as the quarterback howled in pain, slamming his fists to the turf before flinging his helmet off in frustration. He had to be helped gingerly off the field by Jaguars staff, unable to put any weight on his right foot.
The sight left Jaguars fans and players alike stunned and despondent. Before the injury, Lawrence had spearheaded Jacksonville’s success by throwing for 25 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions.
Jaguars Now Face Uncertainty At Quarterback Heading Towards Playoffs
While the actual severity of Lawrence’s ankle ailment remains unknown, it undoubtedly jeopardizes his availability for the stretch run. Jacksonville will likely have to rely on seldom-used backup C.J. Beathard if Lawrence misses extended time.
Beathard valiantly led the Jaguars into overtime against Cincinnati, but the team clearly lacked its usual spark. A 40-yard field goal by Bengals kicker Brandon McManus finally capped off the shocking 34-31 defeat.
The loss also damages Jacksonville’s position atop the AFC. They now trail the Dolphins and Ravens for the conference’s top seed and still have daunting matchups ahead against Cleveland and Baltimore over the next two weeks.
Jaguars Aren’t Alone In Seeing Season Upended By Freak QB Injuries
Painfully, Jacksonville now joins a growing list of playoff contenders waylaid by devastating quarterback injuries this season. Joe Burrow’s dislocated throwing hand forced the Bengals to start backup Jake Browning versus the Jaguars, though he performed admirably to spur the upset.
Other top signal-callers like Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson, Daniel Jones and Anthony Richardson have all seen their seasons abruptly conclude due to various ailments. Justin Fields, Kenny Pickett, Derek Carr, and Kirk Cousins have also recently gone down or played through nagging issues.
Fortunately for the Vikings, they’ve managed to weather Cousins’ absence thanks to the surprise play of new starter Josh Dobbs. The Jaguars can only hope they’ll find similar success from Beathard or newly elevated backups should Lawrence require surgery or miss the remainder of the year.
Jaguars Remain Hopeful Lawrence Can Return Before Playoffs
Barring the worst-case scenario of a season-ending fracture or severe ligament/tendon damage, Jacksonville faithful are wishing for Lawrence to only miss a few games. That would provide him a chance to gear up for an anticipated playoff berth.
The next two contests pose the biggest challenge without their offensive leader under center. But Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson has plenty of experience navigating adversity, having led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win with backup QB Nick Foles.
Jacksonville also boasts Playmakers Like Travis Etienne, Christian Kirk, and Josh Allen
While the Jaguars will unquestionably miss Lawrence’s prolific production, Pederson schemes can still generate points by feeding explosive running back Travis Etienne and giving speedy receiver Christian Kirk opportunities in space. Emerging rookie pass-catchers like Zay Jones and Evan Engram must also elevate their games.
On defense, versatile edge rusher Josh Allen and feisty cornerback Tyson Campbell headline a young, aggressive unit that should still be able to keep games close. Rookie linebackers Devin Lloyd and Chad Muma will be tasked with filling gaps and making key stops.
Wild AFC Playoff Race Still Up For Grabs Heading Into Final Stretch
Assuming Lawrence makes it back in December, the AFC South and a playoff spot remain in reach even with potential upcoming losses. Surprising squads like the Jets, Patriots, and Chargers are all still firmly in the mix for Wild Card spots behind juggernauts Kansas City, Buffalo and Cincinnati.
With so much volatility and uncertainty swirling this season, one thing is for sure – expect the unexpected. If third-string quarterbacks like Tyson Bagent and Tommy DeVito can engineer upsets, the Jaguars have a fighter’s chance no matter who lines up under center. The next few weeks will define a franchise looking to break a woeful playoff drought dating back to 2017.
Jaguars fans best have their rally towels ready – they’re in for a bumpy ride.