NFL London: Jacksonville Jaguars beat Miami Dolphins 23-20 in thriller
Trevor Lawrence celebrated the first win of what could be a glittering NFL career after the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Miami Dolphins in a thrilling finish in London.
Lawrence was the number one pick in this year’s draft after being hailed as the best quarterback of his generation, but the Jaguars came into the game with an 0-5 record.
And they twice had to come from behind, levelling it up at 20-20 with a 54-yard field goal with 3:45 on the clock.
A crowd of 60,784 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium looked set to be treated to overtime, with the Jaguars on fourth and eight with five seconds left.
But they ran the play, made first down, called a timeout with one second left and Matthew Wright kicked another field goal – this time from 53 yards – to clinch a vital victory.
With Jacksonville’s previous win having come in 2020’s season opener, it halted a 20-game losing streak, which was the second longest in the Super Bowl era.
It also gave under-pressure coach Urban Meyer his first NFL win after Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said he had to “regain our trust and respect” after “inexcusable” conduct in videos that went viral earlier this month.
Lawrence has been tipped to become an NFL star since the age of 14, yet it was a man who was working as a software engineer a few weeks ago that secured a win both Lawrence and Meyer said they will never forget.
Wright had only had four field-goal attempts in the NFL before the 25-year-old was signed to Jacksonville’s practice squad on 27 September.
Asked what he said to Wright as they celebrated the victory, Lawrence replied: “I just said ‘way to be ready, man’. You couldn’t even make it up.”
While Wright produced the late heroics, Lawrence completed 25 of 41 passes for 319 yards, the most the 22-year-old has managed in his fledgling career.
Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa, who returned from three weeks out with cracked ribs, had 324 yards including two touchdown passes to Jaylen Waddle, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Dolphins slipping to 1-5 having failed to win since the season opener.
Young stars shine in arguably best London game yet
This was the 30th regular-season game in London since the NFL’s international series began in 2007, and it was arguably the best yet.
Lawrence and Tagovailoa both needed a win for different reasons and the young quarterbacks showed maturity which belied their tender years, especially in that gripping finale.
Miami were unlucky to miss out on last season’s play-offs after going 10-6, a record that was founded on their defence as Tagovailoa, 23, had an underwhelming rookie season.
After his latest injury absence, there are concerns over his durability as well as whether he can be the franchise quarterback for Miami.
But the left-hander, the number five draft pick in 2020, showed impressive leadership on the game’s opening drive, which lasted for more than seven minutes and 75 yards, culminating with a six-yard pass to Waddle.
Two field goals helped them into a 13-3 lead before Lawrence managed to get the Jacksonville offence going with touchdowns either side of half-time.
Lawrence delivered a looping 28-yard pass for Marvin Jones to grab as he fell back in the endzone and, after the restart, a 29-yard throw to Jamal Agnew was followed by a 24-yard run down the middle by James Robinson, who punched it in from a yard on the next play.
Miami had a fumble recovery after sacking Lawrence late in the third quarter, only for Tagovailoa to throw an interception right after, but the Hawaiian made amends on the Dolphins’ next drive, finding his former Alabama team-mate Waddle to cap a 91-yard drive.
Still Jacksonville kept grinding, and Wright levelled with his first kick before a crucial play with just under two minutes left.
The Dolphins ran it on fourth and one, only to come up inches short so had to turn it over on downs. And the Jaguars managed the clock perfectly to win it.
Miami sacked Lawrence with 20 seconds left, leaving the Jaguars facing third and 20, but Lawrence held his nerve. The rookie made successive passes to Laviska Shenault, with Meyer calling timeouts after each to stop the clock and present Wright with the chance to become an unlikely hero.
“We were desperate for a win,” said Meyer. “There were a lot of things to fix.
“But you saw a young quarterback make a big-time play at the biggest time of the game, and then a young kicker that we just signed a couple weeks ago pop two 50-plus yarders, so it was a great win.”