JACKSONVILLE - The Jaguars started slowly again Thursday - this time in prime time.
And this time, they couldn't rally.
With quarterback Gardner Minshew II struggling for the first time this season, and with the defense allowing touchdowns on the first three possessions, the Jaguars trailed early for a third consecutive game to start the 2020 season - and this time the start led to a 31-13 loss to the Miami Dolphins. "There are times we get the ball moving, then something just kills the drive," Minshew said. "There are things we've done in these three weeks that have been really good. There are things we've done that are kind of killing us. So we're going to take this break to look back, evaluate, and move forward."
The Jaguars' loss in front of 16,563 at TIAA Bank Field was their second in as many games, having lost at Tennessee four days before. The Dolphins are now 1-2.
Minshew, after throwing three touchdown passes in each of the first two games, completed 30 of 42 passes for 274 yards and no touchdowns with one interception Thursday. The Jaguars played without Pro Bowl wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., ruled out early in the day with a chest/back injury.
The Jaguars had rallied from four deficits to beat Indianapolis in Week 1 and they rallied from three 14-point deficits to tie Tennessee in the fourth quarter of a Week 2 loss. They trailed 14-0 early Thursday, but never got closer than seven after the second quarter. "It is a little rougher because of the quick turnaround after a loss," Jaguars middle linebacker Joe Schobert said. "You want to get back in the win column and we weren't able to do that."
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who registered a sixth career victory over the Jaguars with a sixth different team, was efficient from the start. He completed his first 12 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns, completing 18 of 20 passes on the night for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Jaguars rookie running back James Robinson rushed for 46 yards on 11 carries and caught six passes for 83 yards. His 11-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was his second touchdown in as many games and cut the Dolphins' lead to 14-7.
But the Dolphins, who had scored on their first two drives, responded with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to tight end Mike Gesicki. That was their third touchdown in as many series in a dominant first half that set the tone for the game.
The Jaguars' defense registered one sack - in the fourth quarter by defensive end Josh Allen - and no turnovers. It was their second consecutive game without a takeaway after winning the statistic 2-0 in a Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. They have three sacks in three games this season.
*Step by step: *
*The Jaguars' trend of slow defensive starts continued Thursday, with Miami driving 84 yards easily for a 7-0 lead - a possession Fitzpatrick ended with a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Preston Williams. The touchdown came on the only third down of the series and marked the third consecutive game to start the season the Jaguars' defense has allowed a touchdown on the game's opening drive. The Dolphins then drove 75 yards on their second drive to take a 14-0 lead on running back Jordan Howard's one-yard run with 2:37 remaining in the first quarter; back-to-back runs of 17 and 29 yards by Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Jakeem Grant set up the touchdown.
*The Jaguars cut the lead to seven to start the second quarter, with Robinson's 11-yard touchdown capping a 75-yard drive with 13:04 remaining in the quarter; the Jaguars converted two third downs on the drive with Minshew passing 16 yards to wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and 11 yards to wide receiver Keelan Cole. The Dolphins scored on their third possession to start the game on the ensuing series, with Fitzpatrick capping a 75-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Gesicki with 5:58 remaining in the second quarter giving Miami a 21-7 lead; Fitzpatrick was 11-of-11 passing at that point and Miami had 17 first downs.
*The Dolphins stretched and protected the lead in a third quarter with an anticlimactic feel, as the Jaguars couldn't cut into the lead early before giving the Dolphins a short field to extend it. Dolphins linebacker Kyle Van Noy sacked Minshew to force a fumble that he recovered at the Jaguars 8. Fitzpatrick's one-yard run capped the next series with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter to push the lead to 28-7.
*Robinson's one-yard run with 9:03 remaining in the fourth quarter cut the lead to 28-13, but rookie kicker Brandon Wright - playing his first NFL game for injured kicker Josh Lambo - missed wide left to keep the deficit at 15 points. Dolphins kicker James Sanders' 30-yard field goal with 3:49 remaining made it 31-13, Dolphins.
*Notable: *Jaguars left tackle Cam Robinson was ejected late in the third quarter for contact with an official. ... Chark Jr. (back/chest) and starting center Brandon Linder (knee) were deactivated 90 minutes before kickoff; rookie quarterback Jake Luton, rookie cornerback Luq Barcoo, rookie cornerback Josiah Scott and rookie defensive tackle Doug Costin also were inactive. ... Fourth-year wide receiver Dede Westbrook was active Thursday after being a healthy scratch in the first two games. ... The Jaguars activated offensive lineman K.C. McDermott from the practice squad Thursday. ...
*Injury report: *Jaguars strongside linebacker Leon Jacobs sustained a knee injury in the first quarter and left the field on a cart; he did not return. ... Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard sustained a core muscle injury in the second quarter and did not return. ... Wright sustained a groin injury late in the game. ... Cole was evaluated for a concussion in the fourth quarter.
*What's next: *The Jaguars will play the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m.