JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — It’s been nearly 10 months since the Jacksonville Jaguars won at EverBank Field. It’s been a year since they enjoyed consecutive victories. It’s been even longer since they beat a West Coast team at home.
The Jaguars (3-2) hope to end all those futility streaks Sunday when they host the Los Angeles Rams (3-2) in a matchup of two of the NFL’s most surprising teams in 2017.
“We’ve gone up-down, up-down, so that’s kind of been what everybody’s talked about, the inconsistency or lack of consistency,” Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. “So we have to find a way to win two in a row and get it rolling from there.”
Jacksonville has tried and failed twice to back up huge wins this season. The Jags hammered Houston on the road in the season opener and then got thumped at home by Tennessee. They trounced Baltimore in London and then tumbled at the New York Jets in overtime. They responded with a victory at Pittsburgh, a thorough drubbing that gave the small-market franchise its best start in more than a decade, and served notice that coach Doug Marrone’s team is a legitimate playoff contender in the wide-open AFC South.
But the Jaguars know they need to turn their roller-coaster start into a much smoother ride to remain atop the division.
“It’s time, man. It’s time,” veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis said. “Consistency. That’s what we’re focused on: Winning two in a row.”
The next chance comes at home, where the Jaguars haven’t won since Christmas Eve. They’ve played one home game since, but they’ve dropped eight of nine at EverBank. They haven’t won back-to-back games since last October and haven’t defeated a team from the opposite coast since 2010. They have dropped four in a row against West Coast opponents, losing to San Diego three times and Oakland once by a combined score of 126-61.
Jacksonville is an NFL-worst 9-28 at home (not including five London games) since 2011.
“We have to play well at home, earn that right to have home-field advantage,” Marrone said. “I don’t think you put it on all the fans, you say, `Hey, listen, we need you to do this, we need you to do that.’ They’re coming out and they’re paying good money to see a good product on the field and seeing some wins.
“We have to do a better job of playing at home.”
The Rams have dropped eight of their last 10 games east of the Mississippi River.
But like the Jaguars, they have been better than expected this season. They’ve scored the second-most points in the league, behind only Kansas City, and have a young core of playmakers in quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley and receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
The Rams are unbeaten away from home, winning at San Francisco and Dallas, but will challenge their road readiness with an extended trip to Jacksonville and then London. Los Angeles will remain in Jacksonville for four days after the game before flying across the Atlantic Ocean to play a “home game” against NFC West foe Arizona at Twickenham Stadium.
“That is a challenge,” coach Sean McVay said. “Anytime that you kind of leave your families, it’s about making sure that we keep our focus and concentration. … I think our guys have done a good job of that and just making sure that when we do leave, while we can have fun at times, it’s about a business trip and we’ve got a mission to try to accomplish.”
Here are some other things to know about the Rams and Jaguars:
GURLEY’S STREAK: Gurley, who leads the NFL with seven touchdowns, has scored in each of his three games in Jacksonville, all as a Georgia star when the Bulldogs beat rival Florida in consecutive years (2012-13) at EverBank and lost to Nebraska in the 2014 TaxSlayer Bowl. Gurley excelled in all of those games, totaling 65 carries for 304 yards and two touchdowns, and 12 receptions for 207 yards and a score.
FOURNETTE’S STREAK: Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette has scored in each of the five games of his pro career, becoming the first to do so in franchise history and the fifth in NFL history. He leads the league in carries (109), ranks second in yards rushing (466) and has emerged as the team’s clear tone setter with his physical style.
FAMILIAR D: The Rams should at least be familiar with Jacksonville’s defensive scheme, a 4-3 under that was copied from Seattle. Los Angeles already played San Francisco and the Seahawks, two of the teams employing that defense. Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers also primarily play a 4-3 under.