CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A costly fumble by quarterback Gardner Minshew II late in the fourth quarter cost the Jacksonville Jaguars a chance to beat the Carolina Panthers, but the Jaguars’ inability to stop the Panthers’ ground game was the main reason for Jacksonville’s 34-27 loss at Bank of America Stadium.
Christian McCaffrey had 237 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns, including an 84-yard touchdown run, and the Panthers totaled 285 yards on the ground. It wasn’t like the Panthers disguised what they wanted to do, either: McCaffrey entered the game as the league’s leader in rushing and yards from scrimmage.
The Jaguars’ defensive front got shoved around, and there were huge holes on the ground for McCaffrey (176 yards, 2 TDs) and Reggie Bonnafon, who also ran for 80 yards (including a 59-yarder for a TD). Neither back was touched on their long TD runs.
Promising trend: D.J. Chark has become a legitimate star, and the second-year receiver might belong in the conversation when it comes to the top five receivers in the NFL. Chark struggled as a rookie, catching just 14 passes for 174 yards and making an impact only on special teams because he was still trying to figure out what to expect in the NFL. He also had to learn all three receiver positions and was never quite sure when he’d get on the field. Chark surpassed his rookie yardage total in Week 2 and his rookie catch total in Week 3 and had the best game of his career against the Panthers: six catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He now has five receiving TDs, tied for the second-most in Jaguars history through the first five games of the season.
Troubling trend: The Jaguars didn’t get the run game cranked up until the second half for the second week in a row. The Jaguars ran for 190 yards in the second half of their victory in Denver and had 114 yards against the Panthers. The offensive line’s struggles have been an issue all season, and coach Doug Marrone said the unit wasn’t giving Leonard Fournette a chance. That was the case in the first half against Carolina, too, with Fournette managing only 35 yards on 15 carries. He had 73 yards in the second half.
Pivotal play: Minshew was driving the Jaguars for a potential game-tying or -winning touchdown when he got hit from behind by Brian Burns and fumbled. Minshew was dodging around in the pocket and managed to get out of traffic, but Burns closed quickly and knocked the ball away, and the Panthers took over with 1:53 to play. That was Minshew’s second fumble of the day. The other got returned for a TD, as Panthers linebacker Mario Addison put Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell on skates and drove him back into Minshew, causing a fumble that Burns returned 56 yards for a TD early in the second quarter.