JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The euphoria within the Jacksonville Jaguars' fan base at clinching the No. 1 draft pick isn’t going to subside any time soon.
And if Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence does enter the NFL draft after he completes his season and he turns out to be as good as everyone hopes and believes, it might last a long, long, long time.
A lot of things had to happen for the Jaguars to end up in this situation, and finishing with the worst record in the NFL is too simple an explanation. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of small moments that had an impact on that outcome, some dating back to January -- or even earlier. What transpired in the past two weeks, however, sealed the deal.
And while the Jaguars did their part with blowout losses to Baltimore and Chicago -- losing by a combined 81-31 -- they couldn't have done it without the New York Jets' victories over the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland. Eight players played key roles and provided some of those small moments that added up to have a huge impact.
Here are the guys to which Jaguars fans owe a hearty “Thank you!”
Jets P Braden Mann: Mann’s open-field tackle on Rams punt returner Nsimba Webster at the Jets’ 43-yard line prevented a touchdown and preserved the Jets’ 23-20 lead with 5:33 remaining in the fourth quarter in Week 15. "I just made a lucky adjustment and ended up putting my head in there and tripping him up," Mann told ESPN New York Jets reporter Rich Cimini.
Rams TE Tyler Higbee: Two plays after Mann’s tackle, Rams running back Cam Akers broke free up the middle for a 22-yard gain to the Jets’ 17-yard line. The play was called back, however, because Higbee was penalized for an illegal block above the waist.
Jets S Marcus Maye: Three plays after Higbee’s penalty, Rams QB Jared Goff threw deep to TE Gerald Everett on fourth-and-4 from the Jets’ 37. Maye had Everett one-on-one and was able to reach up with his right hand – after Everett gave him a small shove in the back of his right shoulder -- and knock the ball away. The Jets took over with 3:53 remaining.
Jets RB Frank Gore: The Rams never got the ball back because the 37-year-old Gore touched the ball on five consecutive plays, the last being a 6-yard catch on third-and-6 from the Rams’ 48 that took the game to the two-minute warning. The Rams had taken their final timeout before that third-down play, so QB Sam Darnold took a knee three times to run out the clock. Gore averaged just 2.6 yards per carry that day, but he gained 3, 8 and 4 yards on his first three carries of that game-clinching drive.
Jets LB Frankie Luvu and Jets DL Folorunso Fatukasi: Two plays after the Jets took a 7-3 lead on Sunday against the Browns on a trick play -- WR Jamison Crowder’s 43-yard TD pass to WR Braxton Berrios -- Luvu blitzed and knocked the ball out of Cleveland QB Baker Mayfield’s hand. Fatukasi caught the ball before it hit the ground and the Jets took over at the Cleveland 30. Four plays later, Darnold hooked up with TE Chris Herndon for an 11-yard touchdown. That increased the Jets’ lead to 13-3 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Jets S Matthias Farley: With the Jets clinging to a 23-16 lead, Mayfield drove the Browns to the New York 25-yard line with 1:38 to play. Two plays later, Browns WR Ja’Marcus Bradley got a step on Jets CB Bless Austin down the left sideline inside the 5-yard line. Mayfield fired the pass to Bradley, but Farley was able to get to the sideline in time to knock the ball out of Bradley’s hands, saving what would have been a first-and-goal for the Browns.
Browns QB Baker Mayfield: After hitting TE Austin Hooper for 9 yards the play after Farley’s pass breakup, Mayfield attempted a QB sneak on fourth-and-1 from the Jets’ 16-yard line. He ducked his head and pushed between center and left guard, but just as he was about to get the first down, he was hit in the back by LB Tarell Basham and the ball squirted loose off Mayfield’s right hip. Running back Kareem Hunt recovered it and dove to the 14-yard line -- but per NFL rules, any fumble inside of two minutes can only be advanced by the player who fumbled the ball. Since Mayfield didn’t recover the ball, it was ruled dead at the spot of the fumble. The Jets took over with 1:18 to play and ran out the clock for victory No. 2.