Struggling Eagles, Jaguars try to save seasons in London
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — This was supposed to be a potential Super Bowl preview abroad.
The defending champion Philadelphia Eagles against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the AFC runner-up.
Instead, they went to London looking to save their seasons.
Both teams are 3-4 and desperate for a victory. The Eagles blew a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter last week at home in a loss to Carolina. The Jaguars have lost three in a row and four of five.
"We're losing games by just a couple of plays," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, pointing to the defense's failure to make stops on fourth downs on the losing drives against Tennessee and the Panthers. "It's coming down to two, three plays, and we're sitting here at 5-2 instead of 3-4. We're only talking about a couple of plays and this thing is different. I have so much confidence in this football team and coaching staff that we're going to get this fixed."
The Jaguars have much bigger issues.
There was conflict in the locker room following the latest loss in which quarterback Blake Bortles was benched. Bortles will start against the Eagles, and perhaps a players-only meeting and a trip out of the country will allow the guys to bond.
"We have a mature group of guys at each group to understand containment and say things aren't going to get out of hand," Jags safety Tashaun Gipson said. "We just know what we've got to do."
The Eagles are playing their first game in Wembley Stadium, while the Jaguars have made the trip for the sixth consecutive season; they play one home game in England annually.
"We've been over there a few times and we know how to handle it," defensive tackle Malik Jackson said.
Here are some things to know about the NFL's final game of its 2018 London series:
Former Cleveland running back Carlos Hyde will make his Jaguars debut, and the team expects him to bring a physical style to an offense that has lost its identity. The Jaguars are built to run the ball with Leonard Fournette, who will miss his sixth game because of a hamstring injury.
With Fournette's absences pilling up, the Jags traded a fifth-round draft pick to the Browns for Hyde last Friday. Hyde watched the loss to Houston, seeing clearly where he's needed.
"I run angry, downhill, smash-mouth," he said. "That's been my game ever since I started playing this game, so I think I'll fit in perfect here. ... If we can move the ball in the right direction and convert those third downs, keep the drives alive and give the defense a break, it would be helpful."
Carson Wentz has been excellent for the Eagles since returning in Week 3 following knee surgery that forced him to miss the playoffs. Wentz has 10 touchdowns, only one interception, and a career-high 70.8 completion percentage. But even though he was 30 of 37 against the Panthers, Wentz misfired on his final two passes in the red zone and got sacked on the last play.
"I know this: I want the ball in Carson's hands at the end of the game," Pederson said. "I want him having control of helping us win a football game, and then the guys doing their jobs."
The Jaguars spent considerable time in practice this week working on protecting and punching out the football, all part of coach Doug Marrone's plan to limit turnovers and force takeaways. Jacksonville is minus-12 in turnover differential, which ranks 31st in the league.
"We're not playing like we want to play or should play," Marrone said. "We have to get out there with a lot of enthusiasm."
SPREADING IT AROUND
Wentz is throwing most of his passes to tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. They have caught 31 passes in the past two games. Everyone else has combined for 25 receptions.
"When everyone is touching the ball they're able to play with more confidence," Ertz said.
Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett had to adjust to a new role after the Eagles acquired him from Seattle, but he'll get more playing time because of season-ending injury to Derek Barnett.
Barnett had three sacks in the past four games. Rookie Josh Sweat should also see action off the bench.
AP Sports Writer Mark Long contributed to this story.
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