NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Travis Etienne ran for two touchdowns, Foyesade Oluokun returned an interception for a score, and Christian Kirk’s 44-yard touchdown after a short catch over the middle lifted the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 31-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence returned from a sprained knee that forced him out of the final minutes of a victory over Indianapolis on Sunday and wound up leading Jacksonville (5-2) with 59 yards rushing. He also completed 20 of 29 passes for 204 yards and one TD to help the Jags win their fourth straight and give Jacksonville its best start since opening 5-2 in 2007.
Kirk’s touchdown broke the tie with 3:08 left. The Saints (3-4) were in position to answer when they drove inside the Jacksonville 10 in the final minute, but stalled out with four straight incomplete passes.
A third-down pass bounced off of New Orleans native Foster Moreau’s hands in the back of the end zone and a fourth-down timing throw to Chris Olave along the left sideline fell incomplete, ending the comeback bid.
Jacksonville gave the Saints numerous chances to stay in the game, losing two fumbles in the first half and committing several untimely penalties throughout the game.
It almost came back to haunt them.
The Saints rallied from 24-9 down to tie the game on touchdowns by Taysom Hill on a 1-yard, fourth-down run and Michael Thomas on a 17-yard reception — the latter followed by Derek Carr’s pass to Alvin Kamara for a 2-point conversion.
Carr finished 33 of 55 for 301 yards, and New Orleans outgained Jacksonville 407 yards to 330, but the Saints again struggled to finish promising drives in the end zone after losing in a similar fashion in Week 6 at Houston.
After practicing on a limited basis this week and being listed as questionable, Lawrence completed five of his first six passes for 60 yards and even scrambled for 9 yards during a game-opening touchdown drive that ended with Etienne’s 2-yard run.
New Orleans’ first drive ended wit Blake Grupe’s missed 51-yard field goal. But the Saints got the ball right back when Kirk was stripped by cornerback Paulson Adebo after a 19-yard catch at the New Orleans 40. Defensive end Carl Granderson, who was chasing the play, recovered for New Orleans.
New Orleans punted three plays later, but Jacksonville turned it over again when Tevaughn Campbell, who was trying to block, collided hard with returner Jamal Agnew as Lou Hedley’s punt descended and hit Campbell’s back.
Lonnie Johnson recovered for New Orleans, which stalled on the Jaguars 5 and settled for Grupe’s field goal.
Etienne became the first player in Jaguars history to rush for two touchdowns in three consecutive games when he ran around the left end for a 17-yard score that made it 14-3.
After their seventh third-down failure of the half, the Saints settled for another Grupe field goal to make it 14-6.
In the final minutes of the half, Jacksonville converted a fake punt with punter Logan Cooke completing a 13-yard pass to Tim Jones on fourth and 2, setting up Brandon McManus’ 43-yard field goal for a 17-6 halftime lead.
Jaguars: Safety Andre Cisco received attention on the field late in the third quarter but was able to walk off on his own.
Saints: Carr appeared to finish the game in pain, but it was not immediately clear what was ailing him. … Alontae Taylor left the game briefly in the first quarter with an apparent cut on his nose and returned for the next series.
Jaguars: Travel to Pittsburgh on Oct. 29.
Saints: Visit Indianapolis on Oct. 29.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl