JACKSONVILLE – As steps forward go, it was a big one.
Fast forward three days, and quarterback Blake Bortles said the task facing the Jaguars' offense moving forward is clear:
Maintain momentum, and maybe even take another step.
The Jaguars not only converted third downs at a high level in a 42-39 loss to Tennessee Sunday, they scored their season-high six offense touchdowns by scoring on all six red-zone opportunities. Third downs and red zone had had been difficult areas for the Jaguars' offense this season.
"We expect things like that," Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars (4-8) prepared to play the Indianapolis Colts (6-6) in AFC South game at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.
"We expect to do that and now we've shown we have the ability to do it. Now, it's how do we do it consistently week in and week out and be productive in those areas."
Matching last week's performance won't be easy. The Jaguars not only converted all six red-zone opportunities, they converted 10 of 14 (71 percent) on third downs.
Bortles had his best game in 25 games as an NFL starter, throwing five touchdown passes with no interceptions. Three of those touchdown passes went to wide receiver Allen Robinson.
Bortles with the performance set a franchise record with 27 touchdown passes this season, and he now has a better than 2-1 touchdown-interception ratio having thrown 13 interceptions. He threw 11 touchdown passes with 17 interceptions last season.
Robinson also set a franchise record Sunday, recording his 11th touchdown reception of the season. He did that the same day he moved past 1,000 yards receiving for the season, becoming the first Jaguars player to do so since 2005.
"More than anything, it's just us getting better," Bortles said. "As much as (Head Coach) Gus Bradley talks about it, there's concrete evidence that we are getting better. We have guys breaking franchise records and doing stuff like that – it's obviously signs we're improving.
"We are in a result-driven league and business. We understand that and want that as well, but to be able to show that there is improvement and progress I think is a great sign, and I think the rest will come."
The Jaguars enter the final four games of the season two games behind AFC South-leading Indianapolis and Houston (6-6). Still, while postseason hopes are slim Bortles said the last four games remain important. The Jaguars play two AFC opponents – Indianapolis and Houston – in the final four weeks of the season, including a game at the Texans in the regular-season finale.
"We talked about it this morning in our offensive meeting, that we want to finish this last quarter strong," Bortles said. "We want to go out and continue to do what we do on a weekly basis and we really are on a mission to try to own the AFC South.
"I think it's a really good group of guys in the locker room. Nobody's looking at the record and saying, 'I can't wait for these four weeks to be up so I can go home.' Guys are excited every week. They're excited to go to work and practice and they're definitely looking forward to Sundays for the opportunity."
Also on Wednesday:
*Starting Otto linebacker Dan Skuta is expected to return to practice Wednesday. He missed three of the last four games with a groin injury, and spent the last two days visiting Minneapolis, Minn.-based orthopedic physician Josh Sandell. Skuta said he expects to play Sunday. "I'm practicing today," he said. "I'm going to try my best to get going this week." …
*Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny is expected miss practice Wednesday with a fractured right hand. He has yet to be ruled out for Sunday and Bradley likely will update his status Wednesday afternoon. If Posluszny can't play, Jordan Tripp likely will start in his place. …
*As expected, wide receiver Allen Hurns will return to practice Wednesday. Hurns, who has 48 receptions for 758 yards and seven touchdowns this season, missed Sunday with a concussion sustained the previous week against San Diego. "I'm really jacked right now," Hurns said. "Just being off the field for a whole week has kind of been frustrating. Right now, I'm excited to be back on the field with the guys and be competing with them."