CHICAGO, Ill. – They couldn't have asked for a better start.
That was true for most of the members of Jaguars' offense – particularly starting quarterback Chad Henne – in the second game of the 2014 preseason Thursday, and for the most part, it extended to the defense, too.
While the Chicago Bears rallied late, the start was very much what the Jaguars' first-team offense wanted from the game, and that made it a key storyline in a 20-19 Bears victory in front of 51,235 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago, Ill., Thursday night.
The Jaguars' first-team offense struggled in a big way six days ago in the preseason opener.
The improvement early Friday was significant.
"We came out with a lot of energy and made some plays offensively and got some points on the board," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said after the Jaguars outgained the Bears 134-8 in the first quarter of a game played in ideal, 65-degree, mid-August temperatures.
"Defensively, we made some plays. We had some turnovers on some special teams. That's how we want to start, but it's more important where you finish."
Chad Henne started at quarterback for the Jaguars for a second time in as many preseason games, playing until late in the first half and completing 12 of 17 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. His passer rating was 112.4.
Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles replaced Henne late in the first half and was impressive for a second consecutive week, completing 11 of 17 passes for 160 yards and no interceptions.
Henne and the first-team offense, after struggling in the preseason opener, moved effectively early, producing field goals of 49 and 25 yards by kicker Josh Scobee while the Jaguars' defense forced a three-and-out.
The Jaguars play under the lights on Thursday Night.
"It was just more off of our tempo," Henne said. "We had positive plays on first and second down, which kept us moving the chains. That created more tempo. We got into plays we really wanted to call."
Henne, after completing 4 of 7 passes for 40 yards against Tampa Bay a week ago, completed 8 of 12 passes on the first two drives, mixing in three completions for 21 yards to rookie wide receiver Marqise Lee with three completions to veteran tight end Marcedes Lewis for 46 yards. Toby Gerhart, making his first start at running back for the Jaguars, also had an 18-yard run on the Jaguars' second series.
"I was excited, maybe a little over excited," said Gerhart, who missed the preseason opener with a hip flexor. "It was great to be back out there and put on a Jaguars jersey for the first time. It felt good. I think I tried to do too much and missed one or two out there."
Of the first-team offense's success, Gerhart added, "It was awesome. It was exciting. Chicago has a good defense and a good team. To come out and move the ball on them, we have to finish in the red zone, but it was very promising to move the ball down the field."
Cornerback Will Blackmon's strip/recovery on the play after Scobee's second field goal set up a seven-play, 24-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass from Henne to Lee.
Bortles, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, entered the game with 3:35 remaining in the half. The Jaguars' original plan was to play Henne the entire first and half to likely play Bortles most of the second half.
Bortles, after completing 7 of 11 passes for 117 yards in a preseason-opening victory over Tampa Bay, completed 7 of 10 passes by halftime Friday. Including his Week 1 performance, he is now 18-of-28 passing for 277 yards in two preseason games.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler left the game after completing 7 of 9 passes for 75 yards and a touchdown with Jacksonville leading 13-7. Cutler's four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Marshall made it 13-7 with 10:46 remaining in the first half.
The Jaguars extended the lead to 16-7 with a 43-yard field goal by Scobee with 1:31 remaining in the first half, then kicker Kasey Redfern's 29-yard field goal with 8:23 remaining in the third quarter pushed the lead to 19-7.
Chicago pulled to within 19-14 with a one-yard fourth-quarter run by Ka'Deem Carey.
Senorise Perry's five-yard touchdown run gave the Bears their final margin of victory in the final minutes.
The turning point for the first-team portion of the game came when the Jaguars came out hot early. The offense scored on its first three possessions and the Jaguars had 10 first downs to none for Chicago. The Jaguars never trailed after that until the final minutes, when the Bears' reserves scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.
- Rookies Allen Hurns and Lee started the game at wide receiver for the Jaguars, and were effective early. Lee finished with four receptions for 27 yards and a six-yard touchdown and Hurns caught four passes for 74 yards. …
- Gerhart didn't have a lot of room on most carries in his first start for the Jaguars, but he found a crease and turned it into an impressive 18-yard run on the Jaguars' second series. Bradley anticipated Gerhart getting five or six carries Thursday. He got six and finished with 19 yards rushing. …
- Second-year safety Josh Evans had an interception off Bears quarterback Jimmy Clausen early in the second half. …
- Jaguars defensive end Tyson Alualu had a second sack in as many weeks. He had a nine-yard sack on Clausen late in the third quarter. …
LOOKING ON . . .
- The Jaguars continue to look for the right combination at center and right guard, with four players getting extensive repetitions at center Thursday. Mike Brewster started a second consecutive game at the position, with rookie sixth-round selection Luke Bowanko working there in the second quarter and rookie third-round selection Brandon Linder working there in the third quarter. Linder worked at right guard next to Bowanko in the second quarter, and Bowanko worked at right guard next to Linder at center in the third quarter. Bowanko left the game with an ankle/knee injury in the third quarter. Patrick Lewis finished the game at center. …
- The Jaguars played three running backs extensively, with Gerhart was replaced by Jordan Todman late in the first quarter, and Todman finished with eight yards on 18 carries. Denard Robinson played well at the spot in the third quarter, rushing for six yards on 34 carries. …
Jaguars starting offensive tackle Austin Pasztor left late in the first quarter with a hand injury and did not return. He was replaced in the lineup by Cameron Bradfield.
Jaguars fullback Bradie Ewing left the game with a wrist injury and did not return, and Bowanko later left the game with an ankle/knee injury and did not return. Safety Craig Loston later left the game with a hamstring injury.
Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III (hamstring), wide receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring), wide receiver Tandon Doss (ankle), middle linebacker Paul Posluszny (biceps), wide receiver Lamaar Thomas (concussion), tight end Clay Harbor (calf) and safety Deion Belue (back) missed the game and did not make the trip. Linebacker Dekoda Watson (sports hernia) remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list, with safety cornerback Aaron Colvin (knee) remaining on the non-football injury list.