JACKSONVILLE – Another opportunity, another one squandered.
That has been the Jaguars' story for much of the last month and a half, and it remained as such on an otherwise perfect December afternoon in downtown Jacksonville Sunday.
Blake Bortles threw a touchdown pass and went without an interception, but the Jaguars couldn't take advantage of a game they led in the fourth quarter. Instead, they lost their eighth consecutive game – this one to the Minnesota Vikings, 25-16, in front of 62,701 at EverBank Field.
The Jaguars are now 2-11 after a 2-3 start. The Vikings improved to 7-6 and kept their postseason hopes alive; they had entered the game having lost six of their last seven games after a 5-0 start.
Former Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith was inducted into the Pride of the Jaguars at halftime.
The Jaguars, after a 9-9 halftime tie, scored the game's first touchdown on one of Bortles' best plays of the season. With the Jaguars trailing 12-9, Bortles capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Bryan Walters.
That gave the Jaguars a 16-12 lead with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter, but Jacksonville squandered its chance at a victory in the ensuing minutes.
The Vikings scored their first touchdown of the game on the ensuing series with running back Matt Asiata capping a nine-play, 62-yard drive with a one-yard run. When Kai Forbath missed the extra point, Minnesota led 18-16 with 14:13 remaining.
The Jaguars went three-and-out on the series after Asiata's touchdown, then went three and out again after the Jaguars' second goal-line stand of the game. The Jaguars held the Vikings out of the end zone when defensive tackle Malik Jackson recovered Asiata's fumble on third-and-goal from the 1 in the end zone, but the Jaguars failed to gain a yard on the ensuing series.
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford capped the ensuing drive by passing three yards to tight end Kyle Rudolph for a 25-16 Vikings lead with 2:13 remaining.
Bortles completed 23 of 37 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Bradford completed 24 of 34 passes for 292 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Three big plays by the Vikings keyed the first half.
Forbath gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead with a 43-yard field goal that capped the game's first possession with 12:20 remaining in the first quarter. Bradford passed 44 yards to Rudolph on the first play. Forbath's 32-yard field goal on the ensuing series came after Bradford passed 41 yards to wide receiver Adam Thielen on the first play of the series.
Jaguars kicker Jason Myers' 45-yard field goal with 13:00 remaining in the second quarter made it 6-3, but Cordarrelle Patterson returned the ensuing kickoff 53 yards to the Jaguars 48. That set up a 40-yard field goal by Korbath that made it 9-3, Vikings, with 10:43 remaining before halftime.
Myers converted from 55 yards on the Jaguars' next possession cut the lead to 9-6.
The Jaguars' defense came up with a mammoth goal-line stand midway through the second quarter with defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks stuffing Asiata on 4th-and-goal from the one to keep the Vikings' lead at three. Myers' 24-yard field goal capped a 92-yard, 10-play drive on the ensuing series and tied the game, 9-9, with :09 remaining in the half.
Myers missed a 41-yard field goal early in the second half to keep the score 9-9.
PLAYER OF THE GAME …
Marqise Lee, wide receiver. Lee has emerged as the Jaguars' best offensive player in recent weeks, and he continued his developing flair for the spectacular Sunday. Lee caught five passes for 113 yards and he hugged the sideline in remarkable fashion for a leaping, 34-yard reception early in the third quarter. His 100-yard game was his second such game of the season and of his three-year career.
The Jaguars finished with 315 total yards and had 160 yards and eight first downs at halftime. They rushed for 85 yards and had 18 first downs.
The Jaguars allowed the Vikings 185 first-half yards with 132 coming on three pass plays. Minnesota finished with 385 total yards and 22 first downs.
The Jaguars' special teams struggles continued Sunday. The unit allowed the 53-yard return by Patterson to set up an early field goal, then Myers – after a three-for-three first half – missed from 41 yards early in the third quarter. The Vikings also partially blocked a punt in the fourth quarter – and the special teams gave the Vikings a fourth-quarter fourth down when Alex Ellis was called for roughing the punter. A 61-yard field-goal attempt by Myers was blocked late in the game.
INJURY UPDATES …
Jaguars offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum sustained a knee injury in the third quarter and returned. Lee sustained an ankle injury but returned.
Running back Chris Ivory and wide receiver Allen Hurns were ruled out before the game for a second consecutive week with hamstring injuries and starting center Brandon Linder was ruled out with an ankle injury.
Other pregame inactives: quarterback Brandon Allen, running back Denard Robinson (ankle), safety Peyton Thompson (ankle) and offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi.
*Defensive end Jared Odrick (shoulder) and tight end Julius Thomas (back), after being ruled out Friday, were placed on injured reserve Saturday with the team activating offensive lineman Luke Bowanko off the Physically Unable to Perform list and signing running back Bronson Hill off the practice squad.
*With Robinson and Ivory out, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant and Hill were the Jaguars' healthy running backs. Yeldon, after playing through ankle issue the past two weeks, rushed for 59 yards on 17 carries.
*Lee started a second consecutive game for Hurns opposite Allen Robinson and Tyler Shatley start in place of Linder at center.