MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Blake Bortles returned Sunday. Twice.
His first appearance of the game might be forgotten. His second will be remembered because it helped give the Jaguars a late-December victory.
Bortles, after being benched for backup Cody Kessler early this month, replaced an ineffective Kessler late in the third quarter and quarterbacked the Jaguars to a 17-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins in front of 65,798 at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday afternoon.
Bortles entered a 7-7 game late in the third quarter, leading a 10-play, 59-yard, go-ahead drive on his first possession – a drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by kicker Kai Forbath. That gave the Jaguars a 10-7 lead with 10:56 remaining.
Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith intercepted Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the ensuing possession and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead with 9:34 remaining.
Bortles, who also played briefly in the first half when Kessler sustained a shoulder injury, completed five of six passes for 39 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. He rushed four times for 25 yards.
The Jaguars (5-10) won for the second time in four games. The Dolphins slipped to 7-8.
Kessler, making his fourth consecutive start after replacing Bortles early in the month, completed 12 of 17 passes for 106 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions. A touchdown on the Jaguars' first drive marked their second offensive touchdown in his four starts.
Tannehill completed 15 of 22 passes for 146 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
Second-year wide receiver Dede Westbrook continued to emerge as perhaps the Jaguars' best weapon, catching seven passes for 45 yards and rushing once for nine yards. He also returned four punts for an average of 44 yards with a 44-yard return.
The Jaguars registered three sacks, with defensive end Calais Campbell getting his team-leading ninth sack of the season late in the second quarter and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue making his eight of the season in the third quarter after safety Tashaun Gipson created pressure with a blitz.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson had his third sack of the season in the fourth quarter.
The Dolphins sacked Jaguars quarterbacks six times – getting to Kessler five times and Bortles once. The Jaguars now have allowed 19 sacks in four games. The Jaguars had 244 total yards of offense Sunday after gaining 211, 255 and 192 yards in three games before that.
The Jaguars held the Dolphins to 183 total yards.
Step by step:
*Miami took a quick lead with a 78-yard game-opening drive that ended when running back Brandon Bolden stepped into the end zone through the middle of the line with a four-yard shovel pass from Tannehill; that made it 7-0, Dolphins, with 9:49 remaining in the first quarter. The Jaguars responded with a 75-yard drive on their ensuing possession with running back Leonard Fournette's 1-yard touchdown run tying it 7-7 with 2:29 remaining; Kessler twice converted third downs with passes early on the drive, and a roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Robert Quinn gave the Jaguars a 1st-and-10 at the Dolphins 12 after the Jaguars failed to convert 3rd-and-8 from the Dolphins 31.
*Both teams missed opportunities to take the lead in the second quarter, with Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders missing from 47 yards with 6:11 remaining in the half; the drive began when Kessler lost the ball without being hit while preparing to pass, a fumble recovered at the Jaguars 33 by former Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch. The Jaguars missed a chance to take the lead on the last play of the half when kicker Kai Forbath mis-hit a 56-yard field goal attempt one play after a 44-yard punt return by Westbrook.
*The Jaguars squandered another opportunity in the third quarter after Campbell forced a fumble and recovered at the Dolphins 17. Two holding penalties, an eight-yard loss on a run by Fournette and Branch's sack of Kessler forced a Jaguars punt on 4th-and-36 from their own 47.
Notable: Forbath's go-ahead field goal early in the fourth quarter meant the Jaguars had rallied from a deficit of seven or more points to take the lead for the first time this season. … T.J. Yeldon, the only running back to play in all of the Jaguars' first 14 games this season, was one of the team's seven game-day inactives Sunday. The Jaguars' active running backs Sunday: starter Leonard Fournette and reserves Dave Williams and Carlos Hyde. Yeldon was a healthy inactive Sunday along with cornerback Tyler Patmon, linebacker Martrell Spaight, offensive lineman Brandon Thomas and nose tackle Eli Ankou. Kicker Josh Lambo (groin) and wide receiver DJ Chark Jr. (quadriceps) also were inactive. … Forbath kicked in Lambo's place for a second consecutive week. Chark missed a fifth consecutive game. …
Injury report: Jaguars right tackle Josh Wells was evaluated for a concussion in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Patrick Omameh moved outside from guard to tackle in Wells' place and Chris Reed replaced Omameh at guard. … Kessler left briefly in the second quarter with a shoulder contusion; Bortles played two plays in his place, completing a five-yard second-down pass to Westbrook and being sacked by Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake for a six-yard loss to force a punt. … Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye sustained a fourth-quarter toe injury and was announced as probable to return.
What's next: The Jaguars are scheduled to play the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday, December 30 at 1 p.m. to close out the 2018 regular season.