JACKSONVILLE – The defense looks ready, and the offense shows signs.
That storyline has run through the Jaguars' 2018 preseason, and it remained strong and obvious against the Atlanta Falcons in Preseason Week 3 Saturday night.
The Jaguars won, 17-6, in a game for which 64,208 tickets were distributed at TIAA Bank Field.
They won by pulling away playing reserves in the second half, but a primary story of the third game of the NFL preseason is how teams fare with the starters in the game – and that story was mostly encouraging for the Jaguars.
The Jaguars led 10-6 following their first drive of the second half, which was when quarterback Blake Bortles and most of the Jaguars' first-team offense left the game. The Jaguars' first-team defense left the game at halftime having held the Falcons to 96 total yards and six first downs.
The Jaguars' first-team defense has not allowed a preseason touchdown.
"They've really been playing well the whole offseason," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said of the defense at halftime Saturday.
Bortles completed 17 of 23 passes for 204 yards Saturday, and led an impressive second-quarter touchdown drive that gave the Jaguars a 7-3 lead. But Bortles also was intercepted twice, including an easy interception by Falcons cornerback Bidi Wreh-Wilson that ended the first-team offense's final possession at the Atlanta three-yard line.
The Jaguars' first-team offense finished with 303 total yards and 17 first downs. The Jaguars rushed for 87 yards on 14 first-half carries, and all three Jaguars running backs – Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant – were heavily involved in the offense both running and receiving.
Jaguars running backs accounted for 147 of the Jaguars' 236 first-half yards, and Fournette's 21-yard run capped a six-play, 98-yard drive that gave them a 7-3 lead with 13:25 remaining in the half.
"I thought when the offense was backed up, they had a heck of a drive," Marrone said. "We had a lot of yards, but at the end of the day, we want to get into the red zone and score touchdowns and not kick field goals."
Step by step:
*Matt Bryant's 47-yard field goal capped a 46-yard, nine-play game-opening drive, with Atlanta taking a 3-0 lead with 10:10 remaining in the first quarter. After Falcons safety Keanu Neal intercepted a tipped pass from Bortles on the ensuing possession's third play, cornerback D.J. Hayden and end Yannick Ngakoue forced an incomplete third-down pass by Ryan to force a Falcons punt. The quarter ended with the Falcons leading 3-0 after Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 6:32 remaining in the quarter.
*The Jaguars took a 7-3 lead on their first possession of the second quarter, with Fournette capping a six-play, 98-yard drive with his 21-yard touchdown. The Falcons cut into the lead with a 33-yard field goal by Bryan with 4:06 remaining in the second quarter, a drive that came after the Jaguars had forced three consecutive three-and-out possessions. A 24-yard field goal by Lambo made it 10-6, Jaguars, with :07 remaining in the half.
*A one-yard scramble by quarterback Cody Kessler with a fumbled snap extended the Jaguars' lead to 17-6 with 13:25 remaining in the fourth quarter. That capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive.
Injury report: Wide receiver Marqise Lee sustained a first-quarter knee injury and did not return. Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus sustained a second-quarter pectoral injury and did not return. Safety Tashaun Gipson sustained a second-quarter stinger and also did not return. …
Notable: Jaguars starting left guard Andrew Norwell and right tackle Jermey Parnell both made their first starts of the preseason. … Six Jaguars players missed Saturday's game with injuries: center Brandon Linder, cornerback A.J. Bouye, safety Ronnie Harrison, linebacker Donald Payne, nose tackle Eli Ankou (knee) and defensive end Dawuane Smoot (ankle). Tyler Patmon started for Bouye a week after starting for then-suspended Jalen Ramsey at the other corner, Tyler Shatley started for Linder and Marcell Dareus started at nose tackle after missing the Jaguars' Preseason Week 2 game at Minnesota with a pectoral injury. Ankou and Smoot have yet to play in the preseason, while Linder missed Saturday with a knee injury sustained at Minnesota.
What's next: The Jaguars will visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Thursday at 7:30 p.m.