FOXBORO, Mass. – This was a start – and for the Jaguars, the start wasn't bad.
The Jaguars closed a week of work against the defending Super Bowl champions Thursday, taking a 14-point halftime lead before holding off the New England Patriots, 31-24, in the 2017 preseason opener for both teams at Gillette Stadium.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played two series, completing three of five passes for 15 yards and no touchdowns with no interceptions.
"We had a bunch of good work all week against the Patriots," Head Coach Doug Marrone said, referring to dual practices for the teams earlier in the week. "He took the majority of the snaps [during the week of practice]. It was the plan coming in and we just stuck with the plan."
Backup quarterback Chad Henne played four series, completing five of six passes for 139 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Third-team quarterback Brandon Allen played the entire second half for the Jaguars, completing five of seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
The Jaguars took a 17-10 lead at halftime with a solid first half, scoring on a 27-yard field goal by kicker Jason Myers, a 97-yard touchdown pass from Henne to wide receiver Keelan Cole and a one-yard run by rookie running back Leonard Fournette.
Jaguars reserve running back Corey Grant scored on a 79-yard run early in the third quarter, giving the Jaguars a 24-17 lead one play after the Patriots tied the game at 17-17.
Fournette rushed for 31 yards on nine carries in his NFL debut. The No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft set up the first field goal converting a 4th-and-1 in Patriots territory with an eight-yard run.
"I thought he looked good," Marrone said. "I think he has to run a little bit with his pads lower at times. Obviously, you can see the power that he has.
"It is good to get up there. It's good to run. It's good to get the pads going, obviously in this type of atmosphere."
Jaguars second-year defensive end Yannick Ngakoue had an early sack and a pressure, and many of the Jaguars' starters series left around the same time as Bortles. Some young starters remained in until deep in the second quarter.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did not play. Backup Jimmy Garoppolo started and completed 22 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
"We have to do a better job tackling," Marrone said. "I think that is one thing that showed up in the first half. And I know our tackling, our fits in the gap, making sure we are lined up properly and getting ready to play through and make the tackles."
Step by step:
*The Jaguars took an early lead with strong play from special teams and Fournette. Third-year wide receiver Rashad Greene returned a punt 41 yards to the Patriots 37, and Fournette ran four times for 17 yards, including an eight-yard run on 4th-and-1 from the Patriots 28. Kicker Jason Myers' 27-yard field goal made it 3-0, Jaguars. A sack by Ngakoue forced a Patriots first-possession punt.
*The Patriots tied it 3-3 with a 43-yard field goal with :51 remaining in the first quarter. Patriots running back Brandon Bolden keyed the 60-yard drive with a 24-yard run to the Jaguars 30.
*The Jaguars missed a chance to take the lead on Henne's first drive. Myers missed wide left from 50 yards with 1-:48 remaining in the second quarter.
*The Jaguars then took a 10-3 lead when Cole got behind Patriots cornerback Cyrus Jones for a 97-yard touchdown reception from Henne. Cole, who has been getting open deep consistently throughout training camp, caught a perfectly thrown ball from Henne in stride and scored untouched with 9:03 remaining in the half.
*The Jaguars extended the lead to 17-3 late when Fournette converted third-and-goal with a one-yard run up the middle with 1:57 remaining in the half. The drive was aided by a 44-yard pass interference penalty on safety Jordan Richards covering Greene on a pass from Henne that gave the Jaguars a first down at the Patriots 8.
*The Patriots cut the lead to 17-10 with :14 remaining in the half on a three-yard pass from Garoppolo to wide receiver Austin Carr. The drive was keyed by a 20-yard pass from Garoppolo to Carr that gave the Patriots a first down at the Jaguars 27.
*The Patriots tied it 17-17 with a five-yard touchdown pass from Garoppolo to wide receiver K.J. Maye on the opening drive of the second half, and Jaguars reserve running back Corey Grant ran 79 yards on the ensuing play to give the Jaguars a 24-17 lead with 11:02 remaining in the third quarter.
*The Jaguars stopped a Patriots mid-third-quarter drive when defensive end Lerentee McCray recovered a fumble by running back D.J. Foster at the Jaguars 12. Safety Tracy Howard forced the fumble.
*Allen's 42-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook with :09 remaining in the third quarter made it 31-17, Jaguars – and Patriots running back D.J. Foster's three-yard touchdown made it 31-24 with 10:47 remaining.
*Myers' miss from 53 yards midway through the fourth quarter kept the score 31-24, and Patriots third-team quarterback Jacoby Brissett's fourth-down incomplete pass to wide receiver Cody Hollister on the ensuing series allowed the Jaguars to maintain the lead.
Injury report:Jaguars safety Peyton Thompson sustained a right biceps strain in the first half and rookie linebacker P.J. Davis sustained a shoulder injury in the second half. Defensive end Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, linebacker Justin Horton, guard Earl Watford, wide receiver Allen Hurns, offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, running back Tyler Gaffney, tight end Mychal Rivera , cornerbacks Aaron Colvin and cornerback Jalen Ramsey missed Thursday's game; Colvin and Ramsey remain out while on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Notable:Rookie Cam Robinson started at left tackle and Wells started for Parnell at right tackle … veteran Chris Ivory started at running back, and Fournette worked at running back with the first team on the second series. .. Brian Dixon, Tyler Patmon and Josh Johnson worked with the first unit at corner early with Ramsey, Bouye and Colvin out. … Mallicah Goodman worked with the starters in Campbell's absence at strong-side defensive end. …
What's next:The Jaguars play host to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at EverBank Field in the second game of the 2017 preseason Thursday.