CHICAGO – Senior writer John Oehser examines the Jaguars' 17-16 victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago – with an eye on cornerback Jalen Ramsey's day of redemption
"I JUST REACTED"
Jalen Ramsey saw it simply.
"I just reacted, to be honest with you," the rookie cornerback said.
Ramsey was talking about the Chicago Bears' final offensive play Sunday, a play on which Ramsey broke up a fourth-down pass on intended for Alshon Jeffery to clinch the Jaguars' come-from-behind victory. Jeffery ran in route on the play; Ramsey made a play on the ball and nearly intercepted.
"Once I saw him break, I broke," Ramsey said. "I should have caught the pick, but it is what it is."
For Ramsey, the play did more than secure the victory. It capped off a second half in which the No. 5 overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft responded to the most difficult half of his career in remarkable fashion.
"I think he would tell you that was a battle in the first half," Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley said of Ramsey. "But the second half we told him, 'You don't win a game in the first quarter. You have to finish.' He finished and made a critical play."
Ramsey spent the game shadowing Jeffery – i.e., covering him wherever he lined up rather than playing just one side of the field. This was the first time the Jaguars had given Ramsey that assignment.
In the first half, Jeffery caught six passes for 90 yards.
"I'll take that," Ramsey said afterward. "That's on me."
Jeffery caught one pass for three yards in the second half.
"I just kept telling myself, 'It's a 60-minute game; he got the first two quarters …I have to make sure I get the second two quarters,''' Ramsey said. "I matched all game. I wouldn't want it any other way. He was beating me. I knew that. I'm a competitor. It doesn't matter. I wanted to stay with him.
"I'm not asking for an out or anything like that. I wanted to continue to shadow him and find a way to do it."
Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith, who played with Ramsey at Florida State, said Ramsey's reaction to first-half adversity was unsurprising.
"He got a little frustrated, but he's a very poised player," Smith said. "You can do that, but you can still count on him at the end like we did, to keep him on your best player. We said, 'Nah, we're not going to take him off. We're going to let him continue to grow.' That's the caliber of player he is. Like I said when they drafted him: 'As is. He's as advertised. As is.'''
Arrelious Benn's lone reception of the game was huge – not only for the Jaguars, but for a player who overcame plenty to arrive at the moment. Benn, a wide receiver who spent last season on the Jaguars' injured-reserve list, caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Bortles with 1:52 remaining. Benn fell as he caught the pass, but was a few feet clear of Bears cornerback Tracy Porter, who had slipped on the play. Benn got to his feet untouched and sprinted the final 30 yards to the end zone. "I knew I wasn't down," Benn said. "It was just being aware – get back up and keep going." Benn, a second-round selection in the 2010 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay, before this season hadn't caught an NFL pass since 2012 with Tampa Bay having missed multiple seasons with injuries. "It's been a long road," Benn said. "It just makes it even better as an individual. A lot of people told me to give it up: 'Think about your body.' But it was something I wanted to do. I'm young. I wanted to get out of me, so keep fighting no matter what."
"It meant a lot. I kept telling the other defensive backs, 'The offense is going to score and we're going to seal this game up – one of us.' It just so happened to be me. I guess it was in God's will."
--Ramsey on his last-play, game-clinching pass breakup
"It was a challenging halftime in our locker room. We just didn't feel like we were playing up to our capabilities – still some of those mistakes showed up. But give our team a lot of credit to come back in the second half. … It was a heartfelt talk at halftime."
---Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley
"We just felt like going no-huddle would stimulate the whole offense. You have to pick and choose your time. Obviously, we still have a lot of questions on offense. We're not running the ball like we want. We're not moving the ball like we're capable. We have to take a hard look at that."
--Bradley on going no-huddle offensively at the end of the third quarter
"We talk about the character of this team. There are times you're going to call on that character. Today was one of those days."