MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – He erred, he responded – and the Jaguars scored.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles talked about it all following a 14-10 Preseason Week 2 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium Saturday – and yes, he talked about a first-quarter interception that didn't look good at all.
"It was a bad play, bad throw – shouldn't have done it," Bortles said.
The throw came midway through the first quarter, with Vikings safety Harrison Smith intercepting a pass from Bortles to wide receiver Dede Westbrook and returning it to the Jaguars 23.
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone on Saturday discussed what happened next.
After Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell recovered a fumble on the ensuing play, Bortles drove the Jaguars 70 yards and set up running back Leonard Fournette's one-yard go-ahead touchdown run with a 14-yard run on third and goal from the 15.
"We went down the field and had a nice drive, and now it's a third down where you're really thinking, 'Hey, if we don't get this touchdown we're probably going to have to kick the field goal there,''' Marrone said. "Like I've said before … the value of Blake that probably gets overlooked a lot is his ability to run. He runs it down to the one, and then we go for it."
Said Bortles: "I think it was huge. To be able to overcome that and put a scoring drive together and finish it with a touchdown was big. We obviously wanted to do more against them, but to put a scoring drive together after the interception was big."
Marrone called Smith's interception "a really good play."
"We had an inbreaking route coming deep," Marrone said. "The backside safety came down, so we didn't really see him. Those are tough situations. Obviously, we work to get better at it. Give them (the Vikings) credit. It was a good job. We didn't see the backside safety come down and he ended up getting the pick."
Bortles completed 12 of 20 passes for 159 yards and no touchdowns with an interception. The Jaguars led, 7-3, when he left the game at halftime.
Center Brandon Linder sustained a first-quarter knee injury that Marrone said afterward wasn't thought serious. Guard Chris Reed sustained a knee injury and safety Don Carey left in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Marrone said he hadn't heard that anyone injured Saturday would miss extensive time.
Marrone turned in one of the Jaguars' better preseason quotes when asked if going for the touchdown on 4th-and-1 following Bortles' run had been his decision. "No, I listened to the fans," he deadpanned, tongue firmly cheek. "Of course, and if it doesn't work I'm the one who's got to answer for it."
With Linder out early, and with starting left guard Andrew Norwell and starting right tackle Jermey Parnell missing the game, the Jaguars' offensive line early: left tackle Cam Robinson, left guard Chris Reed, center Tyler Shatley, right guard A.J. Cann and right tackle Josh Wells. "It's tough, because you don't ever want to see anybody get hurt in the preseason, especially guys you expect to be your starters," Bortles said. "The guys who have stepped in have done a good job." Bortles appeared to be under significant pressure much of the first half, getting sacked twice and avoiding pressure on other occasions.
Marrone on the Jaguars' 13 penalties for 140 yards: "You look at them and try to make sure you do a better job with them. I think we all know if we do that, the odds are we're not going to win."
Jaguars rookie safety Ronnie Harrison drew praise from Marrone and teammates Saturday after starting for free safety Tashaun Gipson. A third-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft from the University of Alabama, Harrison led the Jaguars with five tackles and forced a first-quarter fumble by running back Latavius Murray. "He played good," strong safety Barry Church said. "He had to jump in quick and learn fast, but he was able to do good. He had a couple of solid tackles and his communication between me and him was on point. He did a good job out there." Marrone said Harrison was told he was starting during pre-game warmups. "T-Gip, we made the decision to hold him out, not to take a chance," Marrone said. "All of a sudden we walk in the locker room and tell the kid, 'You're ready to start. You'll be our free safety.' We'll look at it, but to go in there and have some good hits and be ready to go, that's one of the things I was looking for – if he was going to be ready to go. That's a tough situation. It's like if you're a pitcher and you don't think you're going to pitch that day and all of a sudden: 'You're up.'''
That fourth-year reserve running back T.J. Yeldon was the Jaguars' standout offensive player was no surprise to Marrone. "He's having a fine camp, and we're happy with where he is," Marrone said. The Jaguars entered Saturday wanting to get Fournette and Yeldon extensive work. Yeldon rushed for 39 yards on 10 carries and his five receptions went for 79 yards, including 17 second-half rushing yards on four carries. "We wanted to get him some carries in the base offense," Marrone said of Yeldon, who had two receptions for 40 yards on the Jaguars' first-half touchdown drive. "We had a good plan for Leonard, what we wanted to see – and we had a good plan for T.J. I thought he did extremely well. He's been really playing well for us."
Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye said he spoke to teammate and fellow All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey Wednesday on Bouye's birthday. "We're going to be good," Bouye said. "He wished me a happy birthday and sent pictures of his daughter, so that kind of made my day. We'll get him back. I'll talk to him Monday and we know he's working." Ramsey and Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. missed Saturday's game on a one-game suspension and are expected to return to the team Monday. "I can't wait for 'te' (Fowler) to get back, too," Bouye said. "We're going to need those guys to make a difference for us."
Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson: "We came out here [as a defense] and competed really well and dominated a lot. We have a few things to work on, but I think it was a solid week overall."
Jackson on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins' 3-for-8-passing line with 12 yards: "That's really the only thing we can really base our progress on, is stats like that. To see Cousins, struggle a little bit, and to see their running game struggle a little bit, is good for us. It means we're going in the right direction. We were able to consistently do things throughout the week and bring it to the game."
Jaguars CB A.J. Bouye: "Our coach gives us goals every day, but we're so locked in and focused as a unit, we're always trying to get better and get each other better. It shows, particularly on the practice field."