JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser's five takeaways from the Jaguars' 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field Sunday
1. Big one.The smile told the story. No, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley never said "must-win" this past week. And not unexpectedly he never talked about pressure. But to listen to Bradley after a 23-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at EverBank Field Sunday was to listen to a proud coach who watched his team do many things it hadn't done in a season-opening loss to Carolina a week before. "A great win," Bradley called it, adding, "They played their tails off from start to finish. Some of the things we challenged our team with this week … I loved the way they responded this week. They came back and battled throughout." Bradley noted two areas that struggled last week – the receiving corps and kicker Jason Myers – "came back and did a nice job." Wide receiver Allen Robinson caught two first-half touchdown passes and Myers went five for five, including a 58-yard field goal to end the first half and a 28-yarder with: 40 remaining. "Just a hard-fought battle," Bradley said. "Overall, the intensity and how we played the game … just very pleased." It was the Jaguars' first victory in September in Bradley's three seasons as head coach. "We'll take it any time," Bradley said, laughing. "I'm just really excited for our group of guys. That helped us become a more mentally tough team. We'll have great growth because of it."
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2. Bouncing back.Make no mistake: there was pressure on Blake Bortles Sunday. Make no mistake on this, either: he responded as well as could be imagined. The second-year quarterback not only struggled at times in the regular-season opener, he drew the ire of some when he said on Wednesday fans questioning play-calling is akin to kindergartners questioning college students. Bortles showed signs of being fine with the pressure when he posted a picture of himself in kindergarten on Instagram Thursday, then he backed that up with an impressive performance Sunday. "I thought he made some very good decisions; though we stalled a little in the second half, we just stuck to it," Bradley said of Bortles, who completed 12 of 17 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns first half and finished completing 18 of 33 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Bortles afterward credited a Jaguars offensive line that allowed no sacks despite the absence of left tackle Luke Joeckel. "I thought it was unbelievable," he said of the protection.
3. Even keel.Perhaps the most fascinating Jaguars player after Sunday's game was Robinson. The second-year wide receiver had the biggest game of his NFL career, catching six passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. "He was awesome," Bortles said of a player who looked every bit the No. 1 receiver the Jaguars believe he potentially could become but who afterward showed little joy or satisfaction. Mostly, he looked like a player determined to stay even keel after a big day. "I expect myself to have good games," Robinson said. "It's about quick memory: bounce back from bad games and bounce back from good games." He admitted that the receiving corps played with a "chip on our shoulders" after being criticized throughout the week for at least three drops in a season-opening loss to Carolina. "We went out and we wanted to make plays," Robinson said. "We didn't have the game we wanted to play. We expect better than ourselves than we did last week." Robinson's day Sunday was highlighted not just by touchdown receptions of three and 45 yards, but by receptions of 52 and 36 yards in the first half on which he won on "50-50" passes from Bortles. Bradley had said early in the week that Bortles and the offense hadn't played aggressively enough in the opener, citing the need for those types of throws. Given the opportunity to make those catches Sunday, Robinson responded with a breakout game and a performance that many around the Jaguars could be the first of many.
4. Instant impact.We won't overplay this, because Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee didn't dominate in his return from a lingering hamstring issue. But the second-year veteran did show why he's an important part of the offense. Lee, out since the third practice of training camp, caught an early nine-yard pass for a first down. Later in the first quarter, he gained 12 yards on a reverse. On each play, he showed the athleticism that makes him a unique element in the offense. "Any time Marqise is out there you have to have a little plan and awareness for him as a defense," Bortles said. "He's a guy who can stretch the field and beat you vertically any time. That kind of factors into the way defenses play." Lee also had what would have been an impressive first-down converting reception in the third quarter negated by a hands-to-the-face penalty on right tackle Jermey Parnell. "He made some big plays for us," Bradley said, adding that Lee was limited to about 15-to-20 plays. "It was great to have him back there."
5. Gutsy effort.The defense allowed 386 yards Sunday, but give the unit credit: it shut out the Dolphins after a touchdown 4:32 into the third quarter. Significant was this: it played much of the fourth quarter without starters Aaron Colvin and Davon House and No. 3 corner Dwayne Gratz. That left Demetrius McCray, Peyton Thompson and rookie Nick Marshall for the final series, which ended when linebacker Telvin Smith defensed a pass from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. "We had a lot of jockeying around with positions," Bradley said. "That's really a credit to the players and coaches. You always have to be ready as a backup in case your number is called. These guys' numbers were called and they stepped up. In this game, they don't wait for you. They did a nice job." Thompson was signed from the practice squad Saturday and Marshall entered the game as the No. 5 cornerback with few if any plans to use him except on special teams. "We just had to find a way to win," safety Sergio Brown said. "We felt like if they were going to win it had to come through us. With the limited numbers we just had to hold strong."