JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over the Cincinnati Bengals and forward to Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers:
1.Reviewing the preview.When previewing Bengals-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed: to run effectively, shut down Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and overwhelm the Bengals' offensive line. The Jaguars did all three Sunday in surprisingly effective fashion. The way they ran was at least somewhat surprising because they rushed for 140 yards without running back Leonard Fournette. The way they shut down Green was surprising because the six-time Pro Bowl selection caught just one pass for six yards before both he and the player shutting him down – Jalen Ramsey – were ejected for a second-quarter brawl. And while we perhaps should stop being surprised by the Jaguars' defense, it was at least a little surprising it overwhelmed the Bengals' offensive line to the tune of holding Cincinnati to 148 yards total offense and eight first downs. Sunday was total domination in three key phases, so – in that respect, at least, a double-digit victory wasn't that surprising.
2.As I saw it.The victory over the Bengals was dominant – and it was cathartic for fans and players who very much wanted a victory at EverBank Field. The Jaguars' accomplished that while winning back-to-back games for the first time this season, but the victory accomplished so much more. This was a tone-setting game. The Jaguars' defense was suffocating – again – and held the Bengals to 148 yards, including 16 in the second half. The offense showed – again – it can run even without Fournette. Quarterback Blake Bortles show – again – he can be efficient and win games; his effectiveness in the first half and on third downs shouldn't be overlooked. All of those "agains" are significant. The Jaguars have been really good five times this season and have shown that games such as Sunday's aren't a fluke. They're good, and they proved it again Sunday.
Images from the Jaguars Week 9 matchup with the Bengals.
3.Looking ahead, briefly.The Jaguars play the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday and – as was the case Sunday against Cincinnati – this feels like another chance to prove they're as good as they believe. The Chargers don't have the bully-on-the-block mentality that the Jaguars and Bortles took such delight in beating up Sunday, but they do have quarterback Philip Rivers. Anyone who has followed the Jaguars knows how good Rivers is – and how good he has been against the Jaguars. Rivers is good enough to keep the Chargers in games, and a defense that includes pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa is more than good enough to disrupt the Jaguars' offense. The key question? Can the Jaguars exorcise the ghosts of Rivers Past? That's unclear, but what is clear is Rivers never has faced a Jaguars defense as talented or confident as the one he will face Sunday.
1.Reviewing the preview.We spent quite a bit of time over the first seven weeks of the season debating whether the Jaguars were an actual contender in the AFC or whether they were still pretending. My sense was we would know where they stood after the Bengals game. Any questions? The Bengals learned quickly that the contending Jags were more than they could handle, which is why they started pushing and shoving – working to level the playing field with penalties. They knew the Jaguars were a more talented team and they knew they couldn't match up; we should take our cue from them. The Jaguars played like a contender and now they are. They ran without Fournette behind a reshuffled offensive line against a pretty good defense. The Bengals said Bortles couldn't beat them and yet he sliced them up like roast beef for a French Dip sandwich. The Jags are good – maybe very good.
2.As I saw it. The Jaguars' defense played lights out in the first half Sunday, looking every bit like the best defense in football. Somehow, they managed to take it to an entirely different level in the second half without Ramsey. They came out of the locker room in a frenzy and the Bengals quit after their first drive of the third quarter. That's right, they quit. Calais Campbell, Marcel Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Abry Jones and Dante Fowler Jr. didn't give an inch on the front, and the Bengals earned only 16 yards in the second half. The play of safeties Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson was remarkable; they were everywhere: in the box to stuff the run and always in support of the corners down the field. I don't know if they rallied behind Ramsey or if they just wanted to punish the Bengals, but it seemed like they could do anything they wanted on Sunday. The question this week is if they can do it again, this time against Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers.
3.Looking ahead, briefly. I love to watch Rivers play like I used to like to watch John Elway. He loves to play the game and he plays it like a kid on the schoolyard: tough and in your face. The only time I don't like watching him play is when he plays the Jaguars. He's 6-1 and won the last six games with a quarterback rating over the moon and more touchdown passes than I care to count. Wide receiver Keenan Allen is back and healthy – and a very dangerous deep threat. Tight end Antonio Gates seems to have two touchdowns every time he lines up against Jacksonville. They're not the Patriots, but Rivers can play like Tom Brady, which makes this matchup so enticing. The Jaguars have never had an answer for him … until now. I can't wait to watch THIS defense against THAT quarterback, and the way THIS defense is playing I expect THEM to end Rivers' streak.