JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' victory over the Seattle Seahawks and forward to Sunday's game against the Houston Texans
1.Reviewing the preview.When previewing Seahawks-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to contain Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, make plays in the passing game and swarm defensively. The Jaguars contained Wilson at times Sunday, though he got loose and helped the Seahawks rally with two long fourth-quarter touchdown passes. The defense swarmed enough to sack Wilson twice – including once on the Seahawks' final drive – and to intercept him three times. But it was quarterback Blake Bortles and the passing game that made the difference at key times Sunday. Bortles did more than manage the game, throwing for 268 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His 18-yard touchdown pass to Dede Westbrook and 75-yarder to Keelan Cole helped the Jaguars pull away after a Seattle rally early in the second half. This was the most-pressurized game of Bortles' career. He came through in the biggest of ways.
2.As I saw it. This was a mammoth, a memorable day for the team and its fans at EverBank Field. We've covered that extensively elsewhere on this site, but a less-discussed topic could bode well for this team in the coming weeks: the collective play of the offensive line and running backs. The line not only allowed no sacks and one pressure on Bortles, it controlled the line of scrimmage to the tune of a 4.8-yards-per-carry average for Jaguars backs. The thought here is that was the best performance for the Jaguars' offensive line this season – and it came against a Seahawks front that ranked seventh in the NFL against the run. If the line can come close to matching that standard the rest of the season, the chances for a playoff appearance and subsequent run are significant higher.
3.Looking ahead, briefly.Up next for the Jaguars: the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday at 1 p.m. The Jaguars will be favored heavily and this is will have a similar pregame feel to the Jaguars' game against the Colts two weeks ago. The Jaguars handled the Colts easily in their first meeting, and handled them equally easily at EverBank in early December. The Jaguars similarly handled the Texans in the regular-season opener, sacking quarterbacks Tom Savage and Deshaun Watson 10 times. The Texans are now on their third quarterback, T.J. Yates, and their season has been wrecked by injuries. Focus will be key for the Jaguars Sunday. They can clinch the AFC South with victories over Houston and San Francisco the next two weeks if Tennessee loses either at San Francisco Sunday or at home to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16. The division is within the Jaguars' grasp. Now, it's a matter of closing the deal.
1.Reviewing the Preview.I didn't have a clear picture of what would happen Sunday before the game. Truthfully, after watching Wilson work his fourth-quarter magic, I had no idea what to expect when Seattle got the ball back on its 42-yard line with 2:39 remaining. The Jaguars' defense did its best and it was good enough with three interceptions and two sacks against Wilson, who resembles Houdini under pressure. The offense exceeded expectations against one of the game's best defenses. Bortles stood in the pocket, trusted his protection and delivered pinpoint passes to receivers running open against the "Legion of Whom." Bortles' 67 percent completion percentage with two touchdowns and no interceptions against what was a dominant front seven the week before against Philadelphia is no one-off performance. He's been playing better and better every week – and the Jags are as complete a team as you'll find in the NFL right now.
2.As I saw it. EverBank Field was electric Sunday evening. Fans, many who had never watched the Jags with so much on the line, let their emotions out and it turned against Seattle midway through the third quarter. Not even Wilson's fourth quarter scoring passes, which narrowed the score to less than a touchdown, dampened their enthusiasm or belief. The game-ending insanity is being investigated by the NFL – and there is no room for what happened at game's end. Fans and their beverages/bottles should stay in the stands and the players should stay on the field. Still, it served an important purpose for the Jaguars. Players in the locker room following the game acknowledged the environment with many pointing to that incident as an example of Duval coming together against the Seahawks. "They have our backs," one prominent player told me. "And we have theirs. We're in this together." If that's true, not long after the whole kneeling for the National Anthem issue seemed to divide them, then EverBank Field is going to be a place no one wants to play in January.
3.Looking ahead, briefly.Last season's AFC South champs – the Houston Texans – come limping into Jacksonville this week to face the team closest to claiming their throne. The Texans are likely to start their third quarterback of the season, goodness only knows which left tackle this is for them and does anyone know anyone on their defense outside of Jadeveon Clowney? The Jags set a franchise record in the regular-season opener with 10 sacks and would seem poised to challenge that this week. The way Bortles and the offense are playing gives the Jags the belief they can not only control the tempo, they can set it. The most interesting storyline this week is the match-up between Jalen Ramsey and DeAndre Hopkins, a matchup that promises fireworks both on the field and in the media in the days ahead.