Sexton-Oehser: Back and forth

AP_18259843402134 copy
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12) celebrates his 61-yard touchdown against the New England Patriots with teammate wide receiver Donte Moncrief (10) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton look back at the Jaguars' 31-20 victory over the New England Patriots in Week 2 and forward to Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans at TIAA Bank Field …

Oehser …

1.Reviewing the preview:When previewing Patriots-Jaguars, the thought here was the Jaguars needed to win the turnover ratio, handle the pregame hype and run the ball well. The Jaguars absolutely handled the bigness of the moment well, and it speaks to how well the Jaguars played Sunday that they won despite not winning the turnover battle or dominating on the ground offensively. The Jaguars committed two turnovers against the Patriots with just one takeaway, but the one turnover the Jaguars forced was a major momentum shifter: a strip-sack-fumble recovery by defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. that stopped the Patriots drive after the Jaguars' second second-half turnover. While the Jaguars managed just over 100 yards rushing, they ran effectively in spots – and quarterback Blake Bortles gave the Jaguars three critical first downs running. How the Jaguars handled this game was a major storyline: They treated it like a big game, but one they clearly expected to win. Their relatively measured postgame celebration spoke to a mature team ready to keep doing what's necessary to have the feeling they had Sunday.

2.As I saw it:The victory over the Patriots was a major victory for the Jaguars – not because they beat the team that beat them in the AFC Championship Game in January, but because of the manner in which they beat a very good team. The Patriots are resilient team that never believes it's out of a game – and midway through the second half, they had a very real chance to cut what had been a 21-point Jaguars lead to a one-score margin. Fowler then sacked Brady on third-and-8 from the Jaguars 24, and the Jaguars forced a Patriots punt on the ensuing series. Bortles then clinched the victory with a 61-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dede Westbrook. The Jaguars not only didn't win the turnover battle, they also put themselves in some tricky situations with penalties. Still, they never allowed the Patriots closer than 11 points after the first quarter. That's a big-time victory in convincing fashion.

3.Looking ahead, briefly:Up next for the Jaguars: the Tennessee Titans. As important as the Patriots game was, Sunday's game is equally so. The Jaguars won the AFC South championship last season but lost twice to the Titans – and the 37-16 Week 2 loss to Tennessee marks the Jaguars' most one-sided loss since Doug Marrone took over as head coach. The Titans are in their first season under Head Coach Mike Vrabel, and quarterback Marcus Mariota missed a Week 2 victory over the Houston Texans with an elbow injury. His status for Sunday against Jacksonville is still uncertain. This is a potential huge early game in the standings. If the Jaguars beat the Titans and the Indianapolis Colts lose to the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia Sunday, the Jaguars would lead the AFC South by two games. If the Titans win, the Titans would lead the South based on a head-to-head victory over Jacksonville.

Sexton…

1.Reviewing the Preview:The Jaguars' roster isn't just better, it's soooo much better than the Patriots' roster that I struggled to find a way for New England to win in the cold in Foxborough last January – let alone win in the heat in Jacksonville on Sunday. The obvious answer is their No. 1 guy is pretty darned good and he showed it in the AFC Championship Game. Brady didn't have his full cast of characters Sunday and he didn't have a running game, leaving him with only tight end Rob Gronkowski as a threat. I thought if the Jaguars could put the clamps on the All-Pro tight end – easier to say than to do – they would bring the New England offense to a halt. That's the way the game played out as "Gronk" made one catch for nine yards on the first drive, another for six yards in the second quarter and not another play all afternoon. The Jaguars knew wide receivers Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett wouldn't beat them; though they respected James White as a target out of the backfield, they knew he wasn't a game-breaker, either. I also thought the Jaguars would have to run the ball against a defense that wanted them to try. While they weren't as forceful as they might have been had running back Leonard Fournette been on the field, they used T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant plus a few nifty runs by Bortles to keep the Patriots honest and off balance all game long.

2.As I saw it:The Jaguars won this ballgame last Tuesday in the offensive game plan meetings. Offensive coordinator Nate Hackett unleashed his entire playbook through Bortles and held nothing back. Bortles found eight different targets in the first half; whether dumping it off to Grant or airing it out to wide receiver Keelan Cole, he was money by completing 64 percent of his passes. The most impressive part was the confidence with which Bortles played; he was in complete command from the start to finish, when things were going well and when they weren't. Case in point: on second-and-8 in the fourth quarter, Bortles threw a deep shot that hit wide receiver Donte Moncrief in the hands. Facing third-and-8 from his own 34, Blake called his own number and scrambled for 10 yards and a first down to secure the victory. The Jaguars' confidence in Bortles built through the 2017 season; his playoff performance moved them to express that in the form of a nice, new contract. On Sunday they showed the rest of the NFL what they saw and prepared them for what is coming from No. 5 and an offense with the league's best defense at the ready.

3.Looking ahead, briefly:Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash has a big week in front of him, preparing for a quarterback they've beaten only once in five tries. Marcus Mariota isn't the pocket passer they've faced in Eli Manning and Brady, which brings the pass rush to heel somewhat. Mariota doesn't put up gaudy passing yards or touchdowns, but he has a sneaky way of getting free on third-and-6 and gaining seven. The Jaguars should have a pretty good idea of what to do since they practice against a quarterback who has shown the same qualities in Weeks 1 and 2. Mariota didn't play in the Titans' Week 2 victory over Houston and he will probably be listed as questionable with the elbow injury for most of this week. Couple that with the loss of tight end Delanie Walker, who has been a Jaguars nemesis the last few seasons, and injuries to Pro Bowl tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin and it looks like a good opportunity for the Jaguars to get to 3-0 for the first time since 2004. Now, if Mariota can't play and the Jaguars get Blaine Gabbert at quarterback …

Advertising