1. The defense is just, plain good – and so are the Jaguars.How good is the Jaguars' defense? Good enough that Sunday's game felt over once the Jaguars took a 16-7 third-quarter lead. To say the Jaguars' defense was suffocating Sunday is an understatement. They allowed the Bengals 148 yards and eight first downs; Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton completed 10 of 18 passes for 136 yards and no touchdowns – and while he was sacked just twice, he was under pressure throughout. The Bengals' lone touchdown came on an 80-yard drive that featured a 59-yard pass from Dalton to tight end Taylor Kroft – and if the play wasn't a fluke, it had a quirky feel that seemed unlikely to be repeated. The defense eliminated the big play after that, and the second half was defined by the pass rush swarming Dalton and by Dalton at times having to throw deep on third down hoping for a big play or interference penalty. This Jaguars' defense is good, folks – and yes, that means playoff-caliber good.
2. Give Blake Bortles a lot of credit – again.The Jaguars' quarterback by any measure played well Sunday, and that's the third time that has been true in the last six games. With running back Leonard Fournette out after an infraction of a team rule, the offensive line and running game were good Sunday – but it was Bortles throughout the first three quarters who enabled the Jaguars to take and eventually extend the lead. Bortles was particularly efficient on a 96-yard second-quarter drive that he capped with a three-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Marqise Lee that gave the Jaguars a 10-0 lead. Bortles completed 24 of 38 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions Sunday, and while this wasn't the best statistical game of his career it was clearly one of the most efficient. It has been vogue in recent months – and even recent weeks – to write Bortles off as the Jaguars' quarterback of the future. That feels less accurate now than in early October.
3. Initial thought on the first-half scrum that ended with the ejection of Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green:Officials absolutely had to eject Green for his actions; ejecting Ramsey seemed extreme. Green and Ramsey had been jawing and motioning back and forth throughout the first half, and with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Ramsey shoved Green with two hands from behind after a two-yard run by Joe Mixon. Ramsey took a step or two away before Green took Ramsey to the ground by the neck. Green then punched Ramey once and perhaps a second time before Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack hit Green to knock him away from Ramsey. A scrum ensued and lasted for more than a minute. Should Ramsey have been penalized for pushing Green? Almost certainly? Should he have been ejected? Not from this view.
- Jalen Ramsey's ejection, questionable as it seems, poured fuel on the Jaguars defensive fire at halftime. They came out at an entirely different level, holding the Bengals to just 16 yards in the second half. Yannick Ngakoue personified their disposition when he leapt over blockers, ran around them and even got up off the ground to make a critical tackle on a screen pass…all after he was shaken up and refused to have any help getting up and off the field. They're really good and they're getting better every week, which is scary to think about…if you play in the AFC. What makes them so dangerous is they feed off adversity and challenge one another on every play. They're really good, they're getting better, and they know it.
- How about Blake Bortles? He was incredibly efficient completing 24 of 38 passes for 259 yards and a 91.9 rating. More impressively was how patient he was in the pocket, how many good decisions he made in the face of pressure where in the past he chose poorly, and how accurate he was on the move. He earned the scrutiny in the past but has more than earned a tip of the cap for the way that he's embraced the game plan and is doing what they ask him to do as well as he possibly can. He directed a 15-play, 96-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter and a 15-play 8:33-second drive to close out the game. Brandon Linder told me after the game that this offense is feeding off his confidence and on Sunday took their cues from him emotionally. He isn't an elite player but clearly they can win with him.
- This team handles adversity like champions. No Leonard Fournette? No problem. Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant and Bortles combined for 40 rushing attempts for 148 yards to help fuel more than 40 minutes in time of possession. Right guard A.J. Cann can't play? No problem. Brandon Linder moves to guard and Tyler Shatley starts at center. Jalen Ramsey is ejected just before halftime? The defense turned up the pressure on Andy Dalton and kept it off Jalen Myrick who took Ramsey's place, and the Bengals managed just 16 yards in the second half. Great players, strong coaching and an understanding of the task at hand. It bodes well for the second half of the season.