CINCINNATI, Ohio – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars’ 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 7 of the 2019 regular season at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sunday
1. The Jaguars were fortunate to play a struggling team Sunday. The Jaguars’ victory Sunday was weird on many levels – and early in the game, it was frustrating on more than a few levels. But the bottom line: they won when they needed to win – so the weirdness and frustration matters less. Here’s why the Jaguars were fortunate Sunday: While they dominated statistically, they too often failed to take advantage of extended drives and scoring opportunities. They were stopped on the Bengals’ one-yard line in the first quarter and scored just six first-half points despite 309 yards offense. They trailed at halftime despite outgaining Cincinnati by nearly 200 yards. That sort of statistic often leads to a loss, but the Bengals are struggling to a degree they couldn’t take advantage and win a game the Jaguars in many ways tried to give them. Credit the Jaguars for winning one they needed to win, but as Head Coach Doug Marrone said afterward of the missed opportunities: “We were fortunate. We understand and it and we know we have to work on it.”
2.The Jaguars may be welcoming back Nick Foles after all.Remember? A couple of weeks back? The city and the nation were in the throes of Minshew Mania, and many observers – including this one, perhaps – were declaring rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II the Jaguars’ quarterback of the future. It’s not time to say Minshew never can be the Jaguars’ starter, but it’s fair to say the team could return to starter Nick Foles in mid-November. Minshew increasingly in recent weeks has looked shaky in the pocket, and for a second consecutive week seemed more hesitant with certain throws than he had been early in his stretch as a starter. None of this means Minshew played poorly Sunday. And he continues to show good signs and keep the Jaguars in position to win. But whereas it once seemed it might be difficult to return to Foles when he returns from the broken clavicle that has had him on injured reserve since Week 1, that no longer seems an implausible scenario.
3. When they come, they really do come in bunches. There aren’t many triter NFL clichés, but it’s a true one when it comes to takeaways – and it was true for the Jaguars’ defense Sunday. The Jaguars, after entering the game with two takeaways for the season – including one by the defense – registered four Sunday, all in the second half. One of the biggest: an interception by linebacker Myles Jack at the Jaguars 10, a play that halted the Bengals’ last real chance to tie the game. Jack made a big-time athletic play on the play before forward-lateraling the ball to safety Ronnie Harrison and drawing a penalty. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue followed that by turning a gift from Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton into a Pick Six touchdown and a 24-10 lead. Marrone said afterward he usually considered the turnovers-in-bunches thing “B.S.” It wasn’t for the Jaguars, and the Jaguars need the cliché to be true moving forward.
1. Bunches. Turnovers were the difference and they did, indeed arrive in bunches. DJ Hayden’s forced fumble on the Bengals opening drive of the third quarter which was recovered by safety Ronnie Harrison set up a field goal drive which gave the Jaguars their 9-7 lead. Myles Jack’s fourth quarter interception killed a Bengals’ drive to try and tie the game at 17 and Yannick Ngakoue’s pick six interception put the game away. Let’s not forget Harrison’s interception which the Jags converted for a field goal. That’s 13 points off four second half take-aways and that’s how you help a rookie quarterback.
2. The rookie quarterback. Gardner Minshew wasn’t bad today, but he wasn’t magic or maniacal or mayhem either. He completed a beautiful throw to Keelan Cole for his only touchdown and the two-point conversion to Chris Conley was on the money. He was only okay because the offense scored just one touchdown, squandering four red zone opportunities where they settled for field goals. It wasn’t all on him, but he is the quarterback and the big red arrow is over your head when the offense is moving up and down the field all day and bogging down inside the Bengals 20-yard line. The game should have started 7-0 and just gone downhill from there, instead they let an undermanned Cincinnati squad stay in the game until the fourth quarter. They won’t beat the Jets if they go 1-6 in the red zone next Sunday.
3. Momentum. It’s going to take a while to find anything close to momentum. The offensive line played well but still leaked enough to force Minshew to make too many rushed throws. The secondary came up big in the end but on the final drive of the second quarter and on the Bengals field goal drive in the third they were a step behind, which isn’t unexpected considering how they’re adapting to playing without Jalen Ramsey. There were too many penalties and too many negative plays for the Jags to leave southern Ohio feeling like the wind is at their back. However, if the defense plays like a pack of crazed dogs as they did in the fourth quarter they’ll give themselves a chance to get to 4-4 at home against the Jets next week and perhaps leave London 5-4. How ridiculous would that have sounded on opening day after Nick Foles went down? They’re still working to put it all together but they’re tool box has enough tools to make you feel as if they might over the next three weeks.