JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field Sunday
1. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles got the help he needed – and the results were impressive.Bortles will get much praise for Sunday – and deservedly so. He completed 26 of 35 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions – and it's not a reach to say Sunday may have been his best career game. Significant on Sunday was that wide receivers Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook all made impressive plays, and the group took advantage of opportunities when Bortles put passes where they could catch them. The Jaguars' receivers struggled with drops a week ago against Arizona, and Cole afterward said eliminating those were a major focus all week. It showed, with Lee making two impressive catches in the first half – including one for a four-yard, first-quarter touchdown – and Cole catching an eight-yard pass in the second quarter for his first career NFL touchdown. Bortles had thrown accurately in recent weeks; on Sunday, his receivers came through in a big way.
2. Sacksonville.This wasn't the devastating performance the Jaguars turned in during a 27-0 victory over the Colts early in the season, but make no mistake: the Jaguars' defense was dominant Sunday – and that dominance controlled much of the game. The Jaguars, after registering 10 sacks in Indianapolis, registered four on Sunday with defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebacker Paul Posluszny and end Calais Campbell all registering one and Posluszny and rookie linebacker Blair Brown splitting one. The secondary also came up with two interceptions, including one late in the first half by cornerback Jalen Ramsey that seemed to take the life out of the Colts' chances. Campbell's first-half sack gave him 12.5 for the season, breaking the franchise record. That highlighted a day on which the NFL's best pass rush perhaps wasn't at its most dominant but was absolutely good enough.
3. Don't underestimate Sunday.The Jaguars for the most part made Sunday's game look easy – and the outcome never was in much doubt after Bortles' touchdown pass to Cole made it 16-3 in the second quarter. But this was a huge victory for a couple of reasons. One: it's never easy to beat a team in one-sided fashion twice in a season, and the Jaguars' victory Sunday felt as dominant as the 27-point victory in Indianapolis last month. But it's mostly big because it gives the Jaguars momentum heading into the final quarter of the season – and it keeps them tied for first place in the AFC South entering next Sunday's matchup against Seattle at EverBank Field. That game is huge and the rest of the month looks huge – but it's only huge because the Jaguars reestablished momentum with a dominant victory Sunday.
1. Blake Bortles was sensational on Sunday against the Colts. Let me say that again, Bortles was sensational against Indy on a day that he needed to be. The Jags quarterback completed nearly 75% of his passes to Marqise Lee and a couple of rookies who were under the microscope all week long. Dede Westbrook caught six of nine passes thrown his way for 78 yards and Keelan Cole, who had a pair of drops in Arizona, caught all three tossed his direction for 49 yards and his first NFL touchdown. Bortles was patient in the pocket, careful with the football and bold when he needed to be in leading the Jaguars to three touchdowns and two field goals on the Jaguars' first five drives and a commanding 27-10 lead in the fourth quarter. Bortles hit seven different receivers, converted 9 of 15 on third down and answered the bell every time he was asked. He gets a lot of criticism and much of it is self-inflicted, but on a Sunday when they needed to win in order to keep pace with the Titans in the AFC South and with the box loaded to stop Leonard Fournette, the quarterback delivered.
2. There will be plenty of hand-wringing about the Jaguars' inability to run the football. I'm not crazy about the drop-off but it isn't the problem that the run defense was on Sunday. There's a reason why they couldn't run the ball: the Colts stacked the box. I'm still wondering how the Colts ran for 141 yards and Frank Gore appeared to have found the fountain of youth. That's the first bad run-defense day the Jags have had since Marcell Dareus arrived in Jacksonville more than a month ago and you're going to have a bad tackling day now and then, but it was troubling that the defense couldn't get a 34-year-old running back on the ground more often. I'm certain defensive coordinator Todd Wash will have plenty to say to his troops this week, and hopefully he has a solution.
3. The defense was still pretty darned good despite not dominating like it did in Indianapolis in October. The unit came up with four sacks and two takeaways and generally kept the Colts from threatening. The worry is they may be wearing down a bit physically with plenty of bumps and bruises in the locker room after the game. That's where the running game comes in – it gives these guys a break.