JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the Seattle Seahawks at EverBank Field SundayOehser ...
1. Give this passing game (yes, that means Bortles) massive credit.We'll get to other storylines in the Jaguars' 30-24 victory Sunday soon enough. But we must begin with quarterback Blake Bortles and an oft-maligned passing game. The pre-game talk focused on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a Most Valuable Player candidate. But on this day, Bortles played the most clutch game in the biggest game of his four-year career. He completed 18 of 27 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, and Bortles – poised and accurate throughout – was at his best in the third quarter as the Seahawks tried to rally. Major credit, too, to wide receivers Dede Westbrook (five receptions, 81 yards, touchdown), Keelan Cole (three receptions, 99 yards, touchdown) and Marqise Lee (five receptions, 65 yards). Bortles entered Sunday perceived as the second-best quarterback in the game. He didn't play like it, and that's a major reason the Jaguars now lead the AFC South.
2. This was electric – and that was cool.That was going to be the case whatever the outcome; the crowd and atmosphere at EverBank Field Sunday was everything that was expected this week. Announced attendance was 64,431, which made it the first sellout since the 2016 regular-season opener, but numbers didn't matter as much as the noise and the energy. The crowd stayed loud and overwhelming throughout much of the game. It stayed raucous into the fourth quarter – and after the clock hit 0:00. Cars honked and people cheered in the parking lot. Jacksonville and the Jaguars had waited a long time for a game like this. The Jaguars absolutely came through on the field and the crowd came through off it. This was as memorable and important a day as the 'Bank has hosted in more than a decade.
3. The defense mattered and the run game did, too.Remember the early-season formula for victory? Run and play defense? The Jaguars got back to that much of the game Sunday, and make no mistake: even with two long touchdown passes allowed to Wilson in the fourth quarter, the defense was a major reason for the Jaguars' victory. The defense intercepted Wilson three times and held Seattle to 10 points through the third quarter – and it came up with the game's key play when defensive tackle Malik Jackson sacked Wilson on 3rd-and-1 from the Jaguars 49 with 2:19 remaining. Oh, and remember how the run game had been struggling in recent weeks? The Jaguars rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries Sunday against the NFL's seventh-ranked run defense. Snapshot moment here: Rookie running back Leonard Fournette clinching the victory with a 13-yard run on 3rd-and-11 from the Seahawks 31. Game over. Statement made.
Sexton ...1. This was the Jaguars' biggest home win since they beat Seattle in December of 1996 to earn their first winning record in team history. When you consider what was on the line tonight and who they were playing, you could argue that this win might be the biggest in team history. As someone who has seen every one, and yes, I am counting the Monday Night Football wins over the Steelers in 1997 and Miami in 1998 in my calculations, I can tell you this game means more. This team talked all week about taking care of business. This city buzzed all week about the possibilities. On Sunday the Jaguars made big plays whenever they really needed one and it energized the crowd. Make no mistake, Russell Wilson is an MVP-caliber quarterback and the Jaguars had the answer for him tonight, which is why they're in first place in the AFC South with three games to play.
- Blake Bortles is stacking 'em up. For the second Sunday in a row he played lights-out and you don't even need the statistics to make the case. The throw to Dede Westbrook was perfectly placed and pass after pass after pass hit receivers in stride, allowing them to get up the field and move the chains. His patience in the pocket was outstanding as evidenced on the long throw to Keelan Cole when he stepped up into the pocket and made a perfect throw, which allowed Cole to use his speed to get past Earl Thomas for the touchdown. He completed 66 percent of his passes for 269 yards and a passer rating of 123.7. But more than the numbers is his poise, his command of the offense and maybe as important—his teammates' respect which right now is beyond measure. The quarterback came through when his team needed it against Seattle.
- Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye should both be All Pro when the Associated Press names it's team. Russell Wilson had three touchdown passes but none came against them. Seattle had to attack the middle of the field because 20 and 21 were unassailable and I can't imagine any corner in the game playing as well as either of these guys right now. You can go to Pro Football Focus for the numbers and grades and all that stuff. All I know is that when this team needs a big play they've come through. They tell each other that they're the best. Now it's time for the voters to tell them they are. The results are, like the duo, unassailable.