JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser and senior correspondent Brian Sexton both offer three quick thoughts on the Jaguars' game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field Sunday
1. The Jaguars are in the playoffs.This seemed a foregone conclusion in the second quarter – earlier, actually. The Jaguars needed a victory Sunday to qualify for the postseason and they essentially clinched it by halftime when they led 31-0 in what became a 45-7 victory at EverBank Field. But the margin of victory shouldn't overshadow the moment's importance. This is the Jaguars' first postseason appearance in a decade, and Sunday was just the fourth time in franchise history the Jaguars clinched a postseason appearance with a victory in Jacksonville. Yes, this team has bigger goals than a playoff appearance. Yes, it's looking more and more like a team that can accomplish those goals. It has the feel of a team that can beat any team anywhere. But if you're a Jaguars fan, savor this moment. It has been a long time coming and moments such as Sunday's are guaranteed to no team.
2. Blake Bortles is good.It may be time to stop debating this – and it actually may have been time before his performance Sunday. The Jaguars' fourth-year quarterback had played well the past two games and continued to do so on Sunday, completing 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Bortles actually had been playing well for much of the last two months; his receivers are now making plays – and the combination has made the Jaguars a dangerous offense entering the regular-season's final two weeks. How far can the Jaguars go in the postseason? Who knows, but it's no longer accurate to think quarterback is a liability for this ascending team. A final oddity: Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was asked afterward if Bortles was improving. Clowney created a Twitter Buzz by saying Bortles is "trash" – further evidence that the ability to sack a quarterback does not mean having the ability to analyze one.
3. What else is there to say about the Jaguars' defense?This unit is good. And dominant. How good? How dominant? Dominant enough that it held the Houston Texans to 58 first-half yards on Sunday – and it didn't seem unusual. Yes, the Texans were playing with their third quarterback of the season – third-team quarterback T.J. Yates – but it was clear early in the first quarter that the Texans couldn't keep the pass rush off Yates and that Houston wasn't going to be effective enough running to seriously challenge the Jaguars' defense. The Jaguars finished Sunday with four sacks, allowing Houston 186 total yards and nine first downs. This defense has been the league's best all season and has a chance to be one of the best defenses in recent memory. The defense gives the Jaguars a chance to beat any team in the NFL. It has been that good this season and it shows no signs of drop off.
- EverBank Field was an amazing venue on Sunday. The crowd, hungry for a playoff berth, roared like a jet engine from the beginning to the end. This is going to be a difficult venue for folks to visit next season...maybe even the playoffs. This team and this town are in sync and it's amazing to see after so many disappointing seasons.
- How about the young receivers? Jaydon Mickens grabs two touchdowns, Keelan Cole goes for 186 and a touchdown and that's after Marqise Lee left the game. That Blake Bortles could count on them being where they were supposed to be speaks volumes for the job that Keenan McCardell has done with that room.
- Blake Bortles….add your own adjective. He was in complete control today and was never even remotely thrown out of rhythm. You could tell by the smile on his face in the post-game that he relishes the chance to get the Jaguars back on track. Sensational doesn't do justice to what he's done the last few weeks justice, but playing as well as he's playing there shouldn't be any limitations on where this team can go in the post-season.