JACKSONVILLE – Finally.
Yes, the Jaguars won at EverBank Field Sunday – finally. They won a second consecutive game – finally. They showed their home fans what they believed themselves to be – finally.
They did so impressively, memorably and dominantly.
And make no mistake: The Jaguars' 23-7 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday was all those things – impressive, memorable, dominant – and if you didn't believe before, it's time to believe now. This defense?
It's really good – special, maybe.
And maybe, just maybe, the Jaguars have a chance to be that, too.
"I don't want to get too far ahead, but we've got a good thing going right now," tight end Marcedes Lewis said.
Indeed they do – and while Lewis was hardly alone late Sunday in not wanting to get too caught up in just where this team might be headed, make no mistake about this, either:
What the Jaguars did Sunday was impressive, and what they have done in the first eight weeks of the season – the way they have won, the way they are improving, the way they play the way they want to play on a consistent basis – bodes well for the final eight games.
Not that Head Coach Doug Marrone was using words like "special" late Sunday.
Marrone had other topics cover with the media in Sunday's aftermath, most notably: rookie running back Leonard Fournette, who missed Sunday for what Marrone in a pre-game statement called "an infraction of a team rule." Marrone said little more afterward.
"It's internal," Marrone said. "I'm going to stick with the statement. It's between the player and myself, and we handle it internally."
As for his reaction to the game, Marrone's approach is to not get too high after victories or too low after losses. He wasn't particularly emotional Sunday, either.
Marrone did acknowledge that the Jaguars winning at home and winning consecutive games – neither of which they had done yet done this season – mattered.
"We're working on performing well at home and earning the home-field advantage," Marrone said, adding, "I'm just happy that obviously we won the game and we were able to finish this quarter 3-1, which puts us at the halfway point 5-3 – and knowing that we've got a lot of work ahead of us and getting ready to start this third quarter."
That's the approach Marrone must take, and it's the approach the Jaguars must take, too. Eight games remain, which means nothing remotely has been decided.
There are things happening with this team that typically happen with good teams, things that showed themselves again on Sunday:
*The quarterback.Blake Bortles – yet again, for a third time in six games – played very efficiently, completing 24 of 38 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. Bengals linebacker Vontez Burfict had been quoted this week to the effect that Fournette could beat the Bengals and Bortles couldn't. On this day, that was incorrect.
*The offensive line and the running backs.This group – yet again – proved it can function without Fournette, running for 148 yards on 40 carries. That's the second consecutive game the Jaguars have run effectively without the No. 4 overall selection in the NFL Draft. How good was the Jaguars' offense without Fournette? The Bengals ran a franchise-record-low 37 plays. That's statistic is as impressive for the Jaguars' offense as it is for the defense.
*The defense.This group deserves an entire story – indeed, an entire website – but we're nearing the end of this View from the O-Zone, so we'll thoughts on the defense to one paragraph. The primary thought: the Jaguars' defense hardly could have been more dominant – yet again. The Bengals had 148 yards, with 59 coming on one play. Cincinnati had 16 yards in the second half and averaged 1.7 yards per carry for the game. Quarterback Andy Dalton passed for 136 yards. Once the Jaguars took a 16-7 third-quarter lead Sunday, this game felt over. As has been the case in five previous Jaguars victories this season, that feeling was right.
The comments in the Jaguars' post-game locker room focused mostly on the aforementioned areas. The other topic: the altercation late in the first half between Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey and Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. It has been discussed elsewhere on this site and will be discussed in the next few days. The thought here remains that Ramsey shouldn't have been ejected.
But the bigger thought is that while the Ramsey story will make for a few days of headlines, this Jaguars team is showing very real signs of remaining a story for the foreseeable future.
Players entered the bye disappointed with their 4-3 record. Their belief was they were better than that, and there was an unmistakable determination this week to show their home fans that they are a good team capable of doing something special in the seasons' second half.
They did just that at the 'Bank Sunday. Memorably. Impressively. Dominantly.