JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 26-24 victory over the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High Sunday ….
1.Mustache Mania is oh-so real. All hail the Power of the Stache.
2.Sometimes, it pays to get lucky. Let's make this clear: No one around the Jaguars knew rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II would be this good – not this quickly and not ever. Or this clutch. Or this poised. Or this accurate. Or this crafty in the pocket. If they had known all those things, they would have drafted him well before Round 6. They knew he had traits they liked, but tons of rookies have likeable traits. If Minshew were a normal NFL rookie, the Jaguars would be 1-3 or 0-4 right now – and this season would have a dramatically different feel. He's not a normal NFL rookie. As a result, the Jaguars' season is very much alive. That's lucky. Really lucky.
3.Minshew is tough … Minshew was hit hard and often Sunday, and the Broncos hit Minshew questionably low around his knees more than once. One of these occasions came on the Jaguars' final drive, and Minshew limped noticeably after the hit. No matter. He completed two big passes to wide receiver Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley and moved the Jaguars 60 yards for the game-winning field goal. He was asked about the hit after the game. "Just football stuff," he called it. That's tough. Really tough.
4. … and Minshew is mobile … Minshew has pocket presence you can't teach. He created time Sunday by moving up and back and side to side in the pocket, most notably when he avoided at least four potential sacks before throwing a seven-yard touchdown pass to rookie running back Ryquell Armstead. Magical stuff.
5. … and he's clutch. Minshew rallied the Jaguars from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit in his first start at Houston in Week 2, a rally that fell inches short on a two-point run by running back Leonard Fournette. He rallied the Jaguars from a 14-point deficit Sunday. "There's nothing easy about playing this game," Head Coach Doug Marrone said. "Is it remarkable? Yeah, I think it is. Is it becoming something that's expected week in and week out? It's starting to."
6.Lambo is clutch, too. Kicker Josh Lambo's 33-yard field goal with no time remaining seemed like a formality, but a game-winning kick in the final seconds never is a given. Lambo has been so consistent in two-plus seasons with the Jaguars that it's easy to overlook his contributions. When it mattered Sunday, Lambo delivered. "I just live for whatever is put in front of me, man," Lambo said. "If it's fourth down and in my range, I'm going to hit it, so I'm just trying to do what I'm supposed to do."
Take a look at images of the Jaguars Week 4 matchup against the Denver Broncos.
7.The Jaguars are resilient. When the adversity was worst Sunday the team was at its best. No Jalen Ramsey? A double-digit second-half deficit against a desperate team? On the road? A go-ahead touchdown allowed in the final two minutes? The Jaguars faced all those situations and won. That's a good sign.
8.Penalties remain an issue. A hands-to-the-face penalty on left tackle Cam Robinson Sunday cost the Jaguars a touchdown late in the first half – and cost the Jaguars valuable momentum. Had the comeback come up short, this would be a major topic. This remains a trend that must stop.
9.Leonard Fournette can produce – and is a key part of the offense. It has been vogue to criticize Fournette in three NFL seasons, and he has brought some of that criticism on himself. But Fournette rushed for a career-high 225 yards on 25 carries and caught two passes for 20 yards Sunday. The Jaguars' offense is still most effective when he's running effectively.
10.Ryquell Armstead deserves more touches. The rookie running back was drafted to be a complement to Fournette. Eight carries for 42 yards Sunday showed he's ready.
11.The Jaguars can win without Ramsey … Ramsey missed a game Sunday for the first time in his four-year NFL career. The Jaguars are now 1-0 in his absence.
12. … but they still miss him very much. Second-year cornerback Tre Herndon started in Ramsey's place Sunday – and while he made a play on a deep ball early, at least 17 Broncos points came on drives in which Herndon allowed a key reception – and the Broncos took their late lead on an eight-yard pass from quarterback Joe Flacco to wide receiver Courtland Sutton with Herndon in coverage. So, yes … Ramsey was missed. Of course.
13.The Jaguars' offensive line can run block … Head Coach Doug Marrone emphasized this area all week. The result? A 269-yard rushing performance that was second only to the 375-yard game against the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 when it came to rushing yards in a single game. "We blocked them," Marrone said. "There was some room there." Said center Brandon Linder, "We called it before the game. We knew we were going to run the ball and that's exactly what we did. That's what we wanted to do, and we did it."
14. … but the line still ain't close to perfect. The line a week ago struggled to run block and didn't allow a sack. The line on Sunday allowed five sacks but had the best run-blocking day in recent memory. It's not time to give up on this line because it has shown flashes, but it must be more consistent.
15.Mustache Mania is oh-so-real. Just keep believin.' Because … why not?