JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines what we learned from the Jaguars' 31-20 victory over the New England Patriots in the 2018 regular-season home opener at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday …
1.The Jaguars are good. Really good. You don't beat the Patriots by double digits unless that's true. And you don't lead them for the final three quarters by double-digits if it's not true. There's a long way to go in the season, but the Jaguars are good. Make no mistake about that.
2.The Jaguars are good at home. They have won seven consecutive games at TIAA Bank Field. That's tied for the longest winning streak in franchise history.
3.Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles is good, too. Shh…. This will really mess with a lot of people's minds.
4.Bortles is good. You know what? It's OK to mess with people's minds, because the truth is the truth. Bortles is 15-8 as a starter since late in the 2016 season, and he has been trending up in a major way since midway through last season. He completed 29 of 45 passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns with one interception Sunday.
5.Bortles is tough … We've been learning this for a while, but it was on display again Sunday. Bortles not only threw effectively, he ran at the right times and he ran tough. He finished with 35 yards on six carries – and it seemed fitting that his 10-yard scramble helped secure the victory.
6. … and teammates love him for it. Safety Tashaun Gipson on Bortles: "They can say what they want, but the dude is phenomenal. When the dude is on, he is on. For all the negativity people want to say and surround about Blake, at the end of the day, he has won football games and right now he is 2-0 as our starting quarterback."
7.Gipson deserves credit. Gipson was hurt he didn't make the Pro Bowl last season. Head Coach Doug Marrone thought he should have gotten consideration for the honor. Gipson may nor may not make the Pro Bowl this season, but it was he – and not cornerback Jalen Ramsey – who covered Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski much of the game Sunday. Gronkowski's numbers Sunday: two receptions, 15 yards.
8.The Jaguars' wide receivers are actually OK. This group has been questioned and doubted throughout the offseason, training camp and through Week 1. Their collective numbers Sunday: 16 receptions, 246 yards, three touchdowns. They may not be a True No. 1 receiver in this group, but there are a lot of receivers who can make a lot of plays.
9.Keelan Cole may be headed to big-time status. The second-year wide receiver's one-handed stab catch in the first quarter was the game's highlight play, but Cole caught seven passes for 116 yards. Six went for first downs. Remember: Cole struggled to adapt to the NFL for six games last season. He has 46 receptions for 881 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games since, and he is averaging more than 17 yards per reception for his career. This career could get interesting.
10.The offensive line may be jelling … The line struggled at times in Week 1, and it needed to improve in Week 2. How much did it improve? One of the quarterbacks in Sunday's game played much of the game with little duress. That wasn't Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
11. … and Josh Wells came up big. Second-year left tackle Cam Robinson left with a knee injury in the first quarter, and Wells played well enough that you didn't notice Robinson's absence. If reports that Robinson's injury is season-ending are true the Jaguars will need a lot more from Wells in this vein.
12.The Jaguars' defensive speed matters. The speed of linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack showed up in a big way against the Patriots' running game Sunday. New England rushed for 82 yards but averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. The speed of the Jaguars' back seven – particularly Smith and Jack – forced New England into a lot of longer-yardage situations than might have been the case against a slower team.
13.Corey Grant remains a weapon. He caught six passes for 56 yards, but they all seemed to matter and he seemed within a step of a big, big play all day.
14.Blocking downfield matters. Yes, Cole's one-handed reception was impressive. But his block sprung wide receiver Dede Westbrook for the final 20 yards of the game-clinching touchdown. These receivers block and that matters.
15.Dante Fowler Jr. matters to this defense. Many Jaguars observers wanted the team to trade Fowler this past offseason. His strip-sack-fumble was yet another example of why you don't trade or cut good players.
16.Myles Jack Wasn't Down. Yeah, we learned this a while back.