The Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3) continued to prove their doubters wrong yesterday with a convincing 23-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals (3-5), addressing many of the questions and hesitations that still surrounded the team.
Having not previously won at home, the Jaguars picked up their first victory of the season at EverBank Field, as well as won their second consecutive game for the first time this season.
“I think it’s huge,” said quarterback Blake Bortles, whose team now owns at least a share of the AFC South lead through week nine for the first time since 2004. “It is kind of a double whammy. We had played better this season so far away, and I think we were able to flip the script on that today.”
Bortles proved his respective doubters wrong in stringing together his second consecutive strong performance. He finished 24 of 38 for 259 yards, threw one touchdown to Marqise Lee in the second quarter and didn’t turn the ball over once. The quarterback’s performance came after Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict said his defense planned to focus on stopping running back Leornard Fournette, because Bortles couldn’t beat them on his own.
“Somebody showed me it, and you know that’s fine,” said Bortles on Burfict’s comments. “I think Cincinnati has a bit of a reputation for the type of guys they are, and I think you saw a little bit of that today. I thought we did a good job playing as hard as we possibly can between the whistles and beating the crap out of them.”
The Jaguars did just that, totaling 407 yards compared to the Bengals’ 148 yards and controlling the clock for 40:14, while Cincinnati held the ball for just 19:46.
The Jaguars were effective on third down, converting on 12 of 18. The Bengals, on the other hand, converted just one of eight third downs.
Serving as perhaps the biggest surprise of the day, the Jaguars ultimately and surprisingly walloped the Bengals without Fournette, who was announced as inactive 90 minutes before kickoff because of a violation of team rules. Running backs Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant filled the star rookie’s void, rushing for a combined 148 yards on 40 carries. Following the game, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone said he expects Fournette to play next week.
The running back by committee received solid blocking all day by the offensive line, which featured a different lineup than usual. Center Brandon Linder, who missed the last three games before the bye with an illness, started at right guard in the place of A.J. Cann, who is dealing with a triceps injury. Tyler Shatley, who has played at center in Linder’s recent absence, remained at center. Cam Robinson played at tackle again after recovering from an ankle injury, yet he left the action toward the end of the Bengals game with another ankle injury.
With the exception of Bortles’ second quarter touchdown pass to Lee, all of the Jaguars’ scoring came on special teams, which Marrone said after the game hasn’t been the team’s strongest unit so far this year. Kicker Josh Lambo, who was acquired in mid-October, made three field goals from 32, 56 and 25 yards respectively. Then wide receiver Jaydon Mickens returned a 63-yard punt return in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal for Jacksonville, bringing the score to 23-7.
The Jaguars’ defense continued to prove why it’s regarded as one of the best if not the best in the league. The group limited the Bengals to a single scoring drive that came in the second quarter. Quarterback Andy Dalton connected with tight end Tyler Kroft for 59 yards, and then three plays later, running back Joe Mixon ran the ball in for a 7-yard touchdown. That would be it for Cincinnati though, as the Jaguars limited the Bengals to 29 total rushing yards and 119 total passing yards.
The Jaguars’ defense played half of the game without standout cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was ejected at the end of the second quarter after a physical altercation with Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green, who finished the day with one catch for six yards. After trash talk ensued between the two star players for two quarters, Ramsey shoved Green, which led to the wide receiver choke slamming the cornerback to the ground and landing a few punches to his helmet. Both players were ejected, which Bortles disagreed with.
“I thought Jalen getting thrown out was BS, and I thought we did a good job of guys kind of keeping their head because they’ve [the Bengals] had that reputation of doing stuff like that,” he said.
Following the game, referee Brad Allen Told Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times Union that Ramsey was ejected for a flagrant personal foul, which started the altercation and resulted in the punch from Green. The Bengals wideout was remorseful in the locker room.
“As a player, as a man and as a father, that’s a reflection of me,” he said. “I should have worked off in that whole situation. I definitely learned from this experience. It’s never going to happen again. I regret my actions. Whatever the punishment, I accept it. I put myself in that situation.”
The NFL has not announced any further punishments for Green or Ramsey.
The Jaguars will look to win their second straight home game next week when they host the Los Angeles Chargers.