As First Coast fans erupted in “Let’s go Jaguars” and “DUVAL” chants in the closing minutes of Jacksonville’s victory last night over Seattle, one fact became apparent: The Jacksonville Jaguars are for real.
With both teams entering the contest 8-4, the Jaguars topped the Seahawks 30-24 and are now 9-4 on the season and in sole possession of the AFC South lead after the Tennessee Titans lost to the Arizona Cardinals. The win guarantees the Jaguars their first winning season since 2007.
“I was excited for our players,” said Jaguars coach Doug Marrone. “I was excited for our fans to come out there today. I thought all three phases kind of complimented each other at times during the game, which I think you have to do to win games late in the season in December.”
Jacksonville receiver Jaydon Mickens, who returned a punt in the third quarter 72 yards, said the game was a statement win for the Jaguars.
“This is a game that nobody picked us to win, and if they did pick us to win, it wasn’t by much,” he said, adding that the win sent a message to the rest of the NFL. “The Jacksonville Jaguars are here. They’re here, they’re ready to play, they’re focused, they’re hungry and they’re resilient.”
Coming into the game, the question for Jacksonville was simple: Could the Jaguars contain quarterback Russell Wilson? For three quarters of play, Jacksonville did just that, forcing three interceptions from Seattle’s most potent weapon and limiting him to only 13 completions for 122 yards.
“We just had to strike fear in his heart,” said defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who finished with one of the defense’s two sacks. “From the first plays we were just trying to get to him and hit him and keep him contained, and that’s what we did. We did a great job of it, and the defense from the back seven and the DBs did a great job of locking down.”
The Jaguars capitalized on the defensive’s efforts with points on the scoreboard, thanks in large part to the impressive efforts of quarterback Blake Bortles against a historically strong defense in Seattle. The Jacksonville signal caller finished 18 of 27 for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
“I felt as though I put our offense in a chance to score points,” said Bortles. “Obviously not turning the ball over is a big part of that.”
After coming out of halftime with a 3-0 lead due to a 38-yard field goal from Josh Lambo, the action picked up for Jacksonville in the third quarter. On the Jaguars’ first drive in the second half, quarterback Blake Bortles orchestrated a five play, 42-yard drive that was capped off by a beautiful 18-yard fade to rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook.
Seattle responded with a 28-yard field goal from Blair Walsh and then a 26-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Doug Baldwin after Jacksonville’s Corey Grant fumbled a kick return. Jacksonville’s response, however, was stronger. Bortles connected with receiver Keelan Cole on a 75-yard touchdown bomb, and a few minutes later, running back Leonard Fournette pounded in a 1-yard rushing touchdown after the Mickens punt return. Fournette finished his strong day on the ground with 101 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Add in another Josh Lambo field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and the Jaguars led 27-10 with 10 minutes remaining in the game.
“We knew we were going to have to score points,” said Bortles. “I think guys did a really good job of when [Seattle] made big plays and scored touchdowns, no one got down or hung their head or anything. That’s fine, we knew we could go back and score again so it was alright.”
The game wasn’t over yet though. Wilson added 14 quick points off 61-yard and 74-yard touchdown passes to Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett, respectively. Josh Lambo added his final field goal of the day between Seattle’s two fourth quarter scores. With about four minutes to play, the Seahawks scratched and clawed their way within six points, but ultimately could not finish the comeback. After one final stop, the Jaguars finished on top, 30-24.
The game didn’t end without its fair share of drama. Seahawks defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson and Quinton Jefferson were ejected following scuffles on consecutive plays as Bortles kneeled to end the game. On his way to the locker room, Jefferson ultimately got into a screaming match with a Jacksonville fan who threw a drink at him. The Seattle defensive lineman actually attempted to climb into the stands to retaliate, but EverBank Field security officials prevented him from doing so. Bortles had a simple response to the chippiness of the game.
“I think it’s a little bit of people aren’t used to getting beat like that by the Jaguars,” the quarterback said. “We just beat the crap out of you for 60 minutes.”
As for the next 60 minutes, the Jaguars will face the Houston Texans in the team’s final home game of the season at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Following the win against the Seahawks, Marrone said there’s still a lot of football left to be played.
“I also told the players, ‘Hey listen, this is the first game of the fourth quarter. Let’s not get distracted with any noise on the outside. Let’s get ready,’” said Marrone. “We have a division opponent next week. You’ve got to get ready to play again, and obviously the season is not over. We’re not going to get too high. We’re not going to get too low. We’re going to work our butts off and see if we can get ourselves ready for next week.”