A laughably bad start for the Jacksonville Jaguars created a hole that the team somehow climbed their way out of as the team finished with a win over the New York Giants, 25-24, following the biggest comeback in franchise history.
After getting a stop on the first possession of the game for the Giants, the next three drives resulted in touchdowns for New York, including a 19-play drive that spanned nearly 10 minutes and ended with a 2-yard touchdown run for Rashad Jennings. Meanwhile, the Jaguars managed four yards of offense on three consecutive three-and-out drives to begin the game.
The 230-4 start in total yardage and 15-0 start in first downs resulted in a 21-0 hole on the scoreboard. Then the Jaguars came storming back. The defense buckled down and stymied the Giants offense consistently, but really changed the game with two forced fumbles that were returned for touchdowns.
In fact, the only offensive touchdown of the game for the Jaguars was a 30-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bortles to Marqise Lee, who just managed to keep both feet in bounds down the right side of the end zone.
Three things we learned
1. Blake Bortles looked better: First things first, Blake Bortles is still not a good NFL quarterback and isn't yet where the Jaguars need him to be. However, his performance on Sunday was arguably his best of the season. He had a couple balls batted at the line of scrimmage, missed on some opportunities deep and was just a hair late on a lot of his timing routes, but commanded the offense well and drove the field when it counted most. He looked very comfortable throwing on the run and was generally accurate on intermediate throws all game.
Bortles was harassed often by consistent pressure, as Luke Joeckel and Denard Robinson did a poor job providing protection. That was compounded by an injury to Austin Pasztor, but all in all, if you were looking for progress from Bortles, there were things to point toward on Sunday and his touchdown pass to Lee may have been his best throw of the year.
2. Gus Bradley's message renewed: Messages of optimism are hard to sell when they're coupled with consistent losing. There was plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future of the Jaguars after the 2013 season ended with multiple wins and a team that had clearly bought in to those messages from Bradley.
The sluggish start to the first half on Sunday had me questioning whether or not the team still believed in that positivity though. Maybe it was a speech on the sideline from Chris Clemons that got the team reorganized, but this is exactly the type of performance that Bradley needed to keep his team bought in.
3. Luke Joeckel was....yikes: I've kind of considered this season an extended rookie year for Luke Joeckel after his 2013 season was cut short due to injury. But even by rookie standards, Sunday was a bad look for a player who is supposed to be a cornerstone on the Jaguars offense for the next decade. He was abused early and often by Jason Pierre-Paul, as the Giants defense managed to get to Bortles all game and create all kinds of issues for the Jaguars offense. It's pretty simple: Joeckel absolutely has to be better and it needs to happen soon.