Football is back in Jacksonville and the Jaguars are undefeated after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10 during Friday night's preseason opener.
For our Chad Henne-led offense, there were some miscues, a few broken plays, a number of missed assignments, and not a lot to be encouraged about. Heck, our "starter" got to stay in through the middle of the second quarter -- even more time than we thought he would -- and he still couldn't produce.
Henne finished with 4-of-7 for just 30 yards, and the passing offense helped the Buccaneers defense stay primed to stop the run and held starter Jordan Todman to just five yards on five carries.
It wasn't even lackluster. That's an insult to luster. It was disgusting. It was filthy. It couldn't string together more than two plays without a bad snap from center Mike Brewster, a missed block for running back Jordan Todman, or a low pass from Henne batted down at the line.
And then Blake Bortles came in. And if you weren't watching the game, replays will not do it justice. We weren't ready for his pinpoint accurate throws on the run, or his ability to hit receivers in stride over the middle of the field. None of us. He finished 7-for-11 for 117 yards, but three incompletions were drops by receivers.
The offense looked and felt very, very different depending on who was under center. With Henne, we groaned the groans of 2013. With Bortles, hope springs eternal.
The defense, however, was consistently good. All night.
Sen'Derrick Marks put in the best quarter I've seen from a Jaguars defensive lineman since the days of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Tyson Alualu played angry. The rest of the defensive line performed better than anything we saw in 2013. Telvin Smith played hard and fast, with a pressure in the first quarter that led to a 68-yard interception return from Winston Guy.
Heck, even rookie fifth-round pick Chris Smith got himself a sack and added another pressure.
"It was good," head coach Gus Bradley said at halftime. "We really wanted the ability to contain the run and we did that. We also wanted to see our front four bring pressure and they did that."
Guy's touchdown put the Jaguars ahead in the first quarter and the home team never looked back. The Buccaneers scored a field goal in the second quarter, but even the backups on defense played with intensity. Tampa Bay scored a touchdown to tie the game 10-10 in the fourth quarter, but Denard Robinson used his speed to secure the go-ahead score and Stephen Morris used up the last few minutes of the game.
In all, our defense was outstanding, Blake Bortles threw just one bad pass all night, and our backups held the lead and flashed some greatness.
Football is back in Jacksonville. If you wiped away a single tear, we understand.