Last week, following a close loss against the New Orleans Saints, I wrote about how the Jacksonville Jaguars need to force turnovers. At that point, the Jags had just two takeaways on the season, and only one of which was forced by the defense.
I ended that article with the following thought:
With an 0-6 Cincinnati Bengals team on the clock, this may be a get right game for both the Jaguars to get back on the winning track, and for the defense to force more turnovers. The Bengals have had 11 turnovers through six game, and have at least one turnover in five of the team’s first six games this season.
Well, ask, and you shall receive.
The Jaguars forced four turnovers against the Bengals on Sunday, which included three interceptions and a fumble recovery. In fact, in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars intercepted Andy Dalton on three straight possessions:
- Myles Jack intercepted Dalton with 8:41 left on the clock
- Yannick Ngakoue intercepted Dalton and returned it for a 23-yard touchdown with 4:18 left in the game
- Ronnie Harrison intercepted Andy Dalton with 4:10 left in regulation, which led to a Jacksonville field goal.
Early in the third quarter (prior to the interception extravaganza), cornerback D.J. Hayden forced wide receiver Tyler Boyd to fumble, which was recovered by Harrison. Make no mistake, the performance of the defense sealed this victory for Jacksonville.
In a single game, the Jaguars had double the amount of takeaways the team had on the entire season. Looking at the season as a whole, Jacksonville went from two takeaways to six, tripling the production.
Following the game, Hayden discussed the turnovers and the impact the defense had during the contest:
“Turnovers, they come in bunches,” Hayden said, via Jaguars.com. We had got one, we had a strip, then they just started coming. Hopefully we can keep it up, keep this momentum rolling into next week and the week after that, and the week after that and the week after that and just keep it rolling.”
Hayden has been playing lights out as of late. Both his teammates and his coaching staff have taken notice of that. Head coach Doug Marrone praised Hayden in his postgame press conference, saying he is “really playing at a high level.”
Others on the team credit Hayden’s forced fumble as the catalyst for the defensive performance in the second half, including defensive end Yannick Ngakoue:
“I just felt like the energy started with D.J. (Hayden)’s first play,” Ngakoue said. “He set the tone with the first turnover, and I felt like that’s what was really just gave us that spark again,” Ngakoue said. “Every win is just another opportunity to get to the playoffs,” Ngakoue later added.
We already mentioned how Marrone was impressed with Hayden, but he was also happy with his defense as a whole this week. The turnovers were much-needed, but it was something Marrone saw a lot of throughout the practice week. Perhaps it was some foreshadowing as to what was to come, and not all too surprising for the head coach on game day.
“We did a good job during the (practice) week,” Marrone said. We got our hands on a lot of footballs (on the defensive side of the ball) during the week. I even said something to (defensive coordinator, Todd) Wash. I said ‘Gosh, we got our hands on a bunch of footballs,’ and he goes ‘I think we might have gotten our hands on more footballs this week than we had at all the practices we’ve had (throughout the season).’”
Again, taking the ball away was just something that wasn’t happening for Jacksonville’s defense so far this season. The defensive unit realized that and wanted to prioritize getting the ball back to its offense. The turnover-prone Bengals, who entered the game at 0-6 and left it at 0-7, were a prime target to get the defensive swagger back.
Another player who made an impact, while not forcing a turnover himself, was rookie edge rusher Josh Allen. Allen recorded a sack, which was his fifth on the season. It was his third straight game with a sack, and his five sacks through seven games puts Allen with some elite company in the franchise’s history.
Allen was proud of how the defense played against Cincinnati and happy with the amount of turnovers forced:
“We just get after the ball,” Allen said. “We made a big emphasis this week on getting turnovers, getting that ball out, getting picks, and we had four today. That was the most we ever had (this season).”
The Jaguars will look to continue this success next week at home against a New York Jets team that has had at least one turnover in every game through Week 6 (the Jets plays on Monday football tonight tonight).