By Adesina O. Koiki
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Whether they considered Sunday’s matchup a “statement game” or not, the Jacksonville Jaguars let their actions speak louder for themselves during their game against the Seattle Seahawks, a perennial Super Bowl contender.
If you don’t think the Jaguars are a serious contender, you better think again.
Jacksonville’s defense recorded three interceptions of MVP candidate Russell Wilson, while his counterpart, Blake Bortles, continued his improved play at quarterback with two touchdown passes as the Jaguars defeated the Seattle Seahawks 30-24 at a sold-out EverBank Field. The win clinched the team’s first winning season since 2007 and also marked the Jaguars’ fourth consecutive victory at home.
With Tennessee’s loss on the road to Arizona, the Jaguars (9-4) move into sole possession of first place in the AFC South with three games remaining. Jacksonville will clinch a playoff spot with a victory at home next Sunday against the Houston Texans.
“This is not the old Jaguars team,” said Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette, who had 101 yards rushing on the day. “We are not pushovers and are going to fight back.”
Though the first half only featured three points – a Josh Lambo 38-yard field goal for Jacksonville in the first quarter – the Jaguars set the tone on defense in those first 30 minutes by harassing Wilson in the pocket. The biggest play of the half came when Jalen Ramsey intercepted a deep Wilson pass in the end zone to extinguish a Seahawks second-quarter drive and preserve Jacksonville’s lead.
On the first two plays of the third quarter, Jacksonville forced Wilson into an intentional grounding penalty, then intercepted him as cornerback A.J. Bouye came away with the pick along the right sideline at Seattle’s 42-yard line.
Jacksonville needed just five plays to cash in on Wilson’s second interception, with Bortles throwing an 18-yard touchdown to rookie wide receiver Dede Westbrook to give Jacksonville a 10-0 lead. The touchdown was the first of three consecutive drives for the Jaguars offense that ended in touchdowns.
Seattle responded to the 10-point deficit by quickly scoring 10 unanswered points to tie the game. Wilson led the Seahawks on a nine-play, 65-yard drive ending with a Blair Walsh 28-yard field goal. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by Jags kick returner Corey Grant, and Seattle recovered the ball at Jacksonville’s 25-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson lobbed a pass deep right to Doug Baldwin for a 26-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10-all.
The tie lasted all of 11 seconds, as Bortles, on Jacksonville’s first offensive play after his touchdown pass to Westbrook, completed a deep pass to the left to receiver Keelan Cole, who proceeded to win the foot race into the end zone for a 75-yard touchdown to give the Jaguars a 17-10 lead.
Jacksonville’s special teams then atoned for its error from earlier in the quarter to help it open up a two-touchdown lead. On a Seattle punt, Jaguars receiver Jaydon Mickens returned it 72 yards down to the Seahawks’ 1-yard line. On the next play, Fournette scored on a run to give the Jaguars a 24-10 lead with 5:37 remaining in the third.
Bouye then came away with his second interception of the game, on a deep pass from Wilson at the Jaguars’ 2-yard line. Despite being backed up in its own territory, the Jaguars were able to drive 65 yards to set up a successful 51-yard field goal by Lambo to open up Jacksonville’s biggest lead, 27-10, with 10:04 remaining in the game.
Wilson, who came into the game leading the NFL with 15 touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, threw two more in quick succession to get Seattle back into the game. His 61-yard pass to receiver Paul Richardson on the first play from scrimmage after Lambo’s field goal cut Seattle’s deficit to 27-17. After another Lambo field goal extended Jacksonville’s lead to 30-17, Seattle scored on its second play on the drive, with Wilson finding receiver Tyler Lockett open down the right sideline for a 74-yard touchdown with 3:42 remaining to pull the Seahawks within six, 30-24.
The Jaguars were able to close the game out when it stopped Seattle’s final drive on fourth down with under a minute to go.
Jacksonville plays its next game on Sunday Dec. 17 against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field. Game time is at 1 PM EST.