By Adesina O. Koiki
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The NFL Playoffs are within reach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Sunday’s performance was a telltale sign that they intend to not only make it to the postseason, but do some damage.
Blake Bortles had his best game of the season while throwing for two touchdowns and the Jags’ defense forced two more turnovers as they defeated the Indianapolis Colts 30-10 at EverBank Field to increase their chances at reaching the playoffs.
The game against the now 3-9 Colts appeared to be the proverbial “trap game,” for Jacksonville, having lost on the road in Arizona the week before and staring at a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks next week. Jacksonville showed its maturity in not wasting any time jumping ahead on a team it was expected to beat, as they scored points on five of its first six possessions on offense. The only drive Jacksonville did not score on was just one play long as they ran out the clock to head into halftime.
“We were really focused during this week,” said Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone. I thought the players did a good job coming back after being on the road two straight games. The crowd was a big part of helping us out when we were on the field.”
For the first time this season, Bortles completed more than 70 percent of his passes in a game, and his four-yard touchdown pass to Marqise Lee on a third down capped off an 11-play, 80-yard drive on the team’s first possession to go up 7-0.
Special teams also was a big factor in Jacksonville’s touchdown, as punter Brad Nortman executed a fake punt to keep the first drive alive by completing a 22-yard pass to tight end James O’Shaughnessy over the middle for 29 yards.
The teams exchanged field goals to start the second quarter, and after veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri’s 27-yard field goal cut Indianapolis’ deficit to 10-3, Jacksonville once again went on a long drive that ended in the end zone. Four third-down situations were converted on the 12-play drive, the last one coming on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Bortles to Keelan Cole on third-and-goal to give Jacksonville a 16-3. (The extra point was no good.)
Indianapolis ended the half driving from their own 30 to Jacksonville’s 23-yard line, but then the Jaguars’ defense stepped up to hold the Colts out of the end zone. Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a pass over the middle intended for T.Y. Hilton that was intercepted by cornerback Jalen Ramsey inside of the 10-yard line with 33 seconds left in the half.
Jacksonville then established the ground game to start the third quarter, and running back Leonard Fournette ran the ball in from four yards to end the Jaguars’ first drive of the second half. Bortles completed a pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis for the two-point conversion to give Jacksonville a 24-3 advantage.
Bortles ended the game 26-for-35 for 309 yards and did not throw an interception, while Fournette, still limited by a sore ankle, ran for 57 yards on 20 carries.
“I don’t focus too much on it,” said Fournette, who briefly came out of the game due to his ankle. “As long as the team wins, I win. It’s frustrating sometimes, but it doesn’t matter as long as we win.”
Jacksonville now will get ready to host the Seattle Seahawks at EverBank Field on Sunday Dec. 10 at 1 PM EST.