The numbers weren’t great, but they didn’t have to be. Blake Bortles didn’t throw the ball 40 times. He didn’t throw an interception. He did not succumb to a sack. He did help his team to a 29-7 win over the Houston Texans. Nothing gaudy, nothing special.
Just a win, which for the fans and organization here in Jacksonville was enough to give everyone some hope.
As you all know, hope is a dangerous word in the NFL. But for the Jacksonville Jaguars, it’s better than some of the other words associated with the team the past decade.
Bortles was 11 of 21 for 125 yards and a touchdown and a passer rating of 86.4. He relied on a heavy dose of the running game. Leonard Fournette gained 100 yards in his first career start. Chris Ivory ran effectively when given the ball. The offensive line held the best pass rush in the league sackless. It was a game plan that worked.
Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone praised Bortles for his performance on Sunday, especially how he handled the game plan.
“I thought he had a couple of big, key third downs that kept drives going,” Marrone said. “I was very happy. I thought he did a good job with the run and I thought he did a good job with decision-making. But like everybody, it’s Game 1. It’s a long journey.”
Could this be the new direction in Bortles’ career? Will he become more efficient by doing less? Can the running game – which will be the focal point of the offense – become more smash mouth in style? Are the Jaguars ready to challenge for the AFC South crown with this kind of blueprint?
The Jaguars ran for 155 yards on the day, another sign this is a different team from last season.
“I thought they did a nice job,” Marrone said of the Jaguars’ offensive line. “Obviously, it’s great challenge – the front seven of Houston. I still consider them the best defense in the league. I thought our players responded well. We came out were able to run the ball. I won’t say we were able to run the ball at will, but we were able to run the football.”
While the win last Sunday was unexpected and exciting at the same time, the team now moves on to host Tennessee. The Titans have one of the best running games in the NFL. Marcus Mariota, if fully recovered from a fractured fibula he suffered on Christmas Eve last year, could be a top-tier signal caller. The offensive line is one of the best in the league and the wide receivers got better with the additions of rookie Corey Davis and veteran Eric Decker.
Jacksonville’s defense has its work cut out for itself.
The performance of the Jaguars’ defense is still the talk of the NFL. The 10 sacks were impressive. The run defense was stellar. It could also become a curse. Fans will expect that same performance weekly.
It’s not realistic.
But if Jacksonville can stick to the script and continue to follow the same path, both Bortles and the offense could have a solid season. That’s something rare in these parts. If anything, the performance on Sunday by Bortles and the offense has the fans in North Florida excited. It’s well deserved – as long as it continues to develop.