The Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4) won a game on Sunday that they should have always been expected to. It was an ugly performance for the most part, but they went on the road and did what they had to do in a 27-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Jaguars showed some serious flaws during Sunday's win, but they also showed some of the things that made people buy into them this season to begin with.
So after all the smoke has cleared, what takeaways can we have from the Week 7 victory?
1) Jacksonville won a game it was supposed to, but it shouldn't have been close
The Jaguars were always supposed to walk out of Cincinnati with the victory, but they did their best to cause some doubt, entering both halftime and the final quarter trailing the winless Bengals. Jacksonville's first drive of the game was a perfect metaphor for the game as they drove down the field with ease but stalled when they got near the end zone, ultimately turning it over on downs at the one-yard line.
The Jaguars won this game because of a defense that tormented Andy Dalton and erased Joe Mixon. But the game should have been out of reach at halftime. Instead, the Jaguars walked into the half with only six points despite over 300 offensive yards and three red zone trips.
The Jaguars should be happy with a win. Those are not easy to come by in the NFL, especially not on the road. But it wasn't nearly as good of a performance as it should have been.
2) Andy Dalton was the turnover medicine the Jaguars' defense needed
The Jaguars entered Week 7 with only one turnover on the entire season, and it came all the way back in the first half of Week 4's 26-24 win over the Denver Broncos when Ronnie Harrison picked off Joe Flacco before the half. But against the Bengals, they finally changed their own rotten turnover luck and forced four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble).
All of the turnovers occurred in the second half, and things got started when D.J. Hayden made a veteran play by knocking the ball out of Tyler Boyd's hands after a catch. For the first time this season, the ball bounced the Jaguars way and Ronnie Harrison was able to scoop it up.
And then in the last 8:30 of the game, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton fixed all of the Jaguars' turnover woes. In three consecutive drives he three interceptions to Myles Jack, Yannick Ngakoue and Ronnie Harrison, with Ngakoue's going for a 23-yard interception return.
Turnovers come in bunches, and Dalton's errant throws and poor decision making was the vehicle the Jaguars needed to make it happen.
3) Gardner Minshew had another rookie game, but maybe that is OK
Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew was a good better against the Bengals than he was in Week 6 against the New Orleans Saints, but that was to be expected considering the dropoff from the Saints' defense to the Bengals'. But even in a day where the Jaguars pulled off the road win, Minshew still had his fair share of rookie moments.
He bailed from some clean pockets too early and threw several passes that should have been intercepted but were either dropped by the defense or bailed out by a nice play by a Jacksonville receiver.
But Minshew also had several explosive plays, kept the offense moving until it stalled inside the red zone and his feet were more of a positive than a detriment this week. Minshew looked like a rookie these last two weeks, but maybe the expectations were simply set too high after his few starts and people forgot that he actually is one.
4) Jacksonville's two most maligned receivers had a bounce-back day
Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook deserved a lot of fair criticism for their performances against the Saints last Sunday. Neither had any success getting open vs. single man coverage and they didn't provide Minshew with any real help.
But against the Bengals, Conley and Westbrook had the games they were hoping to have the week previously. Conley finished the day with three catches for 83 yards, including a massive 47-yard catch and run to set up Keelan Cole's touchdown catch in the 4th quarter. Westbrook caught six passes for 103 yards and also saved Minshew from throwing an interception right before the first half ended.
The Jaguars needed Conley and Westbrook to have solid games to ensure a win, especially after last week. Thankfully for the Jaguars' offense, they did just that.
5) Ronnie Harrison and Taven Bryan deserve more praise
Ronnie Harrison has been a part of three of the Jaguars' five turnovers this season and has legitimately become a true playmaker in the Jacksonville secondary. Along with the turnovers, he has also provided an ability to stop running backs and receivers in their tracks in the middle of the field. He still has the occasional penalty mishap, but he is truly becoming a cornerstone of Jacksonville's defense.
As for Taven Bryan, he has been underrated all season. He has improved his block shedding and awareness drastically from last season and today's game was a perfect example as he was the most consistently disruptive Jaguars defensive lineman. Whether it was blowing up plays vs. the run or speeding up Andy Dalton's errant throw on Ngakoue's interception, Bryan flashed all game.
Both of these players have gotten their fair share of criticism since being drafted; Harrison for boneheaded penalties and Bryan for inconsistent play. But through seven games, each is having a good 2019 season and that deserves recognition.