Jaguars defeat Broncos 26-24: 5 observations
Well, the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) won an absolutely wild game against the Denver Broncos (0-4) at Mile High Stadium, walking out of Denver with a 26-24 victory following a 33-yard Josh Lambo field goal in the game's final seconds.
From a career day by the Jaguars top running back to the second half wake up call by the entire team, what are the main takeaways we can have?
1) Leonard Fournette played the best game in his career when the Jaguars needed it the most
Leonard Fournette ran wild over the Broncos defense the entire second half, almost single-handedly gassing the Denver defense and keeping Joe Flacco and the Broncos offense off of the field. He had 29 rushes for 225 yards, including an 81-yard run, and his 225 rushing yards were a career-high and the second-most in franchise history (Fred Taylor ran for 234 on Nov. 19, 2000 at Pittsburgh).
Fournette came into the came with a flurry of criticism due to a lack of a strong Jaguars running game that has been missing since 2017, but he quieted the critics and, for the first time in a long time, showed why he was such a coveted back coming out of LSU. For the Jaguars to keep winning, they will need Fournette to stay at a high level.
2) Give Gardner Minshew and John DeFilippo a ton of credit
The Jaguars passing game was largely a mess in the first half due to poor blocking up front and countless penalties, but rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo made up for it with a magical second half performance by each.
DeFilippo called a great game with his choice of second half run plays, smartly feeding both Leonard Fournette and Ryquell Armstead but also still giving Minshew chances to make plays. And Minshew made those chances pay off, leading touchdown drives of 10:24 and 7:00 and evading heavy pressure and converting several key third downs with big tosses to Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and Marqise Lee.
3) Give Doug Marrone a good amount, too
Listen, Doug Marrone has not had an easy job this season at all. From losing his $88 million quarterback at the start of the season to his best player making a very (VERY) public trade request, there has been an abundance of noise around his team. On top of all of that, he is starting a rookie sixth-round pick at quarterback.
But, as DeFilippo said on Thursday, the Jaguars locker room has rallied together largely because of Marrone's steady presence. From refusing to be too high or too low on his team, Marrone has done a great job with the Jaguars through four games in 2019 by simply keeping the ship afloat. And that deserves some recognition.
4) Defensive and offensive lines need to stop being so Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Against the Titans, the Jaguars defensive line terrorized the Tennessee offensive line and the offensive line did not let Gardner Minshew get sacked once. But one game later, it was a complete reversal. The Jaguars did not sack Flacco once and recorded a season-low 3 QB hits (with one of those coming from cornerback D.J. Hayden), while the offensive line allowed five sacks and 11 QB hits.
From a lack of an ability to generate pressure to an inability to not only protect Minshew but prevent holding penalties, the Jaguars trenches had a rough go of it in the passing game. The Jaguars offensive line should get a ton of credit for leading the way on a 269-yard rushing day for the offense, but the unit has yet to put together a complete game, and the same goes for the defensive side of the trenches.
5) The magnitude of this win can't be understated, despite Broncos record
The Broncos came into the game with desperation on their minds due to a winless record through three games, this 14-point comeback road win (the Jaguars first win on the west/mountain timezone since 2008), was a massive win by all standards.
Why? Well, the entire AFC South standings changed before the Jaguars even kicked off. The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts, two 2-1 teams entering Sunday, fell to 2-2 while the Tennessee Titans improved from 1-2 to 2-2.
Simply put, a loss in Denver would have put Jacksonville behind the rest of a division that right now looks wide open. This was a massive win for a Jaguars team that needed it.