Jags get revenge for last year’s AFC Championship Game

A strong defensive performance led to a 31-20 win for the Jaguars over the New England Patriots. Find more scenes from the home opener here. Photo courtesy: Jacksonville Business Journal/James Crichlow

By Dustin Fletcher | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Each week, sports writer Dustin Flectcher will recap the Jacksonville Jaguars game from the weekend. Here are three takeaways from this week’s matchup with the New England Patriots, which the Jaguars won 31-20:

Yeldon is a more than competent backup; Grant is an under-utilized weapon

Last week, I wrote that T.J. Yeldon was a formidable backup for Leonard Fournette. This week, I was proven right. Fournette carried nine times for 41 yards last week, which was great. This week, T.J. Yeldon carried the ball 10 times for a total of 58 yards. His longest outlier carry was 20 yards, which ends up being nine carries for 38 yards after factoring that out.

Those are near identical numbers to Fournette before he exited the game last week. It seems that the offseason investment in the offensive line has paid dividends as the Patriots could not stop the Jags in the second half like they did in the AFC Championship game. Additionally, Corey Grant had another big game in the backfield as a runner-receiver and should be utilized more in upcoming weeks. He rushed four times for 13 yards – a serviceable number when it comes down to yards per carry. He did the most damage in the passing game where he caught six balls for 56 yards. He burned the Patriots in the passing game last year, and did it time and time again when the team needed him most.

Defense dominates early; responds to adversity in second half

In the first half, the Jags defense dominated. They only allowed 152 yards of total offense and three points. On five out of six drives, the Patriots came up scoreless. Also, with all eyes on Rob Gronkowski after Jalen Ramsey called him out, he only caught two passes for 15 yards. A key I also described in my preview was getting pressure on Tom Brady. While “Sacksonville” only came to fruition twice, Brady was under constant pressure all day and could not get in a rhythm.

As a team, New England didn’t even run for 100 yards, totaling only 82. Tom Brady only threw for 220 yards and was completely outmatched all day. About six yards per attempt was what he averaged for the day, which would have been among the three worst in the league last season. Seeing that from an all-time great shows the defense was fantastic on Sunday. Even when Brady and the offense started heating up in the second half, the defense didn’t break like they did in last year’s championship game. Dante Fowler Jr. was able to get into the backfield and strip Tom Brady for the only turnover the defense forced in this game, and thwarted any chance at a comeback.

Bortles shows out in stellar dual threat performance

Imagine a world in which the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback’s rating is nearly 24 points higher than arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play. That became reality for Blake Bortles this week.

He repeatedly linked up with receivers for explosive plays and ran for first downs with reckless abandon. He found three different receivers for plays of more than 20 yards and could have had easily two or three more big plays with near misses downfield to rookie D.J. Chark.

He connected with Keelan Cole twice on an early drive for the catch of the season so far and a touchdown, which set the tone for the rest of the game. He took shots downfield all day, and found his receivers most times. Another good sign is the fact that he threw only one interception and that was the receiver’s fault more than his.

Bortles had a wrist procedure in the offseason and the team maintained that it would greatly improve his play, and that showed here. With some turnover management, a deadly rushing attack, and chunk plays like the one to Dede Westbrook for 61 yards, the Jags could be just starting a special year with Bortles at quarterback.

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