Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said he didn’t know until Sunday that he’d have to play the Colts without rookie running back Leonard Fournette in the lineup.
Whether that’s true is immaterial because the Jaguars prepared all week as if they would face a Colts defense bent on stopping the league’s second-leading rusher and their preparation paid off.
The Jaguars spent the week working on a way to exploit the eight- and sometime nine-man boxes that defenses have consistently thrown at them in an effort to stop Fournette and the plan succeeded. Wildly.
Even without Fournette in the Jaguars lineup, the Colts filled the box anyway, all but daring quarterback Blake Bortles to beat them with his arm, which is exactly what Bortles did.
A quarterback whose previous high for the year was the 244 yards he threw for against the Ravens threw for 282 in the first half alone on his way to throwing for 330 yards and a touchdown in the Jaguars 27-0 victory.
Included in that total were long throws of 52, 50 and 45 yards as well as 28- and 24-yard tosses from a quarterback who had previously completed just 23 passes for 16 yards or more.
That stat had many wondering if the Jaguars could effectively throw the ball downfield, which is the best way to beat eight- and nine-man boxes, and it seems they effectively answered that question on Sunday.
“Going into it we spent a little more time on shots down the field last week,’’ Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said after the Jaguars improved to 4-3. “We put a little more emphasis on that this past week.
“Of course, when you do that you hope they play the coverages that we practiced against, and on the first four possessions there, we had chunk plays or big plays on every one of those possessions.’’
A 24-yard pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis started the long passing parade, setting up the Jaguars first score of the game, which came on a 1-yard run by Chris Ivory, who subbed for Fournette along with T.J. Yeldon.
A 52-yard pass to Keelan Cole highlighted the Jaguars second possession, which like the first ended with the Jaguars reaching the end zone, this time on a 5-yard Bortles pass to Lewis.
Jacksonville scored again on its first possession of the second quarter, this time getting on the board with 42-yard Josh Lambo field goal that came after Bortles hit running back Corey Grant with a 28-yard pass.
Finally, Lambo improved the Jaguars lead to 20-0 with a 33-yard field goal that came after Bortles hooked up with slot receiver Allen Hurns on a 50-yard pass.
Prior to taking on the Colts, there were a lot of questions about the Jaguars ability to score at all without Fournette in the lineup and especially if the game were somehow put on Bortles shoulders.
What Bortles did on Sunday won’t answer that question completely. Questions will still linger about his ability and consistency, but at least we now know that he can provide the right answer.
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