The Jacksonville Jaguars found themselves down early, but came back with a 14-point second quarter and held on to beat the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers 23-21 in their preseason opener Friday night at EverBank Field.
“I thought the team did a pretty good job,” Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley told the media after the game. “Obviously, first game you’re gonna see some sloppiness, some missed tackles, penalties false starts and execution things. That’s what you’re gonna see in the first game, you don’t accept it, but we’ll learn from it.”
Blake Bortles started the game and looked very poised in his first game action of 2015. He passed for 118 Yards, during his 11-for-15 night and scored the Jaguars first touchdown when he scampered into the end zone from four yards out, on fourth down.
Bortles was the player of the game pick by many who witnessed the game, but as we’ve come to expect, his critique of himself wasn’t nearly as glowing. “I think I played okay,” he said. “I think I missed Clay (Harbour) on the second drive, I think I missed him high. We did some good stuff, I think we ran the ball well and that’s what we wanted to do. That’s a big part of who we are.”
Pittsburgh got on the board first when Ben Roethlisberger found Martavis Bryant with a 44-yard pass down the right side. Pittsburgh went for the two-point conversion and converted, taking an 8-0 lead. Roethlisberger wasn’t in long, but he was effective, completing all three of his passes, for 59 yards.
The Jaguars (1-0) got a field goal from Josh Scobee with 34 seconds left in the first quarter to make it an 8-3 game. Bortles 4-yard run gave the Jaguars a 10-8 lead. With 3:29 left in the quarter, Chad Henne took his turn under center and did not disappoint.
On a drive that started at their own 48-yard line, Henne worked the Jags’ down the field, with a 10-yard completion and a couple short passes. He capped the drive off with a 31-yard bomb to Harbour, who hit pay dirt with 1:19 left, giving the Jaguars a 17-8 lead. Pittsburgh kicker Garrett Hartley hit a 48-yard field goal in the third quarter, closing the gap to 17-11.
Hartley’s second field goal came in the fourth quarter and got Pittsburgh to within three. They would take the lead later in the final stanza on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Landry Jones to C.J. Goodwin, making it 21-17 Pittsburgh.
Jacksonville would regain the lead with a 92-yard drive, led by quarterback Stephen Morris. It took 1:53 for Jacksonville to get down the field and Morris finished what he started, capping it off with a 1-yard run, giving the Jaguars a 23-21 lead. The two-point conversion failed, but Jacksonville held on for the win.
Lost in the 11 of 15 performance of Bortles and the 9 of 10 completions for 87 yards for Henne, was the impressive running game the Jaguars displayed. Bortles touched on it in his comments to the media, but both Denard Robinson and Toby Gerhart did some good things with the ground game.
“We started slow last year in the run game,” Bradley said. We challenged the guys, we wanna start fast and finish faster. That was the message to our whole team. Felt like we had some good runs, did a good job with that,” said Bradley. Eighty some yards rushing, especially in the first half a lot of those yards came.”
The one piece of bad news from the game concerned tight end Julius Thomas. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Thomas broke his right hand. The injury is a stable fracture and Thomas will miss the rest of the preseason. He is expected to be back for the opening week of the regular season.
Next up for the Jaguars is a road game at the New York Giants on Saturday, Aug. 22 at 7:30 p.m.