The Jacksonville Jaguars held the lead for much of Friday’s preseason game against the Detroit Lions, but couldn’t hold on, falling 22-17 in front of 59,327 at a very wet EverBank Field in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars played well enough to win, especially on offense. Starting quarterback Blake Bortles continued his impressive preseason, going 20-for-29 for 245 yards and a touchdown. He led five offensive series and did not throw an interception. He also showed off his wheels, rushing for 35 yards.
“You wanna be able to take care of yourself and kind of limit the hits,” said Bortles after the game on Jaguars.com. “So when you do take off and run, you wanna get out of bounds or get down. We wanna get two or three first downs a game running and I think anytime you get an opportunity as a quarterback to pick up a first down on the ground, it helps the offense out tremendously.”
When Bortles and the rest of the offense left the field with 8:32 left in the third quarter, the Jaguars were up 17-13. The Jaguars had 321 yards in total offense and 21 first downs at that time. And put together drives of 82, 80, 85, 30 and 63 yards. The 30-yard drive was at the end of the first half.
“The drives we’ve been able to put together, not only this week but the previous two, show the toughness and show our identity as who we want to be,” said Bortles. “A run first team. Obviously tonight, converting on third down, that was impressive.”
The Jaguars first-team offense converted 10 of 12 third downs against the Lions, including the first seven. Bortles got the Jaguars on the board with a 13-yard touchdown throw to Allen Hurns. Rookie running back T.J. Yeldon, who was making his NFL debut, had a one-yard rushing TD in the second quarter. He leaped into the end zone, giving Jacksonville a 14-0 lead.
Yeldon’s touchdown was worth six points and also taught him a very valuable lesson. “Never to jump again,” he told the media with a laugh, after the game. “It was a ‘Welcome to the NFL’ [moment]. I got a touchdown. It was ugly, but I still got a touchdown.”
The Lions scored twice in the second quarter, including a 62-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate, despite a Jaguars blitz. That play exposed the Jaguars defensive line, which has been a concern for Head Coach Gus Bradley, who has said on several occasions this preseason that the Jaguars need to create pressure on the quarterback. “We wanted to see the effectiveness of guys blitzing,” he said. “This is the time to do that, in the preseason – to find out how we can create pressure.”
The Lions second touchdown of the quarter was a four-yard pass from Stafford to Corey Fuller, which capped a nine-play, 95-yard drive. The extra point hit the upright and the Jaguars still led 14-13.
The last scoring drive for the Jaguars came in the third quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Jason Myers, capping a 13-play, 64-yard drive and gave the Jaguars the four point advantage.
The Lions got a 51-yard field goal from Kyle Brindza in the fourth quarter to close the gap to one and they took the lead for good on a three-yard run by Zach Zenner with 1:51 to go in the game. The drive only needed 18 yards, thanks to a fumble by Jaguars quarterback Stephen Morris, putting the Lions in prime position on that last drive.
Overall, it was another solid effort for the Jags’ but it was tempered by the fact that defensive end Andre Branch suffered a left knee injury in the first half and was seen on crutches after the game. The injury did not look good, but Bradley was hopeful that the injury was not as bad as it looked.
“We’ve got our fingers crossed on that one,” he said. “I think we’ll see with that. I know he was walking around a little bit in the training room.” Branch, in his fourth season was going to be counted on heavily this year. In this game alone, the Jaguars proved how they can ill-afford to lose anyone on that defensive line. They gave up 173 yards against Stafford and the Lions first-team offense in the first half.
Update on Branch: Andre Branch has been diagnosed with an MCL sprain and according to Jaguars insider John Oehser, will miss ‘significant time’ this season. Definitely not good news for an already suspect Jaguars defense.
The Jaguars close out the preseason on Thursday at Washington. The game will get underway at 7:30 p.m.