It was a disjointed game from the beginning. Anticipating a return to the field with a home game after the bye week, the Jaguars got a jolt Sunday morning when Doug Marrone announced that Leonard Fournette wouldn’t play against the Bengals for an infraction of a team rule. It’s been reported that Fournette missed the team picture, a workout and a treatment session for his ankle during the bye week but the Jaguars have said they’ll have no further comment on the situation.
That put Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon in the backfield. Ivory started strong but Yeldon fumbled the first time he touched the ball, killing a drive and giving Cincinnati the ball at their 25. But the Jaguars defense forced a punt and the offense went back to work. That drive ended with a field goal but featured the best catch of the year over the middle by Keelan Cole to set up the score.
Without Fournette available, Ivory stepped up and carried the load and most pleasantly for Jaguars fans Blake Bortles had a strong first half. Bortles was 18-27 for 195 yards, a TD and no turnovers in the first half as the Jaguars led 13-7.
“IA lot of things get overlooked with me, which is fine,” Ivory said in the post-game locker room. “I’ve been dealing with this since I first got in the league, so it’s nothing new for me. I’ve been doing these things, it’s just being more noticed when you pick up big chunks of yards on passes. All in all, I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing. There’s a reason why I’ve been in the league for eight years, and I’m looking to get more, so all I’ve got to do is stay focused and continue to grow.”
As the half wore down, Josh Lambo kicked a 56-yard field goal to gain some momentum headed to the locker room. The second to last play of the half had both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Green kicked out of the game after a fight broke out between the two at midfield.
Ramsey had been chirping in Green’s ear all day long and when the Jaguars cornerback tapped him to the ground at the end of the play, Green came up with a headlock and a choke hold from behind, dragging Ramsey to the ground and trying to repeatedly punch him in the head. A melee ensued between both teams with the officials and the coaching staffs trying to get between the players in several groups. Hard to say why Ramsey was DQ’d but the referee confirmed after the game that he and Green as well as both sidelines had been warned earlier to tone it down. It was obvious Ramsey was yacking Green’s ear off all game the fact that he had been warned made his ejection easier. Green’s ejection will probably cost him a suspension and both of them will be lighter in the pocket after this week thanks to the league.
There were unconfirmed reports that Ramsey had to be removed from the visitors’ locker room area at halftime after getting kicked out allegedly looking for Green. If that’s true somebody needs to tell him it’s football and not a street fight.
While Ramsey wasn’t available after the game, Green spoke to the media and explained himself.
“As a player, as a man, and a father, that’s a reflection of me. I should have walked off in that whole situation. I definitely learned from this experience. It’s never going to happen again. I regret my actions. Whatever the punishment, I accept it. I put myself in that situation. I have to handle my stuff better and I can’t put myself in a situation like that to hurt my team and not be able to play.”
Early in the week Bengals LB Vontaze Burfict said “Leonard Fournette can beat us. Blake Bortles can’t.” It looked like the Jaguars were out to prove they were more than a one-man team, hammering the line of scrimmage with Ivory and Yeldon while Bortles was efficiently working the offense for field position and another field goal for a 16-7 lead.
“I thought he was outstanding today,” Head Coach Doug Marrone said of Bortles play. “I thought he was accurate. I thought he did an outstanding job, he really did. He played within his means, in other words. During the week obviously they said that he can’t beat them. Hey listen, don’t get crazy, just go out and play the game. You owe it to all your teammates. Your teammates got to pick it up. We’ve all got to play this game together as a team. I thought he did a good job of that. I was a little bit concerned, just like if someone says something about me. You know what I’m saying? ”
Even without Ramsey in the game, the Jaguars defense was still stout, rushing Andy Dalton relentlessly and shutting down Cincinnati’s run game. They gave up just 118 yards in the 1st half.
Newly signed wide receiver Jayden Mickens showed off speed and moves returning a punt in the third quarter 63-yards for a touchdown and a 23-7 lead.
More of the same in the 4th quarter with Calais Campbell recording his 11th sack of the year, one short of the team record of 12 held by Tony Brackens. As a team, the Jaguars lead the league with 35 sacks this season.
If they wanted to be considered legitimate post-season contenders the Jaguars had to start winning at home and win back to back games at some point. Beating the Bengals coming out of the bye leaves the Jaguars at 5-3 and “winning” the “second quarter” of the season at 3-1. It also sets them up next week against the Chargers, also at home, to take control of their own destiny and compete for the division title. Without Deshaun Watson for the rest of the year in Houston, Andrew Luck out in Indy and Marcus Mariotta nursing a leg injury in Tennessee, the AFC South is there for the taking.
Could the Jaguars actually be part of the conversation to “flex” one of their home games into primetime? The Seattle game on December 10th at home looks like a candidate. It’s one of the four home games remaining and the middle of three straight at the stadium in December.