There actually is a strategy to keeping Russell Wilson in check. The problem is Wilson is so good, so smart and such a good athlete that executing the strategy is a problem.
For the Jaguars defense, a combination of straight up field, stay-in-your-lanes rush, backed by the linebackers spreading across the field and man-to-man by the DB’s did just what Doug Marrone was looking for in the first half. “You can only hope to contain him,” the Jaguars Head Coach said earlier in the week, and that’s exactly what they did. Wilson had one scramble carry in the first quarter and another in the second for first downs but nothing that troubled the Jaguars too much.
A missed field goal by Blair Walsh at the end of the half kept the score at 3-0 Jaguars. It was the first time this season Seattle had been shutout through 30 minutes of football.
In the third quarter things were very different. It wasn’t Wilson causing the Jaguars problems but rather shortcomings of their own.
A nice drive gave the Jaguars a 10-0 lead, culminated by a TD pass from Blake Bortles to Dede Westbrook from 18 yards out. Westbrook ran a great corner route and *Bortles throw was even better, softly hitting the Jaguars rookie as he crossed the goal line.
A Seattle field goal made it 10-3 Jaguars but Corey Grant fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Seattle recovered. Wilson hit Doug Baldwin in the end zone to tie the game at ten and it looked like momentum had shifted to the visitors.
But on first down, Blake hit Keelan Cole on a deep corner for a 75-yard TD and a 17-10 lead. Cole had caught a couple of deep balls in the preseason but this was the first big pass play for him in the regular season, showing his speed and pretty good hands. Bortles throw was also spot-on, just like you draw it up.
Give some credit to the Jaguars offensive line for pass protection but also opening some holes for the running game. For the first time in several weeks, the five starters from the beginning of the year were back in the lineup as Patrick Omameh returned to left guard and Jeremy Parnell was at right tackle.
Again the defense stopped Wilson and the Seahawks forcing a punt. Jaydon Mickens broke through at the point of attack and scampered all the way to the one-yard line on the return. Leonard Fournette scored to make it 24-10.
A two-touchdown lead usually allows the Jaguars defense to rush the quarterback and create all kinds of problems for the opposing offense. That was true again as Wilson tried a long pass over the middle that was intercepted by A.J. Bouye at the two. It was Bouye’s second interception and the Jaguars third of the game. Jalen Ramsey had picked off a Wilson heave into the end zone earlier.
From the two, the Jaguars put together an impressive drive, mixing Fournette running and Bortles hitting Cole and Marqise Lee on crossing routes, chewing up time and getting a 51-yard field goal on the other end by Josh Lambo to take a 27-10 lead with ten minutes to play.
But Russell Wilson is Russell Wilson and somehow he escaped the Jaguars pass rush, ducking under two defenders to throw a 61-yard touchdown pass to make it 27-17. Wilson was about to be sacked but escaped, and still paused in the pocket to look down field to find Paul Richardson wide open. Tashaun Gipson either lost track of Richardson or expected Wilson to go down but either way it was an easy TD for Seattle.
Again, the Jaguars offense pounded it out of their own territory and chewed up some clock to get some points. Westbrook’s catch of a Bortles pass down the sideline was the highlight and Josh Lambo made it 30-17.
But Wilson somehow escaped another sack and threw a 74-yard TD pass to Tyler Lockett to keep the Seahawks in the game, 30-24. Wilson kept the play alive and there was a mix up in the Jaguars secondary as Lockett was wide open with Barry Church giving chase. Very unusual for the Jaguars defense to give up two long plays but there was no “give up” in the Seahawks to keep the game close.
A big run by Fournette on 3rd and 11 sealed the win in Seahawks territory but the game quickly turned ugly. In the “Victory” formation, somebody from the Seahawks jumped into the Jaguars line, meaning there was pushing and shoving and a punch thrown by Sheldon Richardson that got him ejected.
The same thing happened on the next play with Quinton Jefferson getting ejected and nearly going into the stands when a fan threw something at him. He was doing plenty of jawing coming off the field, but throwing stuff at players is low rent in itself.
Now 9-4, the Jaguars are in sole possession of first place in the AFC South with three games to play after Tennessee lost to Cardinals in Arizona. A showdown with the Titans is still possible in the last game of the year on New Year’s Eve to determine the division champ but the Jaguars hold the upper hand with games against Houston and San Francisco set before then.
One thing the Jaguars showed in this game was a gritty toughness they hadn’t shown before. They had a two-touchdown lead and nearly lost it but the offense was able to get some things done. When the Seahawks tried to make it a slugfest, the Jaguars responded in kind with ferocity that we haven’t seen in a while.
Looking like a playoff team, the Jaguars certainly made a statement in this one.