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Blake Bortles, Jaguars handle Jets

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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles throws against the San Francisco 49ers in the first quarter on December 24, 2017 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI

By The Sports Xchange
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.

Blake Bortles threw for a career-high 388 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to a 31-12 win over the visiting New York Jets on Sunday at TIAA Bank Field.

Bortles was at his best in the first half when he directed the Jaguars on three scoring drives, each of which covered more than 70 yards. He accumulated 216 passing yards and one touchdown in the first half and, coupled with three field goals, the Jaguars led 16-0 at halftime.

Bortles wasn't quite as sharp in the second half, but he still passed for 172 yards and another score as he finished with a season-best 114.8 quarterback rating. He had scoring passes of 31 yards to T.J. Yeldon in the first half and then hit receiver Donte Moncrief in stride on a 67-yard bomb to wrap up one of his best days in his four seasons with the Jaguars.

Afterward, Bortles lavished praise on his receivers and running backs.

"[Dede Westbrook] did an incredible job all day getting open. I thought he was special today," Bortles said. "We got some good mismatches on him and he ran away from guys. Obviously, Donte had a big play down the sideline which was good, beating [Trumaine Johnson] and made the play.

"The guys up front protected really well and I thought our guys outside did a really good job of winning and getting open. Getting the backs and tight ends involved too. T.J. [Yeldon] with the big checkdown.

"I thought it was a well-executed game plan outside of the turnovers and penalties."

Bortles was operating the game plan to perfection in the first half. The Jaguars' opening drive was 15 plays and covered 80 yards but stalled at the 14-yard line. That's when Lambo connected on the first of his three field goals.

A 73-yard march in 12 plays made it to the 4-yard line on the Jaguars' next possession but again required Lambo's leg to put points on the board.

It wasn't until the third drive that the Jaguars found the end zone. That's when Bortles marched the team 78 yards in seven plays, culminated by a short throw to Yeldon, who went untouched into the end zone.

Meanwhile, the Jets had little success trying to move the ball against the Jaguars. They never made it past the Jacksonville 46-yard line on any of their four possessions.

The Jets blew their best opportunity when a 33-yard pass from Sam Darnold to Chris Herndon to the 13-yard line was wiped out by a holding call on tight end Eric Tomlinson.

"First, give credit to them, they're a great defense," Darnold said. "We've got to make the plays that are there. I've got to make the throws that are there and not think too much, take what they give me and we'll start to find completions and get into a rhythm.

"I felt like in the beginning I got into a rhythm and then somewhere in the middle I did, but I couldn't sustain it."

Darnold played better in the second half when he passed for 91 of his 167 yards. But he wasn't able to lead the Jets to the end zone until there was just 86 seconds left in the game and he connected with tight end Jordan Leggett from four yards.

New York finished with just 178 yards of total offense. The running game had little success, gaining just 34 yards on 14 carries.

While Bortles wasn't as sharp in the second half as he was in the first two quarters, he did lead the Jaguars on two touchdown drives.

The first came late in the third quarter when he hit Moncrief in stride. The Jacksonville receiver had put a three-yard gap between him and Johnson down the right sideline.

Jacksonville iced the game late, electing to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line with 27 seconds left in the game.

Yeldon plowed through the right side of the line for the touchdown to put the Jaguars up by their final 19-point margin.

Surprisingly, Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone opted to go for two on the point-after, but Bortles' throw for Westbrook was incomplete.

Marrone explained his decision afterward.

"We had a lot of guys banged up on the PAT and field goal [unit]. On the chart, it just said 19," Marrone explained. "On the chart, it said go for two. I'm one of those guys, I never try to take anything for granted in an NFL game, try to keep going of working the mechanics and doing it, so we just went for two."

Marrone was asked if the two-point conversion was meant to send a message.

"We're not good enough to send a message right now," the Jaguars coach added.

The Jaguars have allowed just four touchdowns in their first four games, a franchise low. Their 503 yards of total offense was the team's highest output since accumulating 518 yards against Indianapolis last Oct. 22.

Lambo's three field goals ran his streak to 19 consecutive makes, one shy of the franchise record held by Mike Hollis (1998-99) and Josh Scobee (2011-12).

Dejected Jets head coach Todd Bowles expressed frustration with the team's play afterward.

"The first three games we fought and made a lot of progress. I felt we took a step back today," Bowles said. "Nobody played well. We gave up a bunch of yards.

"We usually fight to be in ballgames. We're usually in every ballgame, but we shot ourselves in the foot too much in the first half today.

"It's back to the drawing board in every phase -- offense, defense, special teams -- it's back to the drawing board. The other three games we lost on silly things, but we were in ballgames. Today, I don't think we were in the ballgame. We didn't give ourselves a chance."

Marrone didn't exactly sound like a winning coach in assessing the Jaguars. Of particular concern was turning the ball over three times, two of which came deep in Jets territory and led to 10 New York points.

Then there were the penalties -- nine for 89 yards. The Jaguars came into the game with more than twice as many penalties (26-12) as their opponents.

"Obviously, it's a win, which enables us to finish the quarter, which was our goal of 3-1," Marrone said. "We were able to do that. Obviously, we had penalties. We had turnovers. Those are the things I told the team, if we keep continuing to play like that, it's going to get us in trouble where we aren't able to come back and win a game.

"I think they did a nice job of being able to come back and do that. I thought the quarterback did a nice job. He played well. The receivers did an excellent job.

"We were keeping their defense on the field. We converted a bunch of third downs in the first half, which was key, but we didn't really do well in the red zone in the first half of the game. We were 0-for-2. That was disappointing.

"Then we came back and then we had some of the turnovers and some penalties and that's something that obviously is going to catch us if we don't get it corrected."

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