The Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4) thwarted a furious fourth-quarter rally from Russell Wilson, forcing a turnover on downs just ahead of the two-minute warning, and held on to a 30-24 victory over the Seattle Seahawks (8-5) in Week 14. Here’s what we learned:
1. After a three-point first half, the Jaguars-Seahawks tilt exploded into a back-and-forth thrill ride in the second half, which featured a 31-point third quarter. At one point, Jacksonville scored on three consecutive plays from scrimmage and with 10 minutes left to go in the game, the Jags had extended their lead to 27-10, thanks to brilliant throws from Blake Bortles and skillful special teams play. But Russell Wilson responded with yet another sterling fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 30-24 with two quick TD strikes. Seattle got the ball back with over two minutes to go, but immediately went four-and-out, with the final stop coming as a result of an uncharacteristic Jaguars blitz. Jacksonville took control of the AFC South and its destiny with the win, while Seattle stayed one game behind the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West and briefly fell out of the sixth seed in the NFC.
2. All season long, the rub on the upstart Jaguars has been that they’d be a bona fide playoff contender, if only for that meddlesome schmo under center. On Sunday, Bortles proved his detractors wrong. The Jacksonville QB played his best game of the season on the biggest stage of his career (268 yards, 2 TDs), outplaying an MVP candidate across the field for much of the afternoon and proving himself worthy of carrying Jacksonville to a division title. Bortles showed pristine touch and accuracy on his two touchdown passes. His 75-yard bomb to rookie Keelan Cole (3 rec, 99 yards) was his longest completion since December of 2015. Sunday marked the first time this season that Bortles has thrown at least two touchdowns in consecutive weeks. His throwing motion is still wonky and he lacks a fastball, but in leading Jacksonville to the top of the AFC South, Bortles isn’t just avoiding mistakes and getting out of the way of a good thing. He’s pacing the Jags to victories.
3. It turns out Wilson can’t do it all. Seattle’s Swiss Army gunslinger stretched himself too thin against the league’s best defense, throwing three interceptions on ill-advised deep balls, two intended for Doug Baldwin and one for Jimmy Graham. Give Jacksonville’s All-World secondary credit — it was the first time all season and only the fourth in 105 career games that Wilson had thrown at least three picks — but Wilson was at fault for taking unnecessary shots fifty yards downfield. While Wilson did erupt in the fourth quarter, as he is wont to do, his errors put Seattle behind the eight ball early. By the time the Seahawks cut the lead to six, it was too late.
4. An already injury-riddled Seahawks defense saw two of its remaining stars exit with injuries on Sunday. Bobby Wagner had his All-Pro campaign temporarily derailed when he exited with a hamstring injury in the first half. Fellow linebacker K.J. Wright was ruled out with a concussion in the second half. Seattle has held its own with secondary stars Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor sidelined for the year; just last week, the Seahawks held the NFC-best Philadelphia Eagles to 10 points. But with injuries mounting and the NFC playoff race heating up, Seattle might have lost one too many Boomers to injury this week.
5. A testy affair between two playoff hopefuls had its share of personal foul penalties throughout the game, but things came to a head after the Jaguars had already clinched the victory. While Jacksonville was attempting its victory-formation kneel downs, Seahawks defensive ends Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson ignited a fracas. Bennett, Richardson and Leonard Fournette were all penalized, and Richardson was ejected. On the very next play, Seahawks defensive end Quinton Jefferson was penalized and ejected. On his way to the locker room, he confronted a group of Jaguars fans after he was nearly hit with a projectile thrown from the stands. Jefferson had to be restrained by Seahawks staff and ushered into the locker room. Fines and discipline will surely be coming.