Blake Bortles outduels Russell Wilson as Jacksonville Jaguars secure statement win

December 11, 2017 GMT

Jalen Ramsey, who this week was adamant that a visit from the Seahawks was just like any other game, can call it whatever he wants.

We’re calling his Jaguars’ 30-24 victory over the Seahawks a massive statement victory.

Jacksonville took sole ownership of the AFC South, improving to 9-4 by downing another perennial conference giant on the same day the Titans offense again sputtered — with Marcus Mariota playing through a knee injury. And the Jaguars did it not only by continuing to flex their defensive opportunism (three interceptions) and powerful offensive identity (39 carries for 156 rushing yards and a TD) but with maligned QB Blake Bortles playing arguably the best game of his four-year career.

Bortles finished 18-of-27 for 268 yards and two touchdowns, good for a 123.7 rating. But that stat line doesn’t fully reflect how he largely out-dueled Russell Wilson, in the eyes of many the favorite to take home his first MVP award.

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Bortles has struggled throwing downfield all season. Sunday he repeatedly drilled pinpoint missiles vertically. From a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter to rookie Keenan Cole one series after Wilson helped quickly erase a 10-0 deficit to a 29-yarder on third down late in the fourth quarter, Bortles threw back-shoulder deep sideline throws and darts over the middle alike with accuracy. It was a stunning sight from someone who’d struggled immensely in that area of his game, against a Seahawks secondary — depleted or not — that had played back-to-back fantastic games entering Sunday.

Until taking their foot off the gas and/or Russell Wilson doing things only he does in the fourth quarter — his NFL record 16th and 17th scores in the final period of regulation — the Jaguars’ secondary was also tremendous. They took advantage of Wilson’s errant deep throws, intercepting two of them, and brought premier physicality, with Barry Church leveling Jimmy Graham (zero catches on two targets) over the middle as a prime example.

Every time the Seahawks appeared to throw a big punch, Jacksonville responded with two of their own. Whether it was first-year returner Jaydon Mickens returning a punt 74 yards or Josh Lambo drilling a 51-yard field goal or Bortles answering Wilson’s quick scoring strikes with his own, the Jaguars clearly were game for a battle.

Indeed, the Jaguars showed championship meddle in ensuring themselves of their first winning season in a decade. They also showed that, in addition to the fearsome ‘D’ and run game we already knew about, their young quarterback’s confidence — and their confidence in him — appears to be at an all-time high.

For most of the season, the Jaguars’ modus operandi has been leaning on their defense and limiting Bortles’ chances as much as possible. But putting a successful deep passing game against a worthy opponent on film in December will only give defenses already taxed trying to stop Fournette one more thing to think about.

Ramsey — who notched one of Jacksonville’s three picks, with A.J. Bouye accounting for the other two — said beating the Seahawks wouldn’t be the Jaguars making a statement. But the way they beat a tough Seattle club speaks loud and clear: the Jaguars are more than a dominant defense — they can be dangerous and dynamic in all three phases.

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