Jaguars showing offensive promise as franchise records fall
JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — It's been a record-setting month for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
One week after quarterback Blake Bortles and receiver Allen Robinson broke franchise marks, the Jaguars (5-8) set a team record by scoring 51 points against division rival Indianapolis.
Now, if Jacksonville can win out and get a little help down the stretch, it really would be a December to remember. The Jaguars host reeling Atlanta (6-7) on Sunday. The Falcons have lost six in a row and seven of eight.
"It feels good to be in this position," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "But what really matters is what we do from here on out."
The Jaguars are a game back in the muddled AFC South. They trail Houston and Indianapolis with three games remaining and could catch one of them — the Colts host the Texans this week — with a victory against Atlanta.
No one should count out Jacksonville, which has scored more points (90) than any team in the NFL over the last two weeks. The Jaguars managed 13 touchdowns and a field goal in games against Tennessee (42-39 loss) and Indianapolis (51-16 win). The offensive surge might not be enough to get the Jags into the postseason, but it's surely a strong sign that the team is headed in the right direction
"We showed it in spurts all season, but the main thing was that we weren't consistent," receiver Allen Hurns said. "Now I think we're getting to that point where we are starting to be consistent."
There's little, if any, doubt that Bortles, Robinson, Hurns — all in their second seasons — and rookie T.J. Yeldon have given the Jaguars a solid core of offensive players to build around. Throw in two-time Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas, who has caught a touchdown pass in four consecutive games, and rookie receiver Rashad Greene, and Jacksonville may have more offensive talent under the age of 30 than any team in the league.
Bortles has thrown for 3,524 yards, with 30 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, in his second season. He has shattered David Garrard's previous team record for TD passes in a season, 23 set in 2010, and needs just 586 yards in the final three games to break Mark Brunell's franchise mark (4,110 in 1996) for passing yards in a season.
Bortles joined Dan Marino and Kurt Warner as the only first or second-year players to throw 30 or more TD passes through 13 games in a season. Marino had 36 through 13 games in 1984. Warner had 34 at the same point in 1999. Bortles and Marino are the only ones to accomplish the feat before the age of 24.
Bortles has been at his best lately, with 10 touchdown passes in the last three weeks. Half of those have gone to Robinson, who has a franchise-record 12 TD catches this season.
And Robinson's emergence has created more one-on-one matchups for Hurns and Thomas, and opened up holes in the running game.
"We're not quite sure when we go into each game who's going to be targeted the most, how it plays out, but it's nice to have different weapons, difference skill sets with the guys on the perimeter and then the run game that we can go to," coach Gus Bradley said.
The Jaguars played their most complete game against the Colts, scoring on offense, defense and special teams for the first time since 2011. Seven different players scored touchdowns, with Andre Branch, Rashad Greene, Hurns, Robinson, Thomas, Denard Robinson and Bortles all finding the end zone.
It was just the 10th time since 1980 that seven or more players from the same team scored in the same game, according to STATS, LLC.
"You could see all three phases coming together," Bradley said. "I just saw improvement. That's the part that I'm really excited about. Now the challenge is to build on that. We'll take a look at it when the season is over to see just how far we've come along and the direction. But that game, that performance yesterday, is something we can build on for this week."
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