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Jaguars feeling good heading into bye

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The Sports Xchange

JACKSONVILLE — The Jacksonville Jaguars will be able to savor their bye week.

After four consecutive losses with rumors swirling around the future of their head coach, the Jaguars went to London for the third year in a row and pulled out an improbable 34-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

The victory gave them a 2-5 record going into the bye. It’s their best record after seven games since general manager Dave Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley took over.

And, believe it or not, it left them just a game out of first place in the AFC South. Indianapolis is on top at 3-4 while the Jaguars are tied with Houston at 2-5, with Tennessee last at 1-6.

Last year, Carolina won the NFC South with a 7-9 record. This year, 6-10 might be good enough to win the AFC South and host a playoff game.

The Jaguars also won Sunday’s game in an improbable fashion, jumping to a 27-3 lead with the help of two defensive scores and then falling behind 31-27 in the fourth quarter after quarterback Blake Bortles threw a Pick Six.

Bortles, who had been blanked in the second half, then directed an 84-yard touchdown drive that culminated in a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Allen Hurns, who made a diving catch.

The winning drive was kept alive with a debatable pass-interference penalty on Bills cornerback Nickell Robey on a third-and-15 play. Robey protested but it was the kind of good misfortune the Jaguars have had lately.

In both of their victories, Bortles led a late scoring drive after being blanked in the second half. The Jaguars beat Miami 23-20 when he directed a 66-yard drive to set up a game-winning 28-yard field goal by young Jason Myers.

“This will be a huge point in your development as an NFL quarterback,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said he told Bortles after the game.

However, after that win over Miami in the second game of the season, the Jaguars lost four in a row. It remains to be seen which direction they will go from here.

Now they get the bye week to regroup before they go on the road against the New York Jets and Baltimore.

Sunday’s victory takes some of the heat off Bradley, who had records of 4-12, 3-13 and 1-5 in his first two-plus seasons with the Jaguars going into the game.

Owner Shad Khan said before the game he wasn’t going to make a change in midseason, but made no promises for next year.

“It’s very, very important that we don’t become a victim of the status quo,” he said.

Reading between the lines, Khan seemed to be saying that another 4-12 or 3-13 season wouldn’t be enough to save Bradley’s job for next year.

Bradley insisted he didn’t feel relief that the Jaguars had escaped with the win.

“No, no sigh of relief,” he said.

“It was huge for Gus and it’s very important for the team morale,” defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks said. “Fans are frustrated. Everyone is frustrated. Hopefully, this will get our momentum back.”

They find out after the bye whether they can get their momentum back.

REPORT CARD VS. BILLS

–PASSING OFFENSE: C. Blake Bortles completed 13 of 29 passes for one touchdown and 182 yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown. But he won the game with a 31-yard pass to wide receiver Allen Hurns in the fourth quarter. Hurns made a sliding catch and barely down in the end zone before sliding out of bounds. Bortles remains a puzzle. He makes big plays, but makes too many mistakes.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: C. After being sidelined for a week with a groin injury, T.J. Yeldon showed what he means to the Jaguars offense when he ran 20 times for 115 yards and a 28-yard touchdown run, the first rushing touchdown of his career. But in the third quarter with the ball on the 1, the Jaguars gave the ball four times to Toby Gerhart, who was stuffed all four times.

–PASS DEFENSE: B plus. The Jaguars picked off Bills backup quarterback EJ Manuel twice, including a pick six by linebacker Telvin Smith. Also, cornerback Aaron Colvin knocked the ball out of Manuel’s hands on a blitz, and Chris Clemons scooped it up for another touchdown. But they didn’t put the hammer down with a big lead and Manuel wound up passing for 298 yards, including two touchdown passes.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B plus. The Jaguars held LeSean McCoy to 68 yards in 18 carries, although the Bills couldn’t emphasis the run once they fell behind 27-3 in the second period. The Bills needed a better running game since Manuel was so shaky.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: D. This unit didn’t add anything and Jason Myers missed an extra point. The coverage team gave up an 18-yard return to Denarius Moore that set up a field goal.

–COACHING: C. Gus Bradley has kept the team together so they could come back after blowing a 27-3 lead. But they couldn’t turn the game into a rout after getting the big lead. Running Toby Gerhart four times from the 1-yard line wasn’t exactly inspired strategy.


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