By Nick Shook
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A low-scoring, defensive affair marred with incompletions and turnovers turned out in favor of the Denver Broncos, which triumphed over the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-10 to stay in the thick of the AFC West race. Here’s what we learned:
1. Denver scored the perfect week to be forced to start Paxton Lynch. Jacksonville has a defense that, on paper, should be stingy against any offense, even if their record doesn’t show it. Denver wisely remedied early struggles by turning to a ground game that found a little daylight in the second quarter with the combination of Kapri Bibbs and Devontae Booker. But make no mistake — a Denver offense that already had its issues was only worse with Lynch in the lineup.
2. The Jaguars were in it late, but having witnessed three quarters of complete unpredictability on offense, it never felt like they were really in it. Jacksonville turned the ball over twice entering the latter stages of the fourth, including a Bradley Roby pick-six, and as we watched Bortles escape and fire rockets to anyone, anywhere, at any time, it seemed only a matter of time before turnover No. 3 happened. It eventually did, though only when the pocket collapsed on Bortles, forcing him to fumble and bringing a ho-hum finish to a ho-hum day that didn’t appear as such on the scoreboard.
3. In a role reversal early in the contest, it was the Jags getting to the quarterback more often than the Broncos. Jacksonville pressured Lynch plenty, which undoubtedly played a part in his skittishness for much of the game. Denver turned the tables later in the action, forcing Bortles to let it fly or run for his life. That added pressure was encouraging after the Broncos‘ front seven didn’t look like itself early, and accounted for multiple Jaguars drives that stalled before they could become game-tying possessions.
4. A game that was low-scoring, largely unentertaining and filled with punts (19 combined) had its star, which was again Denver’s secondary. The defensive backs combined for two interceptions, locked down against Allen Robinson (even catching a Robinson juggle for an interception) and were mere inches from at least two more takeaways. Bortles’ stat line — 19 of 42, 181 yards, 2 interceptions — stunningly could have been much worse. It very well could be time to explore a future without Bortles for Jacksonville, while Denver rolls onward and keeps pace in the AFC West after Kansas City eked out a win over Atlanta.