Big plays propel Jaguars past New England in preseason opener

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. | Leonard Fournette and Yannick Ngakoue? Effective as expected.

 

Keelan Cole, Rashad Greene and Corey Grant? Impressive first impressions.

Fournette rushed for a touchdown and Ngakoue had a sack, but it was Cole, Greene and Grant who dominated the spotlight in Thursday’s 31-24 preseason win over the New England Patriots.

Cole caught a 97-yard touchdown, Greene had a 50-yard punt return and drew a 44-yard pass interference penalty and Grant scored on a 79-yard touchdown run.

Cole and Greene may be fighting for the same roster spot (sixth receiver) and Grant needs to convince the Jaguars’ brass a fourth tailback on the roster makes sense.

The Jaguars’ capped their five-day stay in New England by having the first-unit offensive line (minus right tackle Jermey Parnell) play the first half and the starting defense (minus three starters) playing two series.

Ten Jaguars did not play and New England’s scratches included quarterback Tom Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, receivers Julian Edelman and Brandin Cooks and cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Dwayne Allen.

Quarterback Blake Bortles was 3-of-5 passing for 16 yards in his two drives (14 snaps).

“I just had it as the first quarter [for Bortles],” coach Doug Marrone said at halftime. “We had a bunch of good work all week against the Patriots. It was the plan coming in and we just stuck with the plan.”

Said Bortles: “It was good to get out there in a live-game situation with the crowd and play some real football. I thought we did some good things in a short period of time.”

Tailback Chris Ivory gained 15 yards on the initial play from scrimmage. Three plays later, on third-and-5, Greene was open on a shallow cross, but dropped Bortles’ pass that would have resulted in a first down.

Greene quickly made up for it, though.

The Patriots went three-and-out after Ngakoue sacked Jimmy Garoppolo on third-and-1. Greene returned Ryan Allen’s punt 50 yards to the Patriots’ 36. Punt returner may be Greene’s best route to a roster spot.

The Jaguars capitalized with Jason Myers’ 27-yard field goal although they needed 10 plays to move 28 yards. Fournette ran eight yards on fourth-and-1, but the drive stalled at the nine-yard line.

The Jaguars’ defense was minus their top three cornerbacks (Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and Aaron Colvin) and strong-side defensive end Calais Campbell. New England’s second drive was an 11-play, 60-yard possession capped by Stephen Gostkowski’s 43-yard field goal to tie the game at 3. Brandon Bolden ran 28 yards on third-and-1 from the Patriots’ 46, but Garoppolo went down for a 1-yard sack on third-and-4.

Ngakoue, Smith and other starting defensive players left after that possession, but middle linebacker Myles Jack and nose tackle Abry Jones played well into the second quarter.

The Jaguars’ third possession was Chad Henne’s first and he delivered a dart to Shane Wynn for a 17-yard play on third-and-2. Three plays later, it was Henne-to-Greene for 11 yards on third-and-9. On third-and-6 from the Patriots’ 32, Wynn got open again but Henne threw wide and incomplete. Myers missed a 50-yard field goal attempt.

Cole’s 97-yard touchdown catch staked the Jaguars’ 10-3 lead with 9:03 left in the first half. Cornerback Cyrus Jones gave Cole a free release and he caught Henne’s pass in stride at the Jaguars’ 36-yard line.

Fournette’s 1-yard touchdown run (which made it Jaguars 17-3) was set up by Greene drawing a pass interference penalty. Fournette gained four and three yards to set up his score.

The Patriots ran the two-minute drill to move 76 yards on nine plays, capped by Garoppolo’s seven-yard touchdown pass to Austin Carr in the back of the end zone. New England tied it at 17 on K.J. Maye’s five-yard touchdown catch from Garoppolo early in the third quarter. Garoppolo ended 22 of 28 for 235 yards and two touchdowns.

Grant’s touchdown run gave the Jaguars a 24-17 lead. Rookie Dede Westbrook caught a 42-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Allen with nine seconds left in the third quarter to move the lead back to 14 points.

“The coaches told me [about the route] before-hand so I knew it was coming,” Westbrook said. “We weren’t expecting the touchdown, but everything worked out perfectly.”

D.J. Foster scored on a three-yard run early in the fourth quarter and the Patriots drove to the Jaguars’ 41, but two Jacoby Brissett throws into the end zone fell incomplete.

The Jaguars have Friday off before four days of practice leading into Thursday’s home game against Tampa Bay.

 

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