Conservative Broncos force turnovers, beat Jaguars 20-10
Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) throws a pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL football game in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Denver Broncos designed the perfect game plan around rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might want to try something similar with Blake Bortles.
Lynch played turnover-free football in his first road start, which is exactly what the Broncos (8-4) needed to beat the mistake-prone Jaguars 20-10 on Sunday and gain ground in the AFC playoff picture.
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Bortles can't say the same. His three turnovers were pretty much the difference in a defensive game that featured 19 punts and two offensive touchdowns.
Bradley Roby picked off Bortles' wobbly pass over the middle and returned it 51 yards for a score and a 17-3 lead in the third quarter. Bortles also fumbled in the final minutes, essentially ending any chance the Jaguars (2-10) had of tying the game.
''It's the biggest nightmare possible,'' said Bortles, whose 37.9 quarterback rating was the worst of his career. ''But what are you going to do about it? You can't sit there in a corner and pout. You can't blame people. You can't feel sorry for yourself because I think all that's going to do is affect the way I play. … All you can do is put your head down and continue to play as hard as you can and prepare each week.''
The Jaguars dropped their seventh consecutive game and fell to 0-5 at home, one reason EverBank Field was filled with orange jerseys. Coach Gus Bradley's team will try to end the slide next week against Minnesota.
The Broncos rebounded from an overtime loss against Kansas City, and with Miami losing at Baltimore, moved into position to get one of the conference's wild-card spots. With games against New England, Kansas City and Oakland looming, coach Gary Kubiak's team probably needs to win at Tennessee next week to bolster its postseason chances.
Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian hopes to return against the Titans.
If not, the Broncos know they can win with Lynch. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 104 yards and was sacked twice. His only really questionable throw was a deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders that safety Tashaun Gipson should have intercepted.
''We came into the game knowing we had a shot if we didn't turn the ball over, especially when you have a defense as good as you have on the other side of the ball,'' Lynch said. ''You always have a chance to stay in the game as long as you don't hurt yourself, and that's what we did. It wasn't pretty, but we still came out with the win.''
The Broncos scored all 20 points with help from Jacksonville, including 10 points off turnovers and 10 points thanks partly to two 15-yard penalties.
Denver was 1 for 13 on third downs and finished with just 206 yards, the fewest allowed in Bradley's four-year tenure. It was the franchise's fewest since giving up 146 yards in a victory against Baltimore in 2011.
Here are some other things to know about the Broncos and Jaguars:
SELF-DESTRUCTION: Bortles now has more pick-6s (11) than victories (10) in his NFL career. It's a huge problem for the Jaguars, who continue to be ultra-loyal to the 2014 first-round draft pick. It was his third pick-6 in the last four games. Houston and Detroit also returned interceptions for touchdowns in games the Jaguars lost by less than seven points.
''He scrambled for a touchdown, so you can see how elusive he is,'' Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. ''I was more worried about him running out of the pocket than throwing the ball.''
CLUTCH BRONCOS: Denver was gouged on the ground for 154 yards, but the defense made several game-changing plays. Roby's interception was the dagger. It was huge for the third-year pro who gave up a late touchdown to New Orleans two weeks ago, and surrendered an 11-yard catch on fourth-and-10 last week against the Chiefs.
''There was no way we were going to lose this game late like we did last week,'' Roby said.
MISERABLE MILESTONE: The Jaguars became the fifth team in NFL history to post double-digit losses in six consecutive seasons, joining Tampa Bay (1983-94), Detroit (2001-06), Oakland (2003-09) and Cleveland (2008-13). Bradley's career record fell to 14-46, the second-worst winning percentage for any NFL coach with at least 50 games of experience.
GOOD COMPANY: Chris Harris Jr.'s interception was his second of the year, giving him five consecutive seasons with multiple picks. He's the fifth cornerback in the NFL to accomplish the feat, joining teammate Aqib Talib, Arizona's Patrick Peterson, New York Giants' Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Seattle's Richard Sherman.
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