JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) With another victory in hand and the playoffs in sight, the sellout crowd at EverBank Field started the wave.
Yes, the wave.
Forgive those in Jacksonville for going a little old school. After all, they haven’t seen anything like this in a decade.
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Blake Bortles threw three touchdowns passes , including two to seldom-used backup Jaydon Mickens, and the Jaguars clinched a playoff spot with a 45-7 drubbing of AFC South rival Houston on Sunday. Jacksonville’s seventh victory in its last eight games locked up the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2007.
After the wave petered out in the fourth quarter, the fans turned to another standby: They chanted ”playoffs, playoffs, playoffs.”
If things go as planned, the Jaguars (10-4) will earn a postseason game at home. Jacksonville can clinch the AFC South and a home date with a victory next week at San Francisco. The Jags also would clinch the division if Tennessee loses to the Los Angeles Rams.
”I think it is awesome,” Bortles said. ”To be a part of the team that is changing the culture, it is tough to put into words. It’s special. Unbelievably proud to be a part of this group and play for this organization.”
Finishing with double-digit losses the last six seasons, the Jaguars now have double-digit wins for the first time since their last postseason appearance.
The injury-riddled Texans (4-10) have dropped four in a row and seven of eight.
”It’s embarrassing, and you never want to get beat like that,” said Houston linebacker/defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who also called Bortles ”trash” in the locker room. ”It’s embarrassing for the whole organization.”
Bortles finished with a season-high 326 yards and the best QB rating (143.8) of his career. He did it without receivers Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee.
With Robinson (knee) on injured reserve, Hurns (ankle) inactive for the fifth consecutive week and Lee (ankle) in the locker room, Mickens and rookie Keelan Cole stepped up. Mickens caught four passes for 61 yards and two scores. Cole had seven receptions for a career-high 186 yards and a TD.
”It’s kind of cool that we solidified our (playoff) spot,” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. ”Now we can get over the giddiness of it. … It’s cool to be where we are, but we’re not done yet.”
Jacksonville was an NFL-worst 22-74 over the previous six years and was widely considered more of a laughingstock than a postseason contender.
”It’s a story of perseverance,” owner Shad Khan said.
Here are some other stories we saw about the Texans and Jaguars:
MILD CELEBRATION: The Jaguars barely acknowledged their milestone. Players walked to midfield after the game, shook hands with the Texans and headed to the locker room. No celebrations. No dancing. No parade lap. ”We have bigger goals in mind,” Jackson said. ”And (Houston) has earned the respect for us to not go out there and act like clowns.”
BETTER BORTLES: Bortles has been better than expected, especially lately, with seven touchdown passes, no turnovers and just one sack the last three games. ”Blake’s killing it,” Jackson said. ”I’m just glad he’s been able to turn it around. I’m glad he’s doing what we knew he could do, and I’m glad he’s proving to himself that he can do it. He chose one hell of a year to pick it up.”
KEY INJURY: The Jaguars, who played without leading rusher Leonard Fournette (quadriceps), lost leading receiver Lee in the first quarter. Lee is expected to get tests Monday to determine the extent of his ankle injury.
DOMINANT D: Jacksonville’s defense, which has been the glue all season, held Houston to 186 yards. The Jaguars led 31-0 at the break, their largest halftime lead in team history. ”It was very satisfying,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said.
EMBARRASSING LOSS: The Texans looked lost in every aspect. They did little on offense outside DeAndre Hopkins’ 25-yard TD catch against Jalen Ramsey in the third period, and did even less to slow down Jacksonville. T.J. Yates, making his first start since 2015, was mostly ineffective in place of Tom Savage (concussion). Yates completed 12 of 31 passes for 128 yards, with the TD and an interception.
”We played the exact opposite of complementary football,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said. ”We played terrible. We didn’t coach very well. That’s just not good enough.”
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