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Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Houston Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus, top, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Jaguars Offensive Struggles Lead to Bortles Benching

As the Jacksonville Jaguars returned home Sunday after two embarrassing road beat downs, chants of “Duuuval!” quickly turned to boos. The offensive woes continued for the Jaguars through most of the first half, where the Jags trailed 13-0 at halftime to the division rival Houston Texans. Then, in the second half, Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone pulled quarterback Blake Bortles from the game. Even with a small spark provided by backup quarterback Cody Kessler, the Jaguars still lost the game and are left trying to correct the problems on the offensive side.

Benching Bortles

It was crucial for Bortles to play at least a respectable game against Texans on Sunday with the lead in the AFC South on the line. However, he did the complete opposite.

The Jaguars faced third down and short on the team’s first drive of the game. Bortles scrambled up the middle and was met by Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus. He stripped the ball out of Bortles’ hands, forcing a fumble and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney recovers.

Bortles didn’t have any help either from his receivers. Keelan Cole had two big drops on third down where the ball was in his hands. These drops along with the poor play of the offense led to the unit being booed off the field by the Jaguar faithful.

Bortles finished the first half going 6-12 for 61 yards passing and a fumble. He did lead the team in rushing with 26 yards. This just shows how the Jaguars, who tried to get back to the running game, failed to run on the formidable Texans defense.

The first Jaguars drive of the second half was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Bortles. Bortles escaped pressure from the Texans and tried to pick up the first down using his legs. In similar fashion to earlier in the game, Bortles was stripped by linebacker Zach Cunningham and the fumble was recovered by safety Kareem Jackson. This turnover gave the Texans the ball back at the Jacksonville 12 yard line.

This prompted Marrone to pull his quarterback from the game.

He explained his decision to bench Bortles.

Quarterback Controversy

On his second drive in as the Jaguars signal caller, Cody Kessler led Jacksonville down the field by connecting with his receivers on short routes. The drive was capped off when Kessler rolled out and found running back TJ Yeldon, who made an impressive catch in the end zone, from five yards out. This play was originally called back because the referees thought Kessler’s foot was over the line of scrimmage. However, the called was reversed and the Jaguars were on the board for the first and only time in the afternoon.

Kessler finished the game going 21/30, 156 yards a touchdown and an interception.

Marrone said the quarterback position is up for grabs, just like other positions on offense.

Whether he gets the start next week or not, Kessler said he’s just going to keep his same mindset.

Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith said the team needs to support whoever steps on the field.

Turnover Troubles

Along with Bortles two fumbles, Kessler had a turnover of his own. This turnover was just indicative on the game the Jaguars were having on Sunday.

Kessler led the offense to the Houston 26-yard line in a late attempt to get back into the game. On third down, Kessler’s pass was deflected off the intended receiver Yeldon and right into the hands of Texans safety Tyronn Mathieu. This was Jacksonville’s third turnover of the afternoon and 10th turnover in the last three games.

In his post-game press conference, Marrone said the corrections on offense start with cutting down on turnovers.

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