The phrase "competition breeds success" rang true for the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night.
Locked in a suddenly intriguing quarterback situation, Chad Henne and rookie Blake Bortles each shined against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field, although Marc Trestman's late subs led a fourth-quarter comeback to ultimately earn the 20-19 victory.
Henne was outplayed significantly by Bortles in the Jags' preseason opener, and while he has long been projected as the Week 1 starter while Bortles redshirts, he was looking to regain some momentum.
“It’s just about setting the tempo and really pushing the guys to get into a nice rhythm out there,” he told The Florida Times-Union's Ryan O'Halloran before the game. “If we establish that and really get into our full offense, we’ll be successful.”
Well, he did just that.
These #Jaguars don't look so bad. Coaches were right about Chad Henne, too. He's responded to getting starter reps.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 15, 2014
Henne, who finished the day 12-of-17 for 130 yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions, converted his first three drives into points. The first two resulted in field goals, but on the third he connected with rookie Marqise Lee for a six-yard touchdown.
NFL Philosophy sees a bright future for the USC standout wide receiver, who fell to the second round after an injury-riddled junior campaign:
I loved Marqise Lee. Feel he was a lot like Keenan Allen. Injury made him slightly overlooked. Kid is going to be a stud.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) August 15, 2014
Lee finished with four catches and 27 yards to go with the first touchdown of his NFL career. For those interested in his fantasy value, Rotoworld's Evan Silva is buying at the current price:
Marqise Lee's ADP to this point has been mid-14th round. Steady robbing. Figure it'll move up some, but still love him in 11th/12th.— Evan Silva (@evansilva) August 15, 2014
But Bortles wasn't to be outdone. The rookie put forth his second impressive performance in a row, completing 11 of 17 throws for 160 yards. The yards number is a little swelled by a big completion to a wide-open Allen Hurns at the end of the first half, but really, it wasn't about the numbers or the fact he was playing against second- and third-stringers.
It was about the process, not the result. He looked poised in the pocket and made a number of crisp, accurate throws. On the run in his own zone on one play in the fourth quarter, he delivered a dime in between three defenders on the sideline:
Oh my goodness that Bortles throw, tho.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) August 15, 2014
Wow. That throw to the sideline by Bortles while rolling right. That is a big boy throw right there.— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) August 15, 2014
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah and Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon summarized his overall performance:
Game Bortles > Practice Bortles. His velocity jumps way up and he throws a much prettier ball.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 15, 2014
Bortles has really impressed me. Way better than I thought he'd do out of the gate.— Ian Kenyon (@IanKenyonNFL) August 15, 2014
As for the Bears, the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh was concerned about the first-team defense that got gashed by Henne, Lee and tight end Marcedes Lewis (three catches, 46 yards):
The Jags just spent the first quarter making the new Bears defense look and feel a lot like the old Bears defense.— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) August 15, 2014
ESPN's Louis Riddick noted one particular weakness:
#Bears interior pass rush non-existent. Not a good look.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) August 15, 2014
The offense, however, looked just as dangerous as 2013's explosive unit. The first-team running game never got going, but Jay Cutler completed seven of his nine throws for 75 yards and a short touchdown to Brandon Marshall.
NFL's Twitter feed provided a look at the score:
As is evident in that play, Chicago's pass protection resembled a mobile brick wall, creating perfectly clean pockets for Cutler to consistently work out of.
After a quiet second half from Chicago's offense, Jordan Palmer led a pair of touchdown drives—capped by short runs from Ka'Deem Carey and Senorise Perry—in the fourth quarter to give the Bears the dramatic win.
A lot of good work at the LOS in the running game by @JwPalms— Steve Palazzolo (@PFF_Steve) August 15, 2014
With the all-important "dress rehearsal" preseason game upcoming, the Jaguars head to Detroit to face the Lions on Friday, Aug. 22. The Bears get the unenviable task of playing the Super Bowl champs in Seattle on the same night.
The Jags will look to gather some final evidence in what is starting to look more like a QB battle, while Trestman, Mel Tucker and Co. would simply like to see some improvement out of a revamped defense.