JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – No ghosts on Sunday. Everyone saw this.
The Jaguars were dominant on the defensive side of the ball for the second consecutive week and turned Sam Darnold's and the New York Jets' trip to Jacksonville into forgettable October day.
Three interceptions and eight sacks, followed by a three-touchdown afternoon by Gardner Minshew II gave Jacksonville a 29-15 win over the Jets at TIAA Bank Field.
Darnold, the Jets quarterback whose sound bite that he was "seeing ghosts" during Monday's loss to New England went viral, endured a rough day against the Jaguars.
The defense, which finally hit its turnover peak last week at Cincinnati, erased the Jets offense most of the game Sunday with a relentless pass rush and topped it off with a game-changing pick by A.J. Bouye with 8 minutes, 54 seconds to play.
Bouye's return went to the Jets 25 and set up the dagger eight plays later, an 8-yard touchdown pass from Minshew to D.J. Chark with 4:22 left for the breather.
Tre Herndon, the player who replaced Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey following his back injury and eventual trade, had two interceptions, the latter coming on the Jets' ensuing drive.
"At the end of the day, I thought we did a good job. Especially for us, if we can get the run game stopped, it's always helped us," coach Doug Marrone said. "People will talk about, ‘Hey, the head coach did this and the head coach did that.' That's all bull. The team has done a great job with themselves. The assistant coaches have done a great job keeping everyone focused, keeping everyone in. I'm just along for the ride. I really appreciate what those guys are doing."
The Jaguars, perhaps written off in early September, will make the turn into the season's second half very much back in the playoff conversation. Jacksonville (4-4) got back to .500, and back into AFC South contention.
Defense flipped a game that was close late to a comfortable victory and sent the Jaguars on to their next home game — Sunday in London against the Texans — with another chance to climb up the AFC South standings.
After two weeks of uneven performances, Minshew was far more consistent against the Jets and delivered one of his best plays of the season against New York.
Jamal Adams came off the edge untouched on a safety blitz and zeroed in on Minshew for what should have been an easy sack.
Cue the Minshew Magic.
He avoided Adams well enough and hit Chris Conley down the right seam for a 70-yard touchdown and a 13-7 Jaguars lead. He finished 22 of 34 passing for 279 yards. Conley had four catches for 103 yards and Chark six for 79. Keelan Cole caught Minshew's other scoring pass.
Jacksonville's defense was the story of the game.
"It was awesome. That's the thing, we know if we can get a lead on people, that's what they're capable of," Minshew said of the defense. "That's what this defense is built for, when we can get a team and they're one dimensional. We try to help them by scoring points early, but yeah, I can't say enough how much it does for us when they create turnovers and make negative plays to get the team off the field so we can go drive."
Building off of a ferocious finish last week at Cincinnati, the Jaguars used their pass rush to do the bulk of the damage against New York.
"You know, we don't really get a lot of credit after Jalen [Ramsey] left, so hopefully we just keep earning it every day. But, that's just good job on the guys staying together," Bouye said.
After a touchdown on the opening drive, Darnold was out of sorts against the Jaguars. He was sacked three times in the second quarter and three others in the third, including on back-to-back plays by Abry Jones and Calais Campbell and then Yannick Ngakoue.
"It's not about the stats, man. At the end of the day, I'm just happy to see guys thrive on the D-Line and on the defense, too," Ngakoue said. "We had a guy that nobody would touch and came in here and had two picks, Tre [Herndon], man that's special right there. I'm just thankful to see guys like that be able to make plays and progress and get more comfortable within the game."
Rookie Josh Allen and Ngakoue both had two sacks, while Campbell finished with 1½.
Even though it was a common sight at TIAA Bank on Sunday, Darnold said the ghost memes and fallout from the Monday night audio clip didn't bother him.
"Well, it is what it is. It didn't affect me," he said. "It's just a silly thing for social media and fans to be able to try to use it against you. But for me, I was just playing bad because I did. I just wasn't executing out there, I wasn't playing the balls where they needed to be and – it wasn't about that, though."