Specials teams guides Rams to victory over Jaguars
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Some games are won with special teams.
The Los Angeles Rams' 27-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at EverBank Field was a prime example.
The Rams (4-2) returned the opening kickoff for a 103-yard touchdown, blocked a punt for a 6-yard touchdown, kicked a 56-yard field goal and averaged 50.8 yards per punt on their first five of the game.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, missed two 54-yard field goals and were let down by a shaky performance by punter Brad Nortman. In addition to the block, Nortman had punts of 18 and 28 yards for the Jaguars (3-3).
The special teams overshadowed a matchup of two of the NFL's surprising teams and one that featured two of the best young backs in the league -- Los Angeles' Todd Gurley and Jacksonville's Leonard Fournette. Both rushed for big days, with Fournette getting 130 and Gurley going for 116.
Los Angeles opened up a 24-14 halftime lead when linebacker Cory Littleton blocked a punt with Jacksonville facing a fourth-and-9 on its own 19. Littleton easily got to Nortman. The ball was quickly corralled by running back Malcolm Brown, who dragged multiple Jaguars into the end zone on a 6-yard return with 2:25 to play in the second quarter.
Jacksonville's Jason Myers kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 24-17 with 5:16 to go in the third quarter.
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles spoiled the team's best chance to tie the game, throwing an interception to Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman with 12:07 to play in the game. Robey-Coleman returned the pick 31 yards to the Jaguars' 45.
The Jaguars went three-and-out on their final opportunity before the Rams made it a two-score game on a Greg Zuerlein 29-yard field goal with 2:36 to play.
Myers missed a 54-yard field goal with 1:12 left as Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone tried to cut the lead to seven and try an onside kick.
The teams combined for 31 points in the first quarter.
The Rams got it going immediately on the opening kickoff. Receiver Pharoh Cooper caught Myers' kickoff 3 yards deep in the end zone and brought it out. He ran into little resistance, hugging the right sideline on a 103-yard touchdown return.
The Jaguars didn't take long to answer.
Fournette broke free on the first play from scrimmage. He sliced between two defensive backs and ran 75 yards for a touchdown.
That is two touchdowns in just 25 seconds of play.
Fournette has scored in the first six games of his NFL career. Only Robert Edwards (1998) also accomplished the feat.
Special teams gaffes cost the Jaguars again later in the first quarter. Nortman mis-hit an attempt that went 18 yards to the Jaguars' 45-yard line. The Jaguars forced a three-and-out, but Zuerlein connected from 56 yards to give Los Angeles a 10-7 lead with 8:54 to play in the first quarter.
The Jaguars responded with a four-play drive that went for 18, 17, 18 and 22 yards. The drive finished when Bortles pulled off a nifty play-action off a reverse and found running back Chris Ivory on a screen pass. Ivory was able to turn it into a touchdown to give the Jaguars a 14-10 lead. Fournette pulled off an impressive 18-yard run on the drive, putting a sensational spin move on Rams linebacker Connor Barwin.
The Rams closed the explosive opening quarter on a 4-yard touchdown shovel pass from quarterback Jared Goff to tight end Gerald Everett.
NOTES: Rams CB Trumaine Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a possible concussion. ... Jaguars DE Calais Campbell recorded two sacks, giving him eight this season. ... The Rams will stay in the Jacksonville area for the next three days prior to leaving for its next game in London. Los Angeles plays NFC West rival Arizona on Sunday at Twickenham Stadium in a "home" game. ... The Jaguars were without C Brandon Linder (illness) for the second straight week. ... Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon was a healthy inactive for the fifth consecutive game after missing the opener with a hamstring injury. The Jaguars selected Yeldon in the second round of the 2015 draft. ... The Rams were without S Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring). QB Brandon Allen, who was a sixth-round pick by the Jaguars in 2016, was a healthy scratch. The Jaguars cut Allen following the preseason.