The Jaguars were well represented in the 2018 Pro Bowl, at least on the defensive side of the ball. All five Jaguars that played in the game were defensive players. AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey were the AFC's starting cornerbacks and Malik Jackson started at defensive tackle. LB Telvin Smith and DE Yannick Ngakoue both subbed in and out for the AFC defense. All five players saw action early in the contest. Calais Campbell, the only Jaguars player who was invited and did not attend the Pro Bowl, skipped out due to a minor injury.
The game means little (nothing) and isn't much more than a padded practice, but it was an opportunity for these young Jaguars to make more of a name for themselves and for the Jaguars defense on a national stage.
On the first defensive drive for the AFC the Jaguars were put to work. Jalen Ramsey made a tackle in coverage on the first play from scrimmage, limiting the NFC to just a short gain. AJ Bouye didn't have as much success on the first drive for the AFC. He allowed a third down completion and conversion in coverage against Doug Baldwin. He then allowed a Drew Brees to Adam Thielen touchdown in the red zone on a short slant.
Rain began to fall at the start of the second quarter and had a big impact on play. Tyreek Hill fumbled a punt return that was scooped up by Budda Baker, giving the NFC team a short field.
On the subsequent offensive drive by the NFC Yannick Ngakoue and Telvin Smith made their presence felt. On second down, as Saints RB Mark Ingram tried to bounce a run to the outside, Smith showed off his speed and chased Ingram down in the backfield. On the next play, a third down for the NFC squad, Yannick Ngakoue was able to get into the backfield and take down Ingram behind the line again. The Jaguars efforts forced an NFC field goal attempt, which was converted to give the NFC a 10-3 lead over the AFC early in the second quarter.
On the AFC's next drive Big Ben attempted to even the score by going deep on 4th & 7, but Harrison Smith was all over the intended receiver and was able to pick off the Roethlisberger pass and return it for a touchdown, giving the NFC a 17-3 lead.
As the AFC team attempted to draw closer with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Alex Smith was picked off in the end zone by Patrick Peterson. The NFC onslaught continued.
At the half the NFC led 20-3 thanks to a walk off field goal by Graham Gano.
To start the second half the AFC received the ball. Looking to get back in the game. Alex Smith quickly drove the AFC offense down the field and finished the drive with a TD pass to Titans TE Delanie Walker, drawing closer to the NFC.
On the next NFC drive Jalen Ramsey was heavily involved. On first down he was involved in a tackle, slowing down legendary TE Jason Witten and then on second down he helped usher Todd Gurley out of bounds. On third down Casey Hayward intercepted Russell Wilson and then pitched the ball to Rashad Jones who then pitched the ball to Jalen Ramsey who returned the ball nearly 30 yards.
On the follow drive Derek Carr found TY Hilton at the two yard line on a deep pass that was forced into double coverage against Patrick Peterson and Harrison Smith. LeSean McCoy capitalized by scoring on the next play and drew the AFC to within one score of the NFC, 17-20.
On the following drive the NFC scored a FG, extending their lead to 23-17. Telvin Smith made one tackle on the drive, but not before allowing a first down in coverage.
With 9:01 left in the game, as Jared Goff and the NFC offense looked to extend their lead, Casey Hayward dropped a sure pick six that likely would have resulted in an MVP award for the Chargers CB. On the next play Yannick Ngakoue applied pressure on Goff, forcing an incompletion and punt.
Nearing mid-field on the next AFC possession, Derek Carr launched one deep, but he targeted Patrick Peterson one too many times, resulting in Peterson's second INT of the day.
On the next drive Yannick Ngakoue and Telvin Smith were able to quickly converge on a ball carrier on second down, but to no avail as the NFC found a first down on the next play. Fortunately for the AFC Jalen Ramsey was targeted in coverage of Adam Thielen on third down and was able to force the incompletion on a fly route. Ramsey and the rest of the AFC defense gave their offense the ball back with under four minutes left trailing 23-17.
With 1:31 left in the game Derek Carr found Delanie Walker for his (Walker's) second TD of the game. Chris Boswell sunk the extra point to give the AFC their first lead of the game 24-23.
As the NFC "desperately tried to march the ball down the field to get within field goal range Telvin Smith and Yannick Ngakoue helped seal the game for the AFC. Smith was in on two tackles and Yannick Ngakoue, along with Von Miller and Cam Heyward, got pressure on Jared Goff and forced a sack fumble.
The AFC won for the second straight year and the Jaguars played very well overall. Telvin Smith led all players with eight tackles on the day.
As I said before, this game was and likely always will be meaningless, but it was a cool opportunity for a group of young, up and coming Jaguars to show off their stuff. Most importantly no Jaguars were hurt during the contest.
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