Watching cornerback Jalen Ramsey knock down a pass in the final minute against Chicago was nothing new for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
They see it nearly every Friday — in walkthrough.
Blake Bortles has even stopped throwing Ramsey’s way during the slow-motion period, tired of Ramsey swatting away ever lob pass in a session designed for completions.
“I never want to get a ball caught on me wherever, whenever,” Ramsey said Monday, a day after a 17-16 victory at the Bears. “Like if someone threw a ball right now in the locker room, I’d probably try to bat it down. It’s just a mindset.”
It proved to be a winning attitude Sunday.
Ramsey made a diving deflection on a fourth-and-10 pass to Alshon Jeffery, a game-sealing play that was the latest and greatest for Jacksonville’s remarkable rookie. Jeffery caught six passes for 90 yards against Ramsey in the first half, but had just one reception for three yards after the break.
“This is what I asked for,” Ramsey said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way. I want to go up against the best and not only make a name for myself, but I feel like when I go up against the best and I do well, that can help the whole defense.
“Shutting down a No. 1 threat or a No. 1 option helps other guys make plays.”
Ramsey, the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft, has quickly become Jacksonville’s top cornerback and could be one of the best in the league by the end of the season. He kept Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson in check in the season opener. He frustrated Baltimore’s Steve Smith last month. He held Indianapolis’ T.Y. Hilton to 42 yards receiving in London earlier this month.
And he was at his best in the second half against Jeffery, especially on Chicago’s final play.
Ramsey remembered what he had heard all week: that the Bears failed to get Jeffery the ball on their final play against the Colts last week. So he figured quarterback Brian Hoyer would be looking for Jeffery this time around.
“I knew it was coming. I knew they were going to Alshon. Period. I knew it,” Ramsey said.
They did, and Ramsey was ready. He undercut the dig route, batted the ball away and started Jacksonville’s celebration. It was just the third time in franchise history the Jaguars (2-3) won a game in which they trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter.
As great as the final 15 minutes were for Jacksonville, the first three quarters showed the team still has plenty to work on before hosting the Oakland Raiders (4-2) on Sunday:
—Bortles, who threw his seventh interception of the season and also fumbled, has to limit turnovers . He also has to find a way to get receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Julius Thomas more involved.
—The Jaguars, last in the NFL in rushing, have to do something to improve their ground game .
“I can’t argue with the run game,” coach Gus Bradley said. “It’s not coming along. Some of the same things are popping up. It all comes back to why aren’t we playing fast? It doesn’t look to me that when we’re out there the offensive line, tight ends and everybody, we’re executing.
“It comes down to execution, technique, but there’s just not a certain speed or urgency in our play. Whether it’s too complicated, something is holding us back from playing as aggressively as we need to in the run game. That’s where our attention is now. How do we get this fixed?”
The Jaguars have made a significant turnaround on the defensive side of the ball, moving from 24th in yards in 2015 to eighth this year.
Ramsey, who likely will shadow Amari Cooper this week, has been a big reason for the jump.
“He doesn’t want to lose in checkers,” defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “I think that’s one of the things that is going to make him a special player throughout his career is how competitive he is.”