Remember the Leonard Fournette who looked like a man among boys at LSU as he barreled over, through and past SEC defenders to become the fourth pick of the 2017 draft?
Jacksonville Jaguars fans sure don’t.
Fournette torches Broncos
But he reminded them and Denver on Sunday of what made him a special prospect, barreling through the Broncos defense for 225 yards on 29 carries in a 26-24 victory. He added two catches for 20 yards.
His day started as so many of them have lately — a ho-hum 35-yard first half that saw the Jaguars fall behind 17-3 in the second quarter. But he unleashed the latent Fournette beast in the second half to the tune of 190 rushing yards that saw him regularly break through first contact for big yardage.
In the process, the Jaguars reeled off 20 unanswered points as Jacksonville controlled the ball on offense and let its top-shelf defense handle business when Denver had the ball. He didn’t find the end zone, but his big plays set up the Jags for critical scores in their two-point win.
81-yarder looked like LSU days
His biggest play of the day came with Jacksonville backed up at its own 7-yard line in the third quarter. Gardner Minshew handed the ball off on first-and-10, and Fournette switched direction in the backfield to burst untouched through the right side of the line before dodging defenders in the open field en route to an 81-yard gain.
Two plays later, Minshew found tight end James O'Shaughnessy in the end zone to take a 20-17 lead.
His success on the ground continued to allow Jacksonville to control the second half.
Minshew, Lambo save big day
His big day almost went for naught as Joe Flacco and the Broncos offense woke up late in the fourth quarter to take a 24-23 lead on a touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders.
But Minshew led a game-winning drive that was aided by a controversial roughing call on Von Miller and ended with a 33-yard field goal from Josh Lambo as time expired.
Tough sledding before Sunday
The outburst comes a week after Fournette was being written off by Jaguars fans and fantasy managers alike in a dismal outing against the Tennessee Titans. Only a late 69-yard run saved what had been a miserable night and ended with Fournette tallying 66 yards on 15 carries.
If you’re doing the math there, that’s a grand total of minus-3 yards on the 14 carries that weren’t the 69-yard gain.
Prior to Sunday, Fournette had tallied 179 rushing yards on 4.2 yards per carry and 14 catches for 94 yards through three games — not a terrible performance, but far from the return to form fans had in mind for the third-year pro after an injury-plagued sophomore season that saw him average 3.3 yards per carry en route to 429 yards in eight games.
Now healthy and without the shackles of Blake Bortles weighing down the offense, this was supposed to be Fournette’s time to build on the promise of a rookie season that saw him tally 1,342 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage.
Sunday was a glimpse of what Jaguars fans were hoping for.
Will it be a one-off or is it a sign of things to come?
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