JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- **The Broncos made Blake Bortles uncomfortable, and that was the difference at EverBank Field on Sunday.
Denver's pressure didn't result in a bushel of sacks, but it led to two of three takeaways, including the decisive forced fumble from Bortles with 1:27 remaining in regulation, scuttling Jacksonville's late attempt to tie the score.
A 41-yard Brandon McManus field goal four plays later allowed the Broncos to escape with a 20-10 win that got them back on solid ground in the wild-card race, with a one-game lead on the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers for the No. 6 seed in the AFC postseason race with four weeks remaining.
"Any way possible right now in this part of the season, that's what you need to do to get a win and get into the playoffs," said outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. "It's not about winning by 30 or whatever, because once you get into the playoffs, everything that happened before that doesn't matter. It's about the game, right then, in that moment."
Paxton Lynch struggled to find consistency in his second career start, completing 12 of his 24 passes for 104 yards. He was sacked twice and threw no interceptions, but only led one touchdown drive -- a 75-yard march powered by 53 rushing yards from Devontae Booker and Kapri Bibbs.
"We've got to do -- I have to do -- a better job for him," Head Coach Gary Kubiak said. "But we came in here and did what we needed to do to win. It's a step forward [to] keep going and we've all got to get better, but we hung on."
Bibbs was particularly effective, picking up 49 yards on five carries, including a 24-yard run on the Broncos' lone touchdown drive that was their longest gain of the day. But after Bibbs succumbed to an ankle injury, the offense ground to a halt; Denver gained just 53 yards and a single first down on 23 plays in the second half.
The Broncos struggled on third downs, converting just one of 13 opportunities. That led to another unfortunate statistic -- Riley Dixon's 11 punts. Only three games in Broncos history have seen more Denver punts than this one.
But thanks to three takeaways, the Broncos were able to overcome that to earn the win.
A look back at the pregame three keys:
The Broncos grabbed a 20-10 win over the Jaguars behind a solid defensive performance.(Photos by Eric Bakke, unless noted)
- TAKE WHAT'S THERE**
Quick timing routes and underneath passes helped Lynch find his footing in the first half; he had success hitting Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas on quick slants and outs. In the first half, Sanders and Thomas combined for 74 of the 79 passing yards accumulated by Lynch on 9-of-16 passing.
When the Broncos looked deep Sunday, they put Lynch in the best position for success: using the play-fake bootleg to get him outside of the pocket.
Both plays were perfectly executed -- until the throws. Both of them had too much under them, allowing defenders to close both times to break up the passes.
2. FORCE BORTLES INTO TURNOVERS
This was the major key, and allowed the Broncos to overcome an offense that accounted for more punts (11) than first downs (10). Chris Harris Jr. ended one Jacksonville drive in the second quarter by picking up a pass bobbled by Allen Robinson.
But the most extensive damage came after halftime. Von Miller's pressure led to an errant Bortles throw that Roby returned 51 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. A strip-sack of Bortles with 1:27 remaining allowed the Broncos to clinch the win.
3. LET PAXTON BE PAXTON
The Broncos let Lynch receive substantial work out of the shotgun, in which he worked extensively at the University of Memphis, and gave him play-action bootleg opportunities from under center, which gave him the opportunity for deep shots.
But Lynch could not capitalize. Play-fake bootlegs set up Demaryius Thomas for a deep opportunity in the second quarter and Emmanuel Sanders in the third quarter, but Lynch underthrew the passes, leading to a pair of incompletions -- one of which was nearly intercepted.
Lynch had a chance to seal the game when he escaped the pocket on third-and-3 in the final minutes, but Malik Jackson tripped him up.