CINCINNATI (AP) — Jalen Ramsey wasn’t needed. The Jaguars’ defense had more than enough against one of the NFL’s sad-sack teams.
Three interceptions. A defensive touchdown. A dominant performance by the line. All of it added up to a soothing win for Jacksonville, given the way the week had played out.
Gardner Minshew led a fourth-quarter touchdown drive for the lead, and Yannick Ngakoue returned an interception 23 yards to clinch a 27-17 victory Sunday over the winless Cincinnati Bengals.
The Jaguars (3-4) managed only field goals by still-perfect Josh Lambo through three quarters before their rookie quarterback and their depleted defense made all the game-turning plays at the end.
“We’re ready to keep the train rolling,” safety Ronnie Harrison, who had the final interception.
The win capped a week in which the Jaguars traded the disgruntled Ramsey to the Rams for three draft picks, a potentially disruptive move. Their defense responded with one of its best performances, picking off Andy Dalton three times in the fourth quarter to put it away.
Could this be a turning point?
“Shoot, what do you think?” cornerback D.J. Hayden said. “I believe so.”
There’s no turning point in sight for the Bengals, who fell to 0-7 for the first time in 11 years. First-year coach Zac Taylor is still waiting for that first win, and things are getting so bad — especially on offense — that it’s time to start looking at doing things differently.
“What we just put on the field is not good enough,” said Taylor, who also calls the offensive plays.
Minshew was solid a week after his so-so performance in a 13-6 loss to the Saints. The rookie completed 15 of 32 for 255 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Keelan Cole for a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Minshew also scrambled for 48 yards.
The Bengals were booed repeatedly throughout another inept performance. Cincinnati managed only 33 yards rushing — all by Dalton. Myles Jack picked off Dalton at the Jacksonville 10 to preserve the late lead, and Ngakoue’s interception return off a floating screen pass put it away.
When Ngakoue saw running back Giovani Bernard in the game, he figured Cincinnati was going to throw a screen pass and got in position to pick it off.
“I noticed when (Bernard) was in the game, they were looking to pass,” Ngakoue said. “And when it was (Joe Mixon), they were looking to run. So I thought it was going to be a screen.”
Dalton who was 22 of 43 for 276 yards. Alex Erickson provided the bulk of Cincinnati’s offense, having a career day with eight catches for 137 yards. He had receptions of 12, 48 and 27 yards on the Bengals’ touchdown drive late in the first half.
Lambo was good on all four field goal tries, leaving him 18 for 18 this season. Leonard Fournette piled up 131 yards against the NFL’s worst run defense. Jacksonville ran for 216 yards overall, the third straight game Cincinnati has allowed more than 200 yards rushing.
“They couldn’t stop us,” Fournette said. “We knew that.”
Lambo made field goals of 21, 29, 37 and 26 yards. Since the end of last season, Lambo has made 20 consecutive field goal attempts, four shy of his club record from 2017-18.
Minshew hasn’t thrown an interception in his four road games.
Jaguars rookie Josh Allen had his fifth sack, tying John Henderson for most sacks through the first seven career games in franchise history. All five sacks have come in the last five games.
Cincinnati managed 110 yards in the first half — including minus-2 rushing — but its only drive resulted in a touchdown on Dalton’s 2-yard pass to Mixon for a 7-6 halftime lead. The Bengals’ offense hadn’t scored a first-half touchdown in the last four games.
In their first five possessions, the Bengals ran 18 plays and managed only 20 yards.
The Jaguars piled up 309 yards in the first half, but had to settle for two field goals.
Jaguars: The defense was depleted by the fourth quarter. In the first half, LB Najee Goode suffered a foot injury and LB Cam Robinson had a toe injury. In the second half, DT Marcell Dareus had an abdominal injury and LB Quincy Williams left with a hamstring injury.
Bengals: CB Darqueze Dennard returned after missing all of camp and the first six games while recovering from knee surgery in March.
Jaguars: host the Jets on Sunday.
Bengals: play the Rams — Taylor’s former team — in London on Sunday.