The Jacksonville Jaguars jumped out to a 21-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field, stunning the storied franchise with a swift punch to the mouth in the first quarter. The Jaguars came out and established that they were the bullies, led by their defense and running back Leonard Fournette.
There was one other key player to their early success however, much maligned quarterback Blake Bortles.
The Jaguars opening drive included three huge chunk plays in the passing game by Bortles, all on play action. The third scoring drive included a key third down conversion and some huge runs by the Jaguars quarterback.
I wouldn’t necessarily classify Bortles as “good” on Sunday, because he did have a big stretch where it started to look like he was going to go off a cliff, but he dumped the wheel near the edge and power slid into the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars didn’t need a fourth quarter comeback because they never surrendered the lead, but it sure felt like Bortles came up big when he needed to in the fourth quarter to seal the win. The Jaguars quarterback went 5 for 7 for 118 yards and a touchdown in the midst of the Steelers trying to rally back. For the first three quarters Bortles was just nine of 19 for 96 yards.
Bortles has gotten a ton of flack for crumbling in big moments from people like me, national media, other NFL players and fans. On Sunday however, in the biggest moment and needing to keep their foot on the gas to hold off the Steelers, Bortles made huge plays when they needed to be made, again.
Two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills, Bortles knew the passing game wasn’t working and he started taking off and picking up first downs with his legs. On Sunday against the Steelers Bortles was able to recognize a few holes in the Steelers defense and took advantage.
I have my own opinion on just how good Bortles can be and what his future with the team should be, but right now we should give that man his credit. He’s doing what he needs to do to win games in the playoffs right now, and I don’t care how he does it as long as it works.