The Jaguars are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, which is cause for celebration for a fan base that hasn’t had much to cheer about over the last decade.
Jacksonville went 10-6 this year thanks to Leonard Fournette, who had 1,300+ total yards and 10 touchdowns (nine rushing, one receiving), and its defense, which finished as the the No. 2 unit in the NFL, allowing just 16.8 points per game.
But the question remains: Can Blake Bortles win games in the playoffs? We’ll find out this Sunday, when the Jaguars host the Bills (9-7) at 1:05 p.m. ET.
“He has been very good at protecting the football – up until the last couple weeks,” former Jaguars defensive end and current radio analyst Jeff Lageman said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He had eight interceptions prior to the last two games, which is outstanding. Last year, he threw 16, and the year before that, he threw 18. That’s the area that he needed to cut back on.”
Bortles, though, had five picks in his final two games. Jacksonville lost both.
“He hasn’t thrown an interception yet in the red zone, which is a remarkable accomplishment,” Lageman said. “His rating is over 100 in the red zone. (He was) one of the best passers in the red zone. But the one area that he’s got to get better at is when the game is on the line, there’s five minutes to go and you’re down by three points or four points and you need a touchdown to win it. That’s where he hasn’t been able to rise up and make a play. Unfortunately, that’s where the interceptions have come about.”
Bortles completed a career-high 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards, 21 touchdowns and a career-low 13 interceptions. He also ran for 322 yards and two scores. Overall, he had a solid year. He did what Jacksonville asked him to do.
But can he win in crunch time against elite teams?
“He has made some great progress on some of the deep-ball touches that he’s had this year (and has been more efficient),” Lageman said. “He’s having a career-best year if you look at his completion percentage and his rating, his touchdown-to-interception ratio is a little bit better. There’s things that he can do better, but a quarterback is worth his weight in gold when the game is on the line and he can win it. That’s the one thing Blake hasn’t shown yet that he can do. If this team has a lead, he can be effective. If the game is close, he’s fine. But you’ve just got to be able to rise up and make a play when your team needs you to make a play as a quarterback – and that’s the one hurdle he has yet to overcome.”