Blake Bortles staying even-keeled after worst game of young career
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Mad is not Blake Bortles’ style.
Other than San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in professional sports with an even-tempered demeanor comparable to that of the rookie quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But even Bochy got visibly aggravated in Game 4 of the World Series when his team fell behind in a must-win situation. So Bortles had every right to lose his cool after the Miami Dolphins returned an interception of his for a touchdown for the second time Sunday.
Except that he didn’t.
"If it doesn’t make you mad, then something’s wrong with you as a competitor when you turn the ball over," the first-round pick out of UCF said following the Jaguars’ 27-13 loss that left them with a record of 1-7. "But as a quarterback, you want to understand that guys take notice of your body language and how you react to things."
Many of those who had been in attendance were not around to notice Bortles’ 48-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie Allen Robinson with 2:19 remaining that made the final score somewhat palatable. The play certainly didn’t make up for the 11th and 12th interceptions of his young NFL career, or for the fumble he lost on a scramble in the second quarter when the Jaguars were down only 7-3.
But by setting aside his earlier disappointments when little more than pride was at stake, Bortles showed there will indeed be better days ahead.
It would be tough to imagine a day worse than this for him.
"The defense played really well. The offensive line played really well. I’m killing us," he said. "So I’ve got to try and eliminate different things and do better."
Things began to unravel for Bortles on the opening play of the second quarter, when he tried to throw across his body and force the ball into the hands of backup tight end Nic Jacobs. Dolphins safety Louis Delmas stepped in front of Jacobs and raced 81 yards without anyone getting a finger on him.
In actuality, cracks in the armor could be seen before then.
Bortles missed hitting a wide-open Robinson in the end zone on the Jaguars’ first possession, a drive that ended with a blocked field-goal attempt. And one play before Delmas’ takeaway, the Jaguars were penalized for an illegal shift to wipe out a completion to Cecil Shorts III that would have given them first down and goal to go.
The Jaguars were beating the Dolphins everywhere except where it counted, on the scoreboard.
"He’s hard on himself," Shorts said. "But we all make mistakes. I’m sure there are things on the offensive line, as receivers, as running backs, that we all could have done better."
The first quarter included a 41-yard run by Denard Robinson on a jet sweep and a well-designed underneath route by Shorts that resulted in a 22-yard completion. But that promising start gave way to an afternoon where two Josh Scobee field goals were all the Jaguars managed until the very end.
"You’ve just got to continue to battle," he said. "It’s going to happen. It’s part of it. Obviously you don’t want to do (turn the ball over), but it’s going to happen. And there’s no reason to think about it or dwell on it. It’s done. So you try to move on."
Added Shorts: "There’s going to be adversity. If you’re Peyton Manning, you’re going to have days like these. If you’re Tom Brady, you’re going to have days like these."
Shorts was the intended receiver on the pass that cornerback Brent Grimes returned 22 yards for the score that put the Dolphins ahead 17-3. Bortles was backed up to his end zone but would have been better off using his mobility to get outside the pocket and throw the ball away.
"There are times when you’ve got to be able to say ‘That’s not smart; that’s not the right choice,’ no matter how confident or good you feel about it," he said. "There are situations and scenarios where it’s better to just check the ball down or scramble."
Since replacing Chad Henne last month, four of his interceptions have been returned for scores. He might say he doesn’t feel rattled, but it could be time for coach Gus Bradley and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch to tone down Bortles’ risk-taking and turn him into more of a game manager.
"I guess I’m the lab rat," Bortles said. "I don’t know. So we’re trying to figure it out together."
Right now, it’s the Jaguars’ opponents who keep winning the rat race.