No hiding for Bortles today
Steelers won’t let QB run wild again
and two touchdowns on 28 carries. As a team, the Jags gained 231 rushing yards – the club’s most since 2010.
“We out-physicaled them that first game,” backup Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. said. “We could tell that, and I think they could tell too ... So I know that they’re going to be ready and they’re going come with their A-game, so we’ve just got to be ready too.
“But they’ve had a week off. They’re rested. They have great players … We’ve got to be ready.”
So much is rightfully being made about that first meeting in October. Jacksonville nose tackle Abry Jones said this game will be different, however it plays out.
“Neither one of us is the same team as Week 5. We’ve both got to go back to the drawing board,” Jones said.
The Jaguars would advance to the AFC championship for the first time in 18 years if they win Sunday.
Few are expecting them to do that. But the Jags want the sweep, in part to prove October’s win was no fluke.
PITTSBURGH — One thing overlooked in Jacksonville’s impressive 30-9 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh was the role of Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. As in, what role? He threw only 14 passes on the day, and only once after halftime. The 2014 No. 3 overall draft pick completed eight for 95 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
Otherwise, he just kept handing the ball off, mostly to Leonard Fournette, who bludgeoned a proud Steelers defence for 181 yards.
So minimizing the role of one of the NFL’s most inconsistent passers will never be a bad thing.
But it’s highly unlikely his role will be anywhere near as insignificant in Sunday’s rematch at Heinz Field, with a berth in the AFC championship on the line.
Bortles had a great line this week when asked about all the never-subsiding criticism that hammers him weekly.
“It’ll probably never stop,” the quarterback said. “There’s people who think LeBron James sucks. So if that happens, I’m sure there will always be people who always think I suck.”
In Jacksonville’s AFC wild-card win over the visiting Buffalo Bills, Bortles was so off with his passes, he resolved to move the chains however possible.
So he pulled down the ball and ran. And ran. And ran. Until ending the game with more rushing yards (89) than passing yards (88). He was only the third QB in NFL playoff history to win a game that way.
Steelers defenders this week vowed not to disregard Bortles’ passing ability. He’s streaky, and can hurt any defence when in the groove.
“He’s a guy that can definitely get hot,” Steelers cornerback Cam Sutton said.
“When they get that run game going, it makes his job that much easier. Then (defences) are sitting on the run and teams are sneaking on over routes, pick routes.
“At various times throughout the year he’s looked really good. He’s had some good passing games. A lot of teams sleep on his mobility.” Well, except Pittsburgh this time out. “We’re not going to let him beat us with his feet,” safety Sean Davis said.
Southerner Abry Jones doesn’t mind conceding that, yeah, it’s going to be cold in Pittsburgh for today’s AFC playoff tilt.
When he can, Jaguars QB Blake Bortles will use his legs to mask a poor passing performance. The Steelers won’t allow that today.