A decade of waiting for Jacksonville Jaguars faithful, and almost two decades in for the Buffalo Bills, ended in last weekend’s AFC Wild Card Round. Unfortunately, the product on the field was not worth the wait, as both Bills and Jaguars fans were treated to a game of ineptitude.
Quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor both embarrassed themselves on a national stage with performances so awful many returned the calls for Colin Kaepernick over two quarterbacks who guided teams to winning records to get into the playoffs.
Ultimately, Bortles out-dueled Taylor while Tony Romo and Jim Nantz politely blamed a 5-8 MPH wind in Jacksonville for the bevy of missed throws to open wideouts from both passers.
Tony Romo continues to break down Bortles throws in the wind yet the graphics they're showing indicate it's at 3 mph. Hey Tony, it's not windy. Blake stinks.
— Dan Dibley (@dandibley) January 7, 2018
Taylor was the worse of the two on the day as his struggles were the key factor in the Bills failing to even score a touchdown in the loss. The Bills starter finished 17/37 for 134 yards and could be on his way out in Buffalo after this rough display in the playoffs.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott already was luke-warm on Taylor during the season and famously went to Nathan Peterman during the team’s losing streak before going back to the more accomplished Taylor. After losing in the playoffs without scoring a touchdown, it is likely McDermott will look to improve upon his quarterback situation.
On the other side of the quarterback matchup was Bortles, who went 12/23 in a Tim Tebow-esque throwing performance and shattered most of the goodwill he built during this season of redemption to guide Jacksonville to the playoffs.
"Per Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, anonymous sources say that Bortles should consider a position switch.." pic.twitter.com/yznwhua3Ek
— Robert Littal (@BSO) January 7, 2018
While Bortles was the second coming of Tebow in the passing game, he did just enough to avoid a full-blown meltdown and collapse at the hands of a banged up Bills team. Without his touch with his arm, Bortles turned back the clock to his UCF days and used his forgotten running talent to push the Jaguars across the finish line.
The final stat line for Bortles on the ground: 10 carries for 88 yards. Good enough to lead the game in rushing and put him in company with the likes of Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham in single-game playoff yardage from a quarterback.
10 carries, 88 yards.
— z-#Sacksonville (@Jaguars) January 8, 2018
After surviving a return of the bad version of their quarterback, the Jaguars now have to prepare for the task of putting Bortles back to his strong 2017 level before facing the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in the AFC Divisional Round.
The good news for the Jaguars is the fact they have already beat the Steelers in spite of a poor passing performance from Blake Bortles earlier this season. Bortles threw just 14 times in the Jaguars impressive 30-9 win over the Steelers in Week 5, a script the Jaguars coaching staff will hope to follow to success and a spot in the AFC Championship Game.
If Jacksonville is to survive another round with their limitations at quarterback, the Jaguars require a substantially better performance from their workhorse running back, rookie Leonard Fournette.
Fournette was the catalyst of the Jaguars destruction of the Steelers in Week 5 with 181 yards and two touchdowns. On Sunday against the Bills, Fournette wasn’t as impactful and was outrushed by Bortles in a game where he was noticably limited by the Buffalo defensive front.
The question this weekend in Pittsburgh will be if the Jaguars defense can continue to carry the workload and if they can get better performances out of their two key players on offense. It is expected Fournette will be better against a team he already ran roughshod over this season.
The burning question is if Bortles will be able to elevate his play and give the Jaguars what they need to continue their coming out party. Armed with the AFC’s best defense and the heroics of Jalen Ramsey, Bortles has the tools to pull of an upset over the Steelers that would define his career as a success at long last.
If a dream upset is going to become a reality, Blake Bortles will have to showcase far better fundamentals than he did on Sunday afternoon. Where Bortles looked like the quarterback everyone thought was destined for bust status just one season ago.