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QB Blake Bortles continues to be Jaguars most unsung hero

Roy Cummings

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Jaguars had trouble running the ball again on Sunday. They did at least until they started handing it off to Corey Grant in the fourth quarter, which time the outcome had already been decided.

That’s because they had Blake Bortles at quarterback.

Few want to give Bortles credit for the good job he’s done efficiently managing an offense that has been without its best wideout all season and was once again without its best tailback on Sunday, but it’s time to start giving credit where credit is due.

Put quite simply, the Jaguars wouldn’t be headed to the playoffs were it not for Bortles.

No, his season stats are not eye-popping. Bortles ranks in the middle of the pack in just about every meaningful one there is. What is eye-popping is how well Bortles has played when the Jaguars have absolutely needed him to step up and play big.

Take Sunday, for example. With no Leonard Fournette and despite losing wideout Marqise Lee in the first quarter, Bortles put together one of the best games of his career, completing 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his third 300-plus-yard passing game of the season. Two of those have come in games in which he didn’t have Fournette to hand the ball off to. The other came in one of the two games in which the Jaguars have failed to run for 100 yards.

We point that out because the Jaguars are a running team. That’s how they’re built, but when the running game gets shut down they need their quarterback to pick up the slack and Bortles is starting to prove rather consistently that he can do that.

Bortles compiled a career-best passer rating of 148.3 on Sunday. It was the third straight week in which he’s compiled a passer rating of 100 or better. That’s the sign of a quarterback who’s locked in, which is Bortles clearly is.

“He’s really become confident in his footwork and his rhythm,’’ Marrone said. “I mean, there were some plays today that they really covered well, where the (they took away) the first read and the second read and all of a sudden, he gets the ball out or he moves and he hits (Keelan) Cole.

“And then there are some plays that kind of get overlooked because he’s checking it down, but on those plays he’s going from this guy to this guy and to this guy. And you have to give a lot of credit to the guys up front because you have to protect him, but it’s a lot of credit to him. He’s playing well.’’

That he is.

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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