No one is going to start confusing Blake Bortles with Tom Brady anytime soon, but he took a big step forward for the Jaguars against the Patriots.
For the majority of Blake Bortles’ NFL career the Jaguars have won games in spite of him, rather than because of his play from the quarterback position. One dominating performance against the Patriots isn’t going to erase all of his past failures, but it does beg the question of whether or not we’ve all been wrong about Bortles’ ceiling.
At least for one game, Bortles looked like a Pro Bowler. He completed 29-of-45 passes against Bill Belichick’s defense for 377 yards. More importantly, Bortles gave his offense four passing touchdowns against just one interception. His 111.1 ESPN QB rating for the game narrowly edged Tom Brady in the matchup.
This game was clearly at or near the pinnacle of how well Bortles is capable of playing. He spread the ball around to his pretty anonymous group of wide receivers. Bortles didn’t just dump the ball down the field and hope his teammates would make big plays. He pushed the ball down the field repeatedly against the Patriots secondary. No one thinks the New England defense is a top five unit in the NFL, but they’re not a bottom five unit either.
It’s interesting that Bortles’ big day came without any support from running back Leonard Fournette. The bruising rusher missed the game with a hamstring injury. T.J. Yeldon did a solid job of running the ball with 58 yards on just 10 carries, but he wasn’t a focal point of the offensive game plan. The Jaguars coaching staff put the game in Bortles’ hands and he delivered.
Expect to read a lot of reactionary pieces claiming that Bortles is now ready to lead the Jaguars offense to glory this season. While he played a great game against the Patriots, there’s no reason for Jacksonville to suddenly change their offensive philosophy to allow Bortles to throw the ball on every down. Don’t forget, it was just last week that he limped to a 18-for-33 passing day against the Giants for just 176 yards.
The most likely truth is that Bortles’ average performance is going to fall somewhere in between his very mediocre game against the Giants and his sterling performance against the Patriots. The Jaguars should still be encouraged by the way he torched New England. If nothing else, it proves that Bortles’ ceiling is higher than everyone previously thought.
The Jaguars are still going to rely on their defense and running game to grind opponents into submission this season. Now they know that Bortles is capable of bailing them out in a single game if those strengths don’t show up. That could be a huge plus for Jacksonville when the playoffs come around. Bortles is still mostly the guy we thought he was before this week, but his big game against the Patriots should give him a lot more confidence in future weeks.