One year after finishing the season 3-13, the Jacksonville Jaguars are headed to the AFC Championship game.
The Jaguars’ recipe for success this season has been pretty simple: Play great defense, feed Leonard Fournette and then cross their fingers and hope that Blake Bortles comes through with at least one big play. Well, they got all of that and more during their stunning 45-42 win in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The 87 total points was the fourth most in playoff history.
Although the Jags’ defense carried the team through most of the season, it was Bortles who carried the team to the finish line in Pittsburgh with one of the most clutch fourth quarters that you’ll ever see from a quarterback in an NFL playoff game.
Maybe we should start calling him Dr. Bortles because he dissected the Steelersdefense.
Bortles’ fourth-quarter performance didn’t even seem possible after he went just 9 of 20 for 94 yards through the game’s first three quarters. However, he was able to shake that off and put together a fourth-quarter performance that was Tom Brady-esque, which was almost fitting since that’s who the Jaguars will be facing next week in New England.
Over the final 15 minutes of the game, Bortles went 5 of 6 for 120 yards and a touchdown, and almost every single one of those completions came in a situation where the Jaguars absolutely needed it. For instance, with the Jaguars clinging to a 28-21 lead early in the fourth quarter, Bortles converted a third-and-8 with an 11-yard completion to Marqise Lee. If Bortles didn’t complete the pass to Lee, the Jaguars would have had to punt, and the Steelers would’ve had a chance to tie the game.
Not only did Bortles convert the third down, though, he went for the jugular one play later with a 45-yard bomb to Keelan Cole that took the Jaguars down to the Steelers’ 3-yard line.
Keelan Cole for 45 yards!
— NFL (@NFL) January 14, 2018
From there, Fournette punched the ball into the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Jags a 35-21 lead.
After the Steelers immediately responded with a touchdown of their own, Bortles went back to action. On the Jaguars’ next offensive series, Bortles marched his team straight down the field on a possession where he went 3 for 3 for 64 yards. The Jags’ quarterback capped the drive by throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Tommy Bohanon.
— NFL (@NFL) January 14, 2018
The touchdown pass wasn’t even his biggest throw of the drive, though. That came earlier, when he converted two different third downs with key throws to T.J. Yeldon (to convert a third-and-5) and Dede Westbrook (to convert a third-and-4).
Pulling a Bortles used to be a bad thing, but we might have to completely rethink that after the way Bortles played in the fourth quarter. If Bortles can channel his inner-Brady next week in New England, the Jaguars might actually have a chance to beat a team led by Tom Brady.
With the win, the Jaguars are now headed to the AFC title game for the third time in franchise history (0-2) and the first time since the 1999 season. The Jags are also just the second team since 1970 to get to a conference title game one season after winning three or fewer games.
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