by Cole Pepper
September 21, 2014
The future arrived at 2:42 pm Sunday, for the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was the moment that the second half of the Jaguars 44-17 loss to the Colts began and the moment when rookie first round pick Blake Bortles was inserted into the lineup for the first time in an NFL regular season game.
Bortles and the coaches will critique the 3rd overall pick’s performance (it certainly wasn’t flawless), but for the fans who have been calling for Bortles to be put in as the Jaguars quarterback (and they were literally chanting for it in the first half Sunday), the Jaguars injected a shot of adrenaline into a comatose start to the season.
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Before Bortles was subbed in, the Jaguars had suffered through the worst first half of football in team history. Never before had the Jaguars given up 30 points in a first half. And they had just completed another scoreless half and trailed 30-0. There had been other opportunities that seemed to offer the opportunity to put the rookie in this season, including blowout losses in each of the first two games in Philadelphia and Washington.
In the fourth quarter, Bortles found Allen Hurns over the middle. Hurns broke tackles and raced 63-yards to the end zone for the Jaguars first touchdown of the game. The fans responded by chanting “Borrrr-tles. Borrrrr-tles. Borrrrtles.” It was a slight change from the first half chant of “We want Bortles.”
Bortles would finish the game 14/24 for 223 yards, two touchdowns, including a late one to Cecil Shorts, and two interceptions. There were a few highlights other than the Hurns touchdown. In the third quarter, Bortles rolled out and was met by Colts linebacker Bjeorn Werner in the backfield. Bortles spun away from Werner, wheeled to the right and then arced a pass to fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou for a 23 yard gain. It was the kind of play that Chad Henne could not make. Bortles is bigger, stronger, more mobile and, yes, more prone to force a ball into coverage.
It wasn’t how Bortles played that was important on this day, it was THAT he played. Jaguars fans began the season with hope. Hope that this team could improve on last year’s 4-12 season and become competitive in the AFC South. Now, the hope is different. It’s the hope that they have seen the start of a Blake Bortles era that will lead the team, eventually, back to playoff contention.