JACKSONVILLE – Gus Bradley was clear when discussing his quarterback Monday.
Bradley, the Jaguars' head coach, focused not on Blake Bortles' mistakes Sunday, or on the criticism the third-year veteran has received in some circles in recent weeks.
Bradley's focus was on Bortles' performance during a 17-16 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois, Sunday – and Bradley's opinion on Bortles was impossible to misinterpret.
"I thought he played pretty well," Bradley said.
Bradley had been asked during his next-day news conference at EverBank Field if Bortles was something of a mystery to the coaching staff in light of his inconsistency during the first five games of the 2016 regular season.
Bortles has thrown eight touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games, and Sunday's game seemed in a sense a microcosm of the season. He committed two turnovers – a first-quarter interception that bounced off wide receiver Allen Robinson and a fourth-quarter sack/fumble – but also led the Jaguars to 17 fourth-quarter points.
The Jaguars trailed the Bears 13-0 early in the fourth quarter before rallying. Bortles' 51-yard touchdown pass to reserve wide receiver Arrelious Benn with 1:52 remaining gave the Jaguars their first lead of the game – and a second consecutive victory after a 0-3 start.
"When you see him, especially in that situation [in the fourth quarter] with no-huddle, I thought he played pretty well in that area," Bradley said. "The fumble – he's got to take care of the ball in that situation – but I don't look at his performance and go, 'Boy, he's really struggling,' or, 'He's really frustrated.' I don't see that."
Bortles completed 20 of 33 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown with the interception Sunday. After the sack/fumble early in the fourth quarter, he completed 10 of 13 passes for 131 yards and the game-winner to Benn. The Jaguars had four fourth-quarter possessions, scoring 17 points and committing the turnover when Bortles fumbled.
"We were down in the game, and he brought us back as the leader on the offense," Bradley said. "We had limited possessions and he scored on those three possessions. Pretty good."
Bradley on Monday also discussed the possibility of the Jaguars using more no-huddle, up-tempo schemes throughout games. The offense played in that mode during the final drive of the third quarter and throughout the fourth with the result being the three scoring drives.
The offense historically under Bortles often has been more productive operating from a no-huddle, up-tempo approach.
"It was better, without a doubt," Bradley said of the offense after the move to no-huddle Sunday. "Obviously, we were committed to the passing game at that point. In that mode I just felt like Blake was very accurate. He made plays in that segment. Looking back on it, it was a good adjustment. It was good for our group."
Bradley was asked if the staff would look at using that approach more.
"We'll always look at it," he said. "It's something we continue to talk about: 'How do we play our best when we go from here?' I think it will be in our discussions."
Bradley on Monday also discussed a Jaguars defense that has made a key fourth-down stop to clinch victories in each of the last two games. Cornerback Josh Johnson broke up a fourth-down pass from quarterback Andrew Luck late in the fourth quarter of a Week 4 30-27 victory over the Colts and cornerback Jalen Ramsey defensed a fourth-down pass from Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer to clinch Sunday's victory.
Asked the trust level in the defense, Bradley said "pretty good."
"We felt in that situation [Sunday], up 17-16 … 'Let's go … let's see what takes place,''' Bradley said. "Everybody felt good about our opportunity."
The Jaguars after five games rank eighth in the NFL in total yards allowed and eighth in the NFL in passing yards allowed. The Jaguars also improved in the area of third-down defense in the second half against the Bears.
The Bears started the game converting seven of their first nine third-down opportunities. They didn't convert any after that and were 0-for-7 on third downs in the second half.
"They won some of theirs and we won some of ours," Bradley said. "I don't think there was anything drastic that we changed. I think we mixed in a little bit more pressure. We got some heat on them. That would be a factor."