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Game that was: "I just work here"

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) talks to Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole (84), before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) talks to Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole (84), before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Blake Bortles doesn't know his future.

"I just work here," the Jaguars' fifth-year quarterback said with a laugh late Sunday afternoon.

Because he does, Bortles said he will play if called upon – which is what he did in the second half of the Jaguars' 17-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday.

Bortles, the Jaguars' long-time starter who was benched late last month for backup Cody Kessler, on Sunday replaced a beat-up and ineffective Kessler in the third quarter of a game that was tied 7-7. Bortles led a go-ahead field-goal drive when he entered the game in the second half.

"I signed up for three years, so until those three years are up or until they let me go, I'll play when they need me," Bortles said, referring to the contract extension he signed this past offseason.

Head Coach Doug Marrone said he wasn't ready as of Sunday to name a starter next Sunday's regular-season finale at Houston.

"Right now, I'm exhausted from the game," Marrone said, adding, "The reason why he [Kessler] was taken out of the game is because I didn't think we could protect him back there and I thought we could get some juice with Blake going in there running the zone read, which we did."

Bortles rushed twice for 27 yards on the go-ahead drive, and also threw a 19-yard pass to wide receiver Donte Moncrief on 2nd-and-18 from the Dolphins 43. He completed five of six passes for 39 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday.

"He [Marrone] said 'You're up,''' Bortles said. "I tried to find a way to win the game and did."

Kessler, who completed 12 of 17 passes for 106 yards in two and a half quarters Sunday, has thrown one touchdown pass in his four starts since replacing Bortles. He has been sacked 18 times, including five times Sunday.

Kessler sustained an injury to his throwing shoulder in the second quarter Sunday, with Bortles replacing him for two plays at that point. Bortles was sacked on one of those plays.

"It didn't feel great," Kessler said of his shoulder. "I just landed on my shoulder – just tightened up a little bit; but yeah, it was fine."

Kessler returned to start the second half, but the Jaguars managed two first downs on the first three third-quarter possessions. The Jaguars faced first-and-10 on the Dolphins 17 one third-quarter possession but punted on 4th-and-46 after two holding penalties, an eight-yard loss by Leonard Fournette and a sack by Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch.

The Jaguars have struggled offensively during Kessler's four games starting. They had 244 total yards offense Sunday after producing 211, 255 and 192 yards in his first three starts.

Bortles had taken repetitions with the first-team unit this week, with Marrone saying that while he doesn't typically believe in splitting practice reps at quarterback "Sometimes you have to."


The Jaguars won Sunday despite 10 penalties for 97 yards. They were penalized six times for holding in the second half, and linebacker Telvin Smith was penalized 15 yards for taunting for unsportsmanlike conduct following his 33-yard game-clinching interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Defensive end Yannick Ngakoue also was called for unsportsmanlike conduct following Smith's touchdown, but the Dolphins declined that penalty to accept the one on Smith. "Obviously there were too many penalties from our standpoint, which is disappointing," Marrone said. "I've got to do a better job. I obviously haven't done a good enough job all year with the penalties. That's something that could have hurt us." Marrone said of the holding penalties, "I told the players … some of them, I've never seen before like that – they were so blatant."


The Jaguars turned in one of their best defensive performances of the season, with defensive end Calais Campbell turning in one his best individual games of the season. Campbell not only registered his team-leading ninth sack of the season, he gave the Jaguars possession at the Dolphins 17 in the second half when he forced a fumble and recovered it on the same play. His pressure forced Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill to throw short of running back Kalen Ballage, enabling Smith to intercept the pass easily and score the game-clinching touchdown. "He always shows up every single week, every single game," Marrone said. "


Kessler: "As a competitor you want to be out there, but at the same time, I told Blake after the game, 'There's no one else I'd rather one-two kind of punch a game with.' Being a competitor, you want to stay out there and finish a game off, but I understood."


Smith: "I saw the sack about to go down, I saw his eyes get big. He shouldn't have thrown it to me."

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