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Open Locker Room: Blake Bortles now Jaguars starting QB

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JACKSONVILLE – Blake Bortles is the Jaguars' new starting quarterback.

That's what many assumed after Bortles replaced veteran Chad Henne to start the second half of a one-sided loss to the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, and Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley made the obvious official moments after the game.

First, Bradley praised Henne's handling of the situation.

Then, he praised Bortles' presence – and how the team responded to him in the second half of a game the Jaguars trailed 30-0 at halftime.

Finally, Bradley was asked if Bortles indeed was the starter going forward.

"Yes," Bradley said after Bortles played the second half of a 44-17 loss to the Colts in front of 60,601 in the 2014 regular-season home opener at EverBank Field.

Bortles completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards in the second half, throwing for two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"He made some plays," Bradley said. "He kept plays alive."

Bradley also praised Bortles' instincts and decision-making, noting that players seemed to play better around him in the second half.

"I love his mindset," Bradley said. "I love the strength that he has. He's a tough, hardnosed competitor and he will attack. The team felt that part of it. It's no coincidence that all of a sudden we blocked a little bit better and the receivers played a little bit better. He has a way to uplift people and to uplift the team."

Bradley said he spoke with Henne and Bortles this week about the possibility of making a change during Sunday's game. Bradley has talked throughout the preseason and early in the season about Henne's "body of work" meriting him starting.

He said as this past week continued it felt clearer to him that Bortles' body of work – four preseason games, performance in practice, knowledge of the offense, mentality, etc. – was meriting Bortles moving into the starting role.

"I just felt like he was ready for his body of work to begin on the field," Bradley said.

Bradley told each player of the move at halftime, and Bortles said the conversation was without fanfare.

"He just said, 'You're in,''' Bortles said.

Henne, who completed four of seven passes for 33 yards in the first half, said while he had discussed the possibility of a change with Bradley this week, he didn't think the change would come Sunday.

"The biggest thing for me is to just keep my head held high and try to be the captain that I was voted to be for this year and help Blake out as much as I can and really try to help this offense grow," Henne said afterward.

Bradley called Henne "a first-class individual."

"He was in a challenging situation, but how he handled it – I can't tell you how much respect and admiration I have for him as a person," Bradley said. "He's truly top-notch."

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Blake Bortles, quarterback, Jaguars

The rookie not only played his first regular-season NFL game Sunday, he played well for the most part. Bortles entered with the Jaguars trailing the Colts, 30-0, then completed 14 of 24 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Bortles called the performance average, saying two interceptions in one have isn't something that can happen. He also said an interception that was returned for a touchdown by cornerback Greg Toler was a case of trying to do too much, and that you can't make the sort of throw he made on the play – back across your body toward the middle of the field. But Bortles gave the Jaguars a lift, with Bradley saying his presence seemed to lift the play of the offensive line as well as the receivers at times. "He's going to go through some learning and he'll go through some different looks," Bradley said. "Hopefully for us that learning curve means more good than bad."

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense:Bortles had a few big plays, but maybe the most memorable was his first NFL touchdown pass. Bortles threw a quick pass down the seam to rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns, who broke a tackle by cornerback Darius Butler to turn a first down into a 63-yard touchdown. Bortles also made a big play on his second series, evading a sack, scrambling the opposite way and completing a 27-yard pass to fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou.

Defense:The defense as a whole struggled, though the unit did turn in a goal-line stand early in the second half. Defensive end Andre Branch had a sack on Colts quarterback Andrew Luck on 3rd-and-2 from the Jaguars 20 early in the second quarter. The sack stopped a drive and led to a 43-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri.

Special teams:Kicker Josh Scobee's 41-yard field goal with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter marked the Jaguars' first points of the game.

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QUOTE OF THE GAME

"He was drafted for this moment and I understood it from Day One. We had to do some really good things at the beginning of the year to keep my job and I hope he plays really well and I'm really pulling for him, and I'm going to be his biggest cheerleader on the sideline."

--- Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne

QUOTABLE

  1. Bradley: "It feels (defensively) like 10 guys are doing things right, and you have an opportunity for one guy to make a play and he didn't make it. …. I told them, 'We have to train to be clutch.' That's the big message to them, that when you get your opportunity called, you have to make the play. We just missed on too many opportunities defensively."
  1. Henne: "I just stepped back and saw the whole picture. From Day One, when you have the third overall pick sitting behind you, sometime you're going to have that guy play and, for me, it was trying to just compete every play, be accountable out there and try to do my best out there."
  1. Henne: "I'm human and it's tough to take and tough to swallow because I wanted it so bad and wanted to be a starter for this team, for this organization, and some things just don't work out, but that's not going to stop me from reaching my goals and going out there and practicing every day so hard and just trying to help this defense out if I'm running the scout team. I'm going to prepare like I'm the starter each and every day and nothing is going to change."

4.Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III: "The second half, we kept fighting. Coach is big on that. First half was not at all what we wanted, so it's big for us to go out there and compete. That says a lot about you, how you play this half. So I was thinking we did a good job containing the fight and competing out there."

  1. Jaguars MLB Paul Posluszny: "We gave up way too many big plays and Indy was able to take advantage of it. That's unacceptable on our part."

LOOKING ON . . .

  1. The 30 points scored by the Colts in the first half set a franchise record for the most points allowed in the first half by the Jaguars.
  1. Bradley was candid about the play of the defense throughout the game, saying of the performance for the game, "It's disappointing." The Jaguars allowed the Colts 355 first-half yards with Indianapolis scoring on every possession of the first half. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 31 of 39 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, effectively throwing to tight ends and running backs early. He then took advantage of ample time to throw to hit receivers running open after that. Indianapolis also rushed for 144 yards on 29 carries. Bradley, the defensive coordinator in Seattle from 2009-2012, said afterward he had no plans to begin calling defensive plays.

Tailgate images and pregame warmups from todays Week 3 matchup between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts

INJURY UPDATE

Posluszny sustained an ankle injury, but returned play. Safety Winston Guy also returned to play the second half after leaving with muscle cramps early.

Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee did not play because of a hamstring injury, but two other players with injury concerns entering the game – wide receivers Cecil Shorts III and Allen Hurns – played and completed the game seemingly without incident.

Images from the 1st half of the Jacksonville Jaguars' matchup against the Indianapolis Colts in week 3

WHAT'S NEXT

The Jaguars will visit the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, Sunday at 4:15 p.m.

Second half photos of the Jaguars divisional matchup with the Indianapolis Colts

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