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Open Locker Room: Bortles' effort tough, gutsy


JACKSONVILLE – This wasn't perfection, and wasn't about beauty.

But to hear teammates tell it, rookie quarterback Blake Bortles' performance in his first prime-time, nationally televised game was about something more important.

It was about guts. It was about effort.

And yeah, it was about winning.

Bortles, after spending the week telling anyone who would listen – Jaguars coaches and staff included – he planned to play through a mid-foot sprain, did just that Thursday night, leading the Jaguars to a come-from-behind, 21-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans at EverBank Field.

"We've always known that he's an extremely tough guy," left tackle Luke Joeckel said. "He plays like that. He's a hard-nosed, tough guy, and he played well tonight. We knew he was battling through it, but he played out and played a great game."

Bortles was listed as questionable on the team's final injury report. He was cleared to start after a half-hour workout at EverBank Thursday that ended around 5 p.m. – three-and-a-half hours before kickoff.

"It wasn't bad," Bortles said. "I really didn't know before the game, but I ran around and it felt fine.  I really didn't know how it was going to react, but it felt good. We ran some boots and some zone reads and scrambled around a little bit, so it felt good."

Bortles completed 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards, and while the offense struggled early, Bortles led touchdown drives on the final drive of the first half and first drive of the second half. His four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Marcedes Lewis capped the first-half touchdown drive.

That pass came three plays after Bortles' scrambled for a nine-yard gain on 3rd-and-9 from the Titans 22. Bortles rushed for 50 yards on five carries.

"That was huge," Bortles said. "We never got into a rhythm, couldn't get on the same page, so we couldn't get rolling. We got a good drive going into halftime and came out in the second half and I thought ran the ball really well."

Teammates afterward lauded Bortles' toughness, with veteran defensive end Red Bryant saying "Blake is our future."

"The team is going to go as he goes," Bryant said. "He showed a lot of character and mental toughness being able to play through a lot of different ailments. To be able to respond the way he's been able to respond, I really think his upside is going to put us in a great situation going forward."


Marqise Lee, wide receiver, Jaguars

This could have gone to any number of players, because the Jaguars' victory Thursday was very much about a bunch of players making a bunch of plays.

But if there was a key player early aside from Bortles, it was Lee.

Lee, after struggling early in the season, continued to emerge as a key player in the offense, catching four passes for 65 yards. Three of his receptions went for 31 yards in the first half.

Lee's 18-yard reception with an accompanying 15-yard face-mask penalty against the Titans was one of the key plays on the Jaguars' 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive late in the first half. The play gave Jacksonville 1st-and-10 at the Titans 23.

Lee's 34-yard reception on a pass over the middle from Bortles was the biggest play on an 11-play, 72-yard drive that gave the Jaguars a 14-10 lead with 9:27 remaining in the third quarter.


Offense:With a little less than 10 minutes remaining, the Jaguars led 14-10 with the outcome still very much in doubt. On 1st-and-10 from the Jaguars 38, third-team running back Jordan Todman faked a reverse handoff, broke a tackle and raced for a 62-yard touchdown that gave the Jaguars a 21-10 lead. "I heard the call, and it was my first carry of the day, so I was excited," Todman said. "I saw there was an opportunity to cut it back and make a guy miss and it was off the races."

Defense: One play before Todman's 62-yard run, the Titans faced 4th-and-2 at the Jaguars 39. Defensive end Chris Clemons got pressure on the play from Titans quarterback Charlie Whitehurst's left, forcing a short pass to the sideline. Wide receiver Kris Durham caught the pass a yard short of the first down with tight coverage by cornerback Aaron Colvin.

Special teams: With the Jaguars' offense struggling early, defense and special teams kept the team within range. Late in the first quarter, Bryan Anger punted 61 yards and Titans returner Leon Washington managed just a 10-yard return. That flipped the field and forced the Titans to start the drive at their 23.


"He (Blake Bortles) really put the team on his back and made sure we got some points on the board."

--- Jaguars HC Gus Bradley


1.Lee: "As an offense, we knew what we had to do. The defense was doing a good job. It was on us to get down there and get something going. The offense had to go out and get something going."

2.Defensive end Ryan Davis: "We just stayed with it. We knew it would come eventually but the way it came couldn't be better on a Thursday night – two-minute drive that we needed a stop for the win. It was perfect timing."

3.Todman: "When the blocks are there, and you can make a guy miss and break a tackle, it obviously gives us an advantage. Like anything else, you have bumps in the road, but we have the potential to have a successful running game."

4.Joeckel: "We knew we were shooting ourselves in the foot a little bit. We didn't press or anything, we just kept going out there and trying to make plays. Things got going, and the momentum was rolling."

5.Bradley: "You could feel the energy throughout. I think what is really neat about this whole experience was different guys stood out at different times. … I just thought the guys never lost their composure on the sideline."


1.The Jaguars rushed for 177 yards on 25 carries, with Todman rushing for 71 yards on five carries, Toby Gerhart rushing for 53 yards on 12 carries and Bortles rushing for 50 yards on five carries. "It worked out good," Gerhart said. "It was nice to get that amount of rushing yards. Credit to the offensive line. They're making some holes for us. … It was a great night running the ball." …

2.When Titans defensive end Derrick Morgan sacked Bortles early in the second quarter, it was the 63rd sack allowed by the Jaguars this season. That tied the franchise record for sacks allowed in a season. The Titans finished with four sacks and the Jaguars now have allowed 66 for the season. …

3.When the Titans scored a touchdown on the game's first drive, it was the first time the Jaguars had allowed a touchdown on the opponents' first drive this season. It was the first time in 18 games the Titans had scored a touchdown on their opening drive. …

4.Lewis' first-half touchdown reception was the 27th of his career. That's the third-most in franchise history. …

5.Todman's 62-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run was the Jaguars' longest since a 74-yard touchdown run by Rashad Jennings against Oakland on December 12, 2010. …

6.Jaguars WR Allen Robinson and WR Allen Hurns became the first rookie duo in NFL history to each have 48 receptions.

7.Abry Jones made his first career start at nose tackle and had a sack in the first quarter. The Jaguars finished with four sacks Thursday night, with defensive end Chris Smith, defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks and defensive end Ryan Davis also registering sacks. …

8.Marks' nine-yard sack on Whitehurst ended the game – and triggered a $600,000 bonus in Marks' contract when he surpassed eight sacks for the season. "He's been having a great year," Bryant said. "And to see him close out the game the way he did, it was just big."

First half images from the Jaguars Thursday Night matchup with the Tennessee Titans.


Gerhart left the game with a rib contusion in the fourth quarter and did not return.


The Jaguars will play visit the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, in the 2014 regular-season finale Sunday at 1 p.m.

Second half images from the Jaguars Week 16 win over AFC South Rival Tennessee Titans.

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