CINCINNATI, Ohio – Blake Bortles' self-evaluation was as brief as it was candid.
Bortles, the Jaguars' rookie quarterback, turned in an impressive statistical performance Sunday that on its surface looked good – really good, perhaps the best of his brief career.
A reporter asked Bortles if he believed he played well in a 33-23 loss to the Bengals.
"Uh, no," Bortles said.
After a brief silence, Bortles was asked why.
"I think there were just a lot of plays left on the field," Bortles said. "Our guys did a really good job battling. We ran the ball really well. We were moving the ball. We had a couple of penalties early and a couple of missed throws. We have to improve. …
"I think there's just a lot more that can be done. I think there are a lot of plays left on the field that can be made."
Bortles completed 22 of 33 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns Sunday, with the touchdowns coming on second-half passes of 40 and 18 yards to rookie wide receiver Allen Hurns. Bortles' touchdown-to-interception ratio was 2-to-1, an improvement from last week when it was 1-to-2.
Bortles also had a 96.4 passer rating, the best of his seven appearances this season.
But after the game, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2014 NFL Draft was more focused on opportunities missed, particularly a late-game interception that essentially ended the Jaguars' hopes of a second-half comeback.
The Jaguars, who had rallied from a 19-3 second-half deficit partly because of Bortles' touchdown passes to Hurns, trailed 33-23 and faced 1st-and-10 at the Bengals 14. Bortles scrambled and threw in the direction of Hurns in the end zone.
His intention was to throw the ball out of bounds. Instead, safety George Iloka intercepted easily in the end zone, ending the drive and the Jaguars' chances with 3:55 remaining.
"I should have just thrown it over his head," Bortles said. "I ended up trying to throw it out of the back of the end zone and it didn't come out as planned. That shouldn't happen.
"It turned into scramble drill and the ball shouldn't have even been there. I wasn't even trying to throw it to him. It just didn't come out of my hand great and it didn't go where I wanted it to."
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Allen Hurns, wide receiver, Jaguars
Hurns remains one of the Jaguars' surprise stories this season.
Hurns, a rookie who signed as a free agent shortly after the 2014 NFL Draft, caught seven passes for 112 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday, with both touchdowns coming in the second half as the Jaguars rallied from a 16-point deficit.
Hurns outfought defenders at the goal line for each touchdown, catching the second on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
It was Hurns' second 100-yard game of the season. He had 101 yards receiving and two touchdowns against Philadelphia in the regular-season opener.
He is now tied for the most touchdowns by a Jaguars rookie wide receiver. Justin Blackmon had five receiving touchdowns in 2012 and Matt Jones had five in 2005. Hurns is the first Jaguars rookie receiver to have multiple touchdown receptions in more than one game.
"He did a great job," Bortles said. "I threw him some bad balls. He battled his tail off. They all did, the whole game."
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Offense:Bortles rolled to his right early in the third quarter and hit Hurns with a 40-yard touchdown pass. Hurns made a nice adjustment on the ball and caught the pass on the goal line, falling into the end zone. "Blake just gave me an opportunity to make a play on the ball," Hurns said. "As a receiver, you have to make those plays."
Defense:The Jaguars have struggled to create takeaways this season, but they got two in the second half. One was critical, with linebacker J.T. Thomas intercepting Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and returning it 10 yards to the Bengals 7. Denard Robinson scored on a 5-yard run to cut the lead to 26-23.
Special teams:The special teams hurt as much as they helped Sunday, but any of several plays by running back Jordan Todman was memorable – perhaps none more so than a tackle on the kickoff following the Jaguars' first touchdown. Todman leveled Bengals returner Adam Jones at the Bengals 10. Todman also returned six kickoffs for a 28.8-yard average and a long return of 39 yards.
QUOTE OF THE GAME
"It was really a hard-fought game … We just didn't make enough plays."
--- Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley
1.Bortles: "It's exciting to be part of a team that fights the way these guys do until the last minute every week. It's a fight."
2.Robinson: "We have to finish. That's all. Even with me running the ball, the one I tripped on … you have to finish better than that. I can't be flying into the ground. It's just little things. We have to finish, the whole team. It's not just one person. It's everybody. We have to finish games."
3.Hurns: "This week was a big week for us. As a receiving corps, we talked about fighting for the ball when the ball was in the air, that we weren't going to let them pick the ball off. If we had an opportunity, we were going to get it."
4.Thomas: "I don't think anyone on the defense is satisfied with our play. We kept them in check in the first half and it was small things in the second half. The thing that plagued us was missed tackles. Those three-yard plays that become eight-yard plays, those seven-yard plays that become 15-yard plays – just tackle."
1.Jeremiah George made his first NFL start at middle linebacker for the Jaguars Sunday. George, a rookie from Iowa State, had been signed from the New York Jets' practice squad September 23. With George starting, Thomas returned to the Otto position where he started Weeks 3-7. George then left the game with a first-half high-ankle sprain and did not return. …
2.Safety Sherrod Martin worked at nickel corner with Will Blackmon (finger) out. Martin, a starting safety for Carolina in 2010-2011, had played just five defensive snaps this season before Sunday. Martin had a third-down pass defensed on the Bengals' second series. He had an interception covering Mohamed Sanu in the second half. …
3.Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks registered a first-half sack, giving him sacks in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. He now has four sacks this season, which matches his total from last season. …
4.The Jaguars' special teams allowed two blocked punts in the second quarter. The first officially was ruled a tip, but set up a 10-play, 49-yard field goal drive. The second was the first official block allowed by the team since Green Bay in 2012 and gave the Bengals a safety for a 12-3 lead. It was the first safety by a Jaguars opponent since 2011. "That's not our nature," Bradley said. ..
5.Thomas blamed himself for a 60-yard run by Bengals running back Jeremy Hill that gave the Bengals a 33-23 lead one play after the Jaguars had cut the deficit to three points. "The long run – that's my fit," Thomas said. "I've got to stay inside and have to have sure (safety Johnathan Cyprien) can make that play. I was a little bit too fast over the top."
First half images of the Jaguars Week 9 matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jaguars offensive guard Brandon Linder left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return. Jacques McClendon replaced Linder at right guard.
Linebacker Jeremiah George, making his first NFL start, sustained a high ankle sprain in the second quarter and did not return.
Safety Josh Evans left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury and did not return.
The Jaguars will visit the Dallas Cowboys at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Sunday at 1 p.m.
Second half images from the Jaguars Week 9 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals.