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Open Locker Room: "It all boils down to turnovers"


JACKSONVILLE – The turnovers are the thing.

Blake Bortles knows this, and said as much Wednesday.

The idea now is to stop them – or at least reduce them – and the Jaguars' quarterback on Wednesday said that is one of the top priorities as the season moves from the midway point to mid-November.

"You never want to turn the ball over, and that's something we're continuing to work on," Bortles said Wednesday as the Jaguars (2-7) prepared to play the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions (5-4) at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, Sunday at a 1 p.m.

Bortles, in his third season as the Jaguars' starting quarterback, has thrown 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions this season. He also has lost three fumbles, meaning he has accounted for 14 of the Jaguars' 19 giveaways this season.

Bortles threw for a franchise-record 35 touchdowns last season and also threw an NFL-high 18 interceptions.

"It's something as a quarterback you're always aware of and kind of conscious of," Bortles said. "You never want to turn the ball over."

The Jaguars in two weeks under new offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have averaged 388 yards a game offensively, up from 331 yards per game during the first seven games of the season. But the Jaguars have committed six takeaways – five on offense and one on special teams – during that span.

Bortles has thrown two interceptions during the span – one that led to a first-half field goal in a 19-14 loss to Kansas City and one that was returned for a first-quarter touchdown in a 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans this past Sunday.

"I think it all boils down to turnovers," Bortles said. "That's what we've talked about. We've seen these past two weeks: we've gotten better in the areas we've kind of wanted to and it's all come down to the turnovers and winning the turnover battle. That's kind of what our focus is on now.

"There are a lot of good things we've done the past two weeks that have been overshadowed by not winning the game."

The Jaguars have a minus 14-takeaway/giveaway ratio this season. That's last in the NFL and three worse than the 31st-ranked New York Jets. The Jaguars, who haven't forced a turnover in the last five games, were minus-10 turnovers last season.

Their 19 giveaways this season are tied for 30th in the NFL.

One of the turnovers this past week was a play on which Bortles tried to throw the ball away only to have it ruled a fumble because he threw it laterally. The ball bounced off the foot of running back T.J. Yeldon and Houston linebacker Whitney Mercilus caught it for what was initially ruled an interception. Officials ruled it a fumble after determining Bortles indeed had thrown the ball backward.

Bortles called that particularly turnover "wild."

"I don't know what you can say about it," Bortles said. "It was kind of one of those freak plays that happened where you can't really say or do anything about it. It happens, and next time you just try to not throw it so close to his feet."

Bortles said more concerning – and more of an issue of focus – are what he called "stupid" turnovers. He said the first-quarter interception Sunday that was returned for a 43-yard touchdown by Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson fell into that category.

"It's not having any stupid turnovers," he said. "It's, 'Go through your reads and make the throws and take chances.' We're going to call plays to take shots downfield and when they're called I'm going to throw them to give our guys an opportunity to go make a play.

"But it's a big thing we talk is taking care of the ball. Being a quarterback and handling it every play – it's a lot on the quarterback."

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