Blake Bortles has been the butt of a lot of jokes over the last few weeks, but he may yet wind up with the last laugh.
Bortles and the Jaguars are headed to New England for next weekend’s AFC Championship Game after a 45-42 win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
Bortles threw a 14-yard touchdown to Tommy Bohanon with 4:19 left to play to answer a Steelers touchdown and give the Jaguars a 14-point lead over the favored Steelers. That touchdown came after the Jaguars converted a pair of third downs on Bortles passes and a possession after his 45-yard strike to Keelan Cole set up Leonard Fournette‘s third touchdown of the game.
The Steelers would rally for a Le'Veon Bell touchdown after a clever lateral from a scrambling Ben Roethlisberger, but the Jaguars recovered a poorly executed onside kick that also resulted in a five-yard penalty on the Steelers for an illegal touch. With two timeouts in their pocket and the two minute warning approaching, it may have been a better call to kick deep and the Jaguars put some icing on the cake with a 45-yard Josh Lambo field goal.
The Steelers would score a touchdown with one second left to account for the final margin of victory, but nothing else because they let too many seconds drip away with poor clock management at various points on their final drive.
Bortles finished the day 14-of-26 for 214 yards and that touchdown to Bohanon. He also ran for 35 yards and never turned the ball over on a day that saw the Jaguars turn two Roethlisberger turnovers into 14 crucial points.
Roethlisberger would also throw five touchdowns as the Steelers made a game of it after falling behind 28-7 in the first half, but two failed attempts to convert on fourth-and-1 and the defense’s inability to make stops in the fourth quarter conspired to bring their season to an early and ugly end. Some may wonder if the Steelers were looking ahead to a possible game against the Patriots, which would be pretty damning if true for all involved given the Jaguars’ 30-9 regular season win and the quality they showed throughout the season.
That quality includes Fournette, who returned from a first half ankle injury to end the day with 25 carries for 109 yards to go with his three scores. The last nine of those yards came to set up Lambo’s field goal, which made for a fitting ending to a day when the Jaguars came up with more plays than the Steelers.
That was also the case the last two times that a team with Tom Coughlin on board faced the Patriots in the postseason. The Jaguars head of football operations will get a chance to make it a hat trick next Sunday.