Blake Bortles outguns Tom Brady as Jaguars dominate Patriots

September 17, 2018

It’s not a makeup for the playoff loss up in Foxborough, but the Jacksonville Jaguars sent a message in a dominant win over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

We have to take them for real.

The team that came up a game short of the Super Bowl last season wasn’t just playing this game for revenge after the Patriots came back to beat the Jaguars in the AFC title game eight months ago. But the Jaguars’ 31-20 win in Week 2 — without Leonard Fournette — showed that Blake Bortles can step up when his team needs him to.

It was the Jaguars’ first regular-season victory over the Patriots, although Jacksonville did win a playoff game against them in the 1998 season.

Blake Bortles finished the game 29-of-45 passing for 377 yards (third-best total in his career) and four touchdowns. His one interception — which was not Bortles’ fault — came early in the fourth quarter and opened the door a crack for another improbable New England comeback. But Tom Brady was strip-sacked by Dante Fowler Jr., which prevented the Patriots from making it a one-score game when they were down 11 points.

After the Patriots came up inches short on their next possession, a challenge won by Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone, the Jaguars closed the door. Bortles hit Dede Westbrook on a 61-yard score, showing the aggressive nature that Marrone needed more of in the playoff loss.

It’s true, Marrone didn’t go for it on a 4th-and-1 on their prior drive. But the defense that made life hard on Brady most of the afternoon bailed him out. And so did Bortles and his receivers. Keelan Cole had a banner day, with a highlight-reel one-handed catch on the sideline and a pretty touchdown grab. Bortles’ four TD passes went to four different pass catchers, including a perfect fade to Donte Moncrief to get the scoring started in the game.

Brady finished 24-of-35 passing for 234 yards and two TDs. Rob Gronkowski finished the game with two catches for 15 yards on four targets, often covered exceptionally well from safety Tashaun Gipson. Chris Hogan scored two touchdowns in the final 17 minutes, but the Patriots put themselves in a 24-3 hole early in the third quarter after tallying only 157 yards on their first six possessions.

The Patriots’ defense — which lost Patrick Chung to an in-game injury — didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Bortles wasn’t sacked all game, and they couldn’t stop the aggressive-pass-forward attack led by Bortles.

For the Patriots, they’ve recovered from early-season losses better than almost any team in history over the past 18 seasons. There’s no reason to think they can’t do so again. But don’t look past how much this one means for the Jaguars — not just for potential playoff tiebreakers but also as a sign that Bortles and this defense can pick up the slack with Leonard Fournette inactive.

Do they have a Super Bowl formula? We’re months from deciding that. But the Jaguars are 2-0 and in good shape for taking an early step forward in a watered-down AFC.

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