Jaguars' Bortles at his best when behind

Eric Goska
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No NFL player has thrown more passes while playing from behind these past two seasons than Blake Bortles.

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles had a league-leading 18 interceptions in 2015, but also showed enticing potential with 35 touchdowns (second in the NFL).

Perhaps it’s his experience under these conditions that led the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback to set an NFL record (more on that in a moment).

Every individual begins his career with unique challenges. In Bortles’ case, he’s seemingly always digging out of a hole.

Drafted third overall in 2014, Bortles has been the Jaguars’ man behind center since Week 4 of his rookie season. He has compiled an 8-21 record as a starter.

The eight wins by Jacksonville are tied with Tampa Bay for second fewest over the last two seasons. Only Tennessee, with five, has been less successful.

The Jaguars, quite simply, are laggards. Of the 2,000 offensive plays they have run since 2014, an NFL-high 1,331 have come when the team is trailing on the scoreboard.

Only the Bears (1,294) and Raiders (1,243) are within shouting distance.

Last season, the Jaguars trailed in every game except one. They were behind for more than 30 minutes in 11 games (1-10 record) and behind for more than 45 minutes in seven games (0-7).

Five times they failed to mount any lead at all.

Jacksonville has spent precious little time out front. In the past two seasons, it has reeled off a league-low 290 plays with a lead.

The Bears, with 367, are next in line.

These, then, are the conditions under which Bortles operates. The mirror reflecting the Jaguars’ performance is without a sticker as objects usually are as far away as they appear to be.

Bortles has been busy. Since 2014, he has thrown a league-leading 784 passes with his team behind.

Last season, Bortles completed 258 of 428 passes for 3,428 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Those are his numbers when playing from behind, mind you, not his overall totals.

A year ago, Bortles fired four or more touchdown passes in three games, amassed more than 300 yards passing in five games and completed 20 or more passes in seven games – all while attempting to catch up. Each time, the Jaguars came up short.

One has to wonder if playing from behind exacts a toll. Or, perhaps it gets the competitive juices flowing.

With Bortles, it might be the latter. His passer rating when behind is 84.7. When ahead or tied, it is 67.7.

And those 29 touchdown passes when trailing? They’re an NFL record.

Bortles threw 35 TD passes last season, tied for second most behind the Patriots’ Tom Brady (36). All but six were fired when he was facing a deficit.

The 24-year-old tossed at least one when behind in 14 games. He fired two or more eight times and had a career-best five in a 42-39 loss to the Titans on Dec. 6.

One could argue Bortles never gives up. Or, as many have proclaimed, he’s merely padding his stats during garbage time.

Garbage time, according to an online urban dictionary, is “the closing minutes of a blowout game, when the starters have left and the bench players are playing out the clock.”

So, does Bortles run up his numbers in the late going of blowouts? Is his touchdown record even worth mentioning?

Thirteen of Bortles’ 29 TD throws when behind came in the fourth quarter. Seven of those 13 occurred with Jacksonville behind by more than 10 points.

Count those seven scores as garbage throws if you will.

But Bortles’ other 16 from-behind TD passes originated in quarters 1-3. While six were launched with the Jaguars trailing by more than 10 points, a full quarter or more remained in which to stage a rally.

Whatever your take, the guy keeps throwing strikes regardless of the scoreboard.

Bortles’ record likely will be forgotten in the time it takes to read this column. Certainly his accomplishment is far from comparable to Peyton Manning’s NFL record 55 TD passes for the 13-3 Broncos in 2013.

Individuals who set records while piling up victories tend earn the headlines. To do that, Bortles and the Jaguars will have to get out front more often.

Regular-season series

Overall: Green Bay leads 3-2

At EverBank Field: Packers lead 2-1

Starting quarterbacks

Packers: Aaron Rodgers (80-39 overall; 1-1 vs. Jacksonville)

Jaguars: Blake Bortles (8-21; 0-0 vs. Green Bay)

Extra points

The 29 TD passes Bortles threw when behind last season broke the previous NFL record of 24 set by the Lions’ Matthew Stafford in 2011 and tied by the Saints’ Drew Brees in 2012.

Don Majkowski holds the Packers’ record. In 1989, the Majik Man threw 17 TDs while Green Bay lagged behind including 13 in the first eight games of the season.

Rearview mirror

Since 2014, quarterbacks who have thrown 700 or more regular-season passes when their team is behind.

No.   Player                 Team

784   Blake Bortles     Jaguars

761   Derek Carr         Raiders

753   Matt Ryan          Falcons

738   Ryan Tannehill  Dolphins

724   Philip Rivers      Chargers

701   Jay Cutler          Bears

Statistics available from, and were used to generate some of the numbers used in this article.

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