Almost 30 years ago, John Elway put together one of the most famous drives in NFL history. It’s so famous that it got a nickname. Backed against his own end zone, Elway lead the Broncos on a drive to tie the AFC Championship Game, on the road in Cleveland.
Last night, Blake Bortles, a strong-armed highly drafted quarterback in Elway’s image, added to his own legend. With 2:33 remaining on the clock, the Jaguars having no timeouts, and needing to go 93 yards, Blake Bortles trotted on the field during that pressure time that makes quarterbacks into legends. Fantasy legends.
A completion in rhythm to Ben Koyack. Another completion to Ben Koyack. Another completion to Ben Koyack coming out of the two-minute warning, after one incompletion. Then a key third down completion, after a wild scramble avoiding four rushers, turning against his body, and invoking memories of Tarkenton, to … you guessed it, Ben Koyack. Who is Ben Koyack, you ask?
We don’t know. His only career receptions to that point came in the preseason. But great quarterbacks elevate anonymous rookie tight ends from Notre Dame, and can do it with anyone.
Yet another Ben Koyack completion, and the Jags were at midfield in less than a minute. Plenty of time remaining to get the key score.
Then it was time to get Allen Hurns another catch on a laser down the seam through coverage, then to T.J. Yeldon. Tick, tock. The clock was the greatest enemy at this point, at the Titans’ 18, with only 17 seconds left.
Great quarterbacks spread it around. He tried to get it to Arrelious Benn in the corner of the end zone, knocked away. But then Bortles hit Bryan Walters, and Mercedes Lewis, both along the sidelines, so they could get out of bounds and set up one final throw.
Only six seconds left. Can’t take a sack, and can’t throw short of the end zone. Down the middle, Bryan Walters on the goal line, and falling in for the score as time expired.
The Jaguars pulled it to 36-22 with the extra point.
Odds are, you missed Blake Bortles’ masterpiece, the perfect encapsulation of his career to this point. If you were a casual NFL fan, you may not have tuned into the color rush of Thursday Night for Jags-Titans to begin with. Even if you were a hardcore fan, you may have found something–anything-else to do with your life when it got to 27-0 in favor of the Titans at halftime. The Totals bettors checked out by the time the Titans kicked a field goal to make it 36-8 and hit the Over. Anyone desperate enough to tease the Jaguars was long gone.
The only people sticking around were those with a contractual obligation, and those who started Blake Bortles in fantasy football and live for these moments.
Here are Bortles’ career numbers, broken down by the score margin.
He’s Joey Harrington when the game is close, with a sub 6.0 yards per attempt and more interceptions than touchdowns when leading or tied. He’s Steve Young, with 8.0 yards per attempt and twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, when the Jaguars are trailing by more than two touchdowns.
In last night’s game, Bortles was 8 of 16 for only 64 yards as the Jaguars fell behind 27-0 at halftime. He threw for 273 yards in the second half, with over half of that coming in the final two drives of the 4th quarter, with the Jaguars down 36-8.
Last night was the most Blake Bortles game ever. He was already the Van Gogh of garbage time quarterback play, and then just dropped “The Starry Night” on us. If you ever need that quintessential “fantasy is not real football” game to point to, bookmark this one.
And yes, I’m bitter. My son started Blake Bortles against me.