Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) is pressured by New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig
November 09, 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) The Jacksonville Jaguars have a knack for making costly mistakes in crunch time.

Coach Gus Bradley's team has six fourth-quarter turnovers in the last three games, including a fumble and two interceptions that ended any chance of beating the New York Jets on Sunday. Throw in rookie Corey Grant's fumble near the goal line with 15 seconds left in the third quarter at Tampa Bay last month, and the Jaguars have been downright dreadful down the stretch this season.

''I love the spirit of our team,'' Bradley said Monday. ''I love how they're relentless and they don't blink and they battle and they fight and they scratch. They'll do anything they can to give us a chance to be victorious. Unfortunately, it's not enough. I think at critical times in the game, offensively, we have to make plays.

''Defensively, you have to make stops. Special teams, you have to come through. That's what we're not doing right now.''

Second-year quarterback Blake Bortles has five of the six turnovers, including interceptions that were returned for touchdowns against Houston and Buffalo. Bortles fumbled and threw a pick in the final 6 minutes of a 28-23 loss to the Jets, which contributed significantly to Jacksonville's 13th consecutive road loss.

Bortles bounced back from the fumble in the red zone and led the Jaguars (2-6) on a three-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that got them back in the game. But he threw a game-ending interception in the final minute.

''I think he is doing a lot of really good things, a lot of good things,'' Bradley said. ''I think that in critical times he is making plays. He's giving the receivers a chance. ... Yeah, there's going to be some areas where he continues to improve on, but that's everybody in this game. I am very pleased with how he's been operating and how this team is going offensively.''

Bortles completed 24 of 40 passes for a career-high 381 yards against the Jets. He had two touchdown passes and two interceptions. He also scrambled four times for 32 yards.

But his indecision on a first-down play at the Jets' 20-yard line led to him getting stripped.

''I think sometimes with Blake, he's had the ability to, when he extends plays, to make big plays,'' Bradley said. ''He's done that throughout the game. He's done that throughout the year. I think down in that area, he was extending the play and looking to make a big play. It wasn't there, so now, just take what you can and move on to the next play.''

Bortles has seemingly been trying to force things lately.

His pick six against the Texans in Week 6 sealed the loss. The following week in London, Bortles threw another one that put the Bills up 31-27 before he directed a late comeback. That kind of resiliency was promising, as was the way he responded against the Jets, but Jacksonville knows he needs to be consistently better to have long-term success.

''We've been spending a lot of time on the clarity part of it,'' Bradley said. ''The confidence, the not giving into discouragement, those things, and I think that's where they're doing a good job.''

There's no doubt that Bortles, running back T.J. Yeldon and receivers Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson have given the Jaguars a glimmer of hope despite losing for the 31st time in Bradley's 40 games. The defense showed up Sunday, too, allowing 29 yards rushing.

That progress - what Bradley calls the ''race to maturity'' - has overshadowed Bortles' late-game miscues.

''It's the little things that people don't see that (Bortles) does that are important,'' Hurns said. ''Like this game, people will say, `Oh, he had those turnovers.' But one of the passes was tipped and went up in the air. And then on the last play of the game, I probably could have worked back to the ball. I thought I was wide open, but I didn't see the guy closing on the ball.

''He's progressing and he's going to keep progressing as an offense. It's all good.''


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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