By MARK LONG
AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Blake Bortles’ first postseason victory came with a hefty dose of criticism, maybe even more than ever before.
The Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback handled it as well as he did Buffalo’s pass rush.
“It’ll probably never stop,” Bortles said Wednesday. “There’s people that think LeBron James sucks, so if that happens, I’m sure there will be a lot of people that always think I suck.”
The latest insults came from Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard and retired NFL quarterback Chris Simms.
Byard told the Tennessean this week he wants to make New England’s Tom Brady looks like Bortles. Byard intercepted two of Bortles’ passes in the regular-season finale in Nashville.
“This is a playoff game, so I don’t really care if it was Joe Montana,” Byard said. “You know what I’m saying? I’m trying to go out there and win the game. I want to make him look like Blake Bortles if I can and try to catch a couple picks. Tom Brady is a great quarterback, but it’s a playoff game.”
Simms told The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on Tuesday that Bortles is 70th in his NFL quarterback rankings, below backups Chad Henne (Jacksonville), T.J. Yates (Houston) and Nathan Peterman (Buffalo).
Former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli called into the show to defend Bortles, saying it’s “the most ignorant, asinine statement I’ve ever heard.”
None of it seemed to bother Bortles, who has been sullied all season .
Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey told a Nashville radio station last week that “as long as Bortles is back there, if the ballgame is in his hands, he’s going to choke.”
Bortles also has been publicly ripped by Houston defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Seattle safety Earl Thomas and Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the past two months.
“Players or peers talking about you is a little new,” Bortles said last week.
Bortles’ performance against the Bills was far from his best.
He completed 12 of 23 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown. He never settled into a rhythm, and with the game tied in the second half, he stopped throwing and starting scrambling. He finished with 88 yards on the ground, becoming the first quarterback since Atlanta’s Michael Vick in 2004 to win a playoff game with more rushing yards than passing.
“There’s two different ways to look at it,” Bortles said. “You kind of look at the numbers and look at the game and say, ‘You played terrible.’ Or you look at it and say, ‘Things weren’t going right here and you found a way to win and be efficient and move the ball and do different things.’ I think that’s how I feel about it. We didn’t have our A-game. I missed a couple throws. Things weren’t going well.
“But you know scrambling around and doing some different things, and guys making some plays, we found a way to score one more time than they did. That’s all you’ve got to do.”
The Jaguars (11-6) won the wild-card game 10-3, with the lone touchdown coming on Bortles’ 1-yard pass on a fourth-and-goal play, and advanced to play at second-seeded Pittsburgh (13-3) on Sunday.
Jacksonville beat the Steelers 30-9 in Pittsburgh earlier this season. Bortles threw just one pass in the second half as the Jags dominated thanks to five interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns, and a season-high 231 yards rushing.
Bortles completed 8 of 14 passes for 95 yards, with an interception.
“Hopefully we can throw less,” Bortles said. “That would be awesome. Leonard goes off again and those guys up front play as well they did last time and we can run the ball up there and not have to throw at all. That was something that happened last time, but you never know. … It could be another one of those games or it could be you go up there and throw it 50 times.”
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