Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles produced one of the best games of his career in Week 3. He did so by spreading the ball around to the majority of his offensive playmakers.
Against the Baltimore Ravens, Bortles targeted and completed passes to nine different receivers. He completed 20-of-31 passes for 244 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Eight of his incomplete passes were either throwaways - in order to avoid interceptions or sacks - or drops by his receivers.
It was one of the more efficient efforts for the fourth-year quarterback, who heads into Week 4 with a 93.8 passer rating.
When the offense is flowing the way it did in London, Bortles believes it's a reflection of a well-practiced and thought out gameplan. Hitting a wide receiver in stride for a 35-yard completion is comparable to a stunt worked into a Dancing with the Stars routine.
"I think when we do everything and we’re in rhythm and guys are in their landmarks, it’s like a choreographed dance with footwork and steps and landmarks," Bortles said Wednesday.
"It’s the same thing we’ve been working on since we all got here together and I think week in and week out it becomes a little bit more consistent. So, we have to keep working on that but I think everyone did a really good job.”
Bortles won't be mistaken for a ballerina or salsa dancer anytime soon, but his appreciation for choreography makes sense. A game plan in the NFL can make-or-break an offense or defense.
For the Jaguars, the Week 3 design would have probably scored a 10 out of 10 with the judges. Bortles played the key role in making the most of offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's strategy.
Moving forward, Bortles will need to continue to bring his dancing shoes to the weekly matchups. The offense has benefited from the stellar play of the Jaguars' defense.
Bortles knows that won't always be the case. Every unit has a few letdowns per season.
“There’s going to come a time when we’re going to have to go score, we’re going to have to win the game offensively and I think everyone knows that and I think we’re ready for that," Bortles said.
"I think our defense has done an unbelievable job, but there’s going to be a day we’re going to have to score a bunch of points, get in a shootout and win it that way and I think our guys are ready for that. I think we have the guys and the people that have the ability to do that and Nathaniel [Hackett] would be ready when that happens to get us in the right place.”
Bortles was able to move the ball without turnovers in London. In fact, he has been turnover-free in two of the Jaguars' first three games. He has been able to avoid costly interceptions because he has made good decisions with the ball.
Following a disastrous effort against the Tennessee Titans in Week 2, Bortles was able to protect the ball by throwing it away when a play wasn't there to be made against the Ravens. It was a sign of maturity from the 25-year-old quarterback, who has thrown 53 interceptions in just 49 career games.
“I think it’s something that’s come along with maturing as a football player and being able around [Hackett] and understanding the offense and system," Bortles said.
"More so than anything, it’s making sure we end every possession with a kick whether it’s a field goal, extra point or punt and not turning the ball over. It all goes back to the way our defense has been playing. If we don’t turn the ball over, we’re going to have a chance to win a lot of football games. A lot of that is on my shoulders to control that.”
Heading into a Week 4 matchup against the New York Jets, Bortles knows what's at stake. The Jaguars haven't produced a 3-1 record since 2007, which was the last time the team made the playoffs.
He has to be sharp against a Jets defense that produced two turnovers against the Miami Dolphins. The New York defense held Miami to just six points in their own Week 3 win.
Bortles knows that to get to 3-1, he will have to play well and make good decisions with the ball against the Jets. A win on Sunday could do wonders for the Jaguars' playoff aspirations.
“I think it’s huge," Bortles said. "Most importantly, just the fact that we won the first quarter [if we win against the Jets]. That was our goal starting the season, was to win the first quarter. To do that, you have to go 3-1. We have a good opportunity this week to do that."
Follow Mike Kaye on Twitter at @Mike_E_Kaye.
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