Blake Bortles

Tommy Gilligan/USA Today Sports

How bad is Patriots' defense? Look no further than Blake Bortles, who's picked them apart and been horrible against everyone else

Alex Reimer
October 22, 2018 - 11:16 am

If you want to expose the Patriots defense for being slow and overmatched most of the time, it’s not necessary to watch Mitchell Trubisky cover nearly 72 yards of distance on his eight-yard touchdown run or New England defenders flailing aimlessly at Bears running back Tarik Cohen as he races towards the left pylon. Look no further than Blake Bortles, who’s played like a Pro Bowler in his last two games against the Patriots, and, well, like Blake Bortles against everybody else. 

In the AFC championship and the Jaguars’ big Week 2 victory over New England –– it was their Super Bowl, after all –– Bortles completed 52-of-81 passes with five touchdowns and one interception. Those impressive counting stats translate to a quarterback rating of 104.5.

In Bortles’ other six most recent games, however, he’s only completed 122-of-204 passes with five touchdowns, seven interceptions, five fumbles and 14 sacks to boot. Those weak numbers translate to a woeful quarterback rating of 74.2. That figure would place Bortles last among all starting quarterbacks. His rating currently stands at 80.3, largely thanks to his early-season effort against the Pats. 

The crumbling Jaguars benched Bortles in the second half of their 20-7 loss to the Texans Sunday. The 2014 first-round pick fumbled twice in the defeat, both of which resulted in Houston scores. Prior to his benching, Bortles managed 61 yards on 6-of-12 passing. The Jaguars have scored just 28 points during their three-game losing streak, which has dropped them to 3-4 and sparked shouting matches in the locker room. 

After the game, Jacksonville head coach Doug Marrone was blunt about the sorry state of his offense. 

“We can’t do s— until we stop turning the ball over,” Marrone told reporters. “Period. That’s just how it is.”

Bortles looked like a maturing NFL QB in his Week 2 effort against the Patriots this year, finding Keelan Cole and Donte Moncrief down the sidelines for touchdowns, connecting with Dede Westbrook for a 61-yard TD pass and throwing to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a score as well. But in Bortles’ other efforts, he looks like a quarterback who shouldn’t even dress most weeks, never mind start games. 

The Patriots’ defense has mastered the art of allowing teams to move the ball freely between the 20s, while clamping down in the red zone and generating some big turnovers. That was their formula against the Bears, goading the erratic Trubisky to throw two interceptions. New England would’ve had at least four picks on the afternoon, if Elandon Roberts or Stephon Gilmore could hold onto the ball in the end zone.

But it’s apparent, at least through the first seven weeks, the Patriots can’t be counted on to stop anybody on offense. Bortles is the prime test case for that. 

At 41 years old, the weight of the world is once again on Tom Brady’s shoulders. Fortunately for the Patriots, he’s largely been up to the challenge so far. 

Related: Hannable: Hard to feel satisfied with Patriots’ performance in win over Bears