Weeks after losing his job, Blake Bortles stepped back into the Jacksonville Jaguars huddle with the score tied and the offense sputtering.
“He said, ‘Let’s go, boys, I’m back,'” teammate Dede Westbrook said.
Bortles came off the bench late in the third quarter and provided a spark Sunday, helping Jacksonville eliminate the Miami Dolphins from the AFC playoff race by winning 17-7 .
Bortles took the Jaguars 51 yards for a short field goal and 10-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. On the next series, Telvin Smith Sr. intercepted Ryan Tannehill and scored on a 33-yard return to seal the Jaguars’ victory.
“To get the opportunity to go play with those guys and share a win with them is awesome,” Bortles said.
The Dolphins (7-8) will sit out the playoffs for the 15th time in the past 17 years.
“We’re on the outside looking in,” defensive tackle Akeem Spence said, “and it stinks.”
Miami will finish at .500 or worse for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons, leaving the jobs of coach Adam Gase and top executives in jeopardy.
Play-caller Gase acknowledged his offense was terrible.
“It was brutal to watch, to be a part of,” he said.
Jacksonville (5-10) won for only the second time in the past 11 games.
Jaguars starter Cody Kessler bruised his throwing shoulder when hit as he threw a pass and left the game late in the first half. He returned to begin the third quarter, but after being sacked for a fifth time was replaced again by Bortles.
Coach Doug Marrone said he made the change because he thought Bortles’ superior mobility would help against Miami’s stout pass rush. Marrone declined to say which quarterback will start the season finale next Sunday, and Bortles declined to lobby for the assignment.
“I just work here, man,” he said. “I signed up for three years, and until those three years are up or they let me go, I’ll play when they need me.”
Bortles finished 5 of 6 for 39 yards, and ran four times for 25 yards . The third overall pick in the 2014 draft, he lost the starting job to Kessler in Week 13.
“He gave us a huge lift,” Westbrook said. “It felt like old times again.”
After Bortles helped the Jags take the lead, their defense provided the exclamation point. Tannehill had a first down at his 32 when he pumped and threw off his back foot. Smith stepped in front of the intended receiver and scored untouched.
“Don’t think you’re going to chase me down and tackle me when I got the rock,” Smith said.
Tannehill said the primary receiver was covered and he forced a pass elsewhere.
“Got to be smart there and throw the ball away,” Tannehill said.
Tannehill went 15 of 22 for 146 yards with one touchdown.
There was no miracle reminiscent of the Dolphins’ previous home game, when they beat New England with a double lateral on the final play. An attempted double pass in the closing minutes went haywire and resulted in a holding penalty.
The two offenses surprisingly traded touchdowns on their opening drives, which covered 78 and 75 yards, but then resumed their season-long sputtering ways. Each team committed 10 penalties.
Calais Campbell led the Jaguars’ defensive charge with a forced and recovered fumble, a sack, two tackles for a loss and three quarterback hurries.
Miami and Jacksonville took turns showing why their records aren’t better. Kessler lost a fumble cocking his arm to throw, but the Dolphins failed to capitalize on the gift, missing a field goal.
The Dolphins allowed a long punt return to give the Jaguars a chance at a 56-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, but Kai Forbath’s kick fell short of the 20-yard line.
Campbell’s takeaway gave the Jaguars a scoring chance at the Miami 17, but three plays later they were at their own 47 and punted.
Jaguars: T Josh Wells left the game in the second quarter with a concussion.
Dolphins: Reserve DT Ziggy Hood hurt his hamstring.
The Dolphins close the season Sunday when they try for a series sweep at Buffalo. Miami beat the Bills in Week 13.
The Jaguars conclude their season Sunday at the Texans, who won when the teams met in Week 7.
Source: The Associated Press