By MARK LONG, AP Sports Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles kicked Jadeveon Clowney’s “trash” talk to the curb.
Clearly frustrated following a 45-7 loss at Jacksonville on Sunday, Clowney called Bortles trash after the game. Bortles got his first chance to respond Wednesday and handled the latest insult as well as he has opposing defenses in recent weeks.
“If how we’re playing and how I’m playing is trash, then I’m fine with being trash,” Bortles said.
Bortles is the NFL’s most prolific passer in December. He has thrown for 903 yards, with seven touchdowns and no interceptions in three games in the playoffs-defining month. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns against the Texans.
“I’ve heard a lot of stuff, and I imagine some of the stuff I didn’t see somebody told me,” Bortles said. “I’m sure there are things out there that I have no idea about, but I could care less.”
The Jaguars (10-4) clinched a playoff spot with their seventh victory in eight games and can win the AFC South for the first time since its inception in 2002 with a win at San Francisco (4-10) on Sunday.
Bortles has been a big reason for the franchise’s resurgence.
But that hasn’t stopped opponents from taking shots at the fourth-year pro who entered this season with a reputation for turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Bortles began 2017 with the same number of wins (10) as interceptions returned for touchdowns. He also had 15 more passes batted down at the line of scrimmage than any other quarterback during his first three years in the NFL.
He was an easy target for critics.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan took a shot at Bortles in August while praising Drew Brees. During an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Jordan said facing Brees in practice “helps the defense. It’s not like we’re going against Blake Bortles. It’s not like Drew is giving picks away.”
Winning has done little to silence Bortles’ doubters.
Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict made headlines early last month by saying he was “not sure Blake can beat us.
We want to put it in his hands and have him beat us, if he can.” Bortles responded with a touchdown, no interceptions and no sacks in 23-7 victory. He also jabbed back at the often-flagged and previously suspended Burfict afterward.
“I thought we did a good job playing as hard as we possibly can between the whistles and beating the crap out of them,” Bortles said.
Two weeks ago, Seattle safety Earl Thomas called Bortles a “subpar quarterback” following a 30-24 loss in Jacksonville in which Bortles threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns.
“Those guys are just frustrated after the game and say whatever,” Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns said, adding that Bortles is fighting to overcome perception. “That’s what Blake’s going to be known for until he accomplishes something big, like if we win the Super Bowl or anything like that.
“Blake has done a great job just tuning some of the things out and continuing to play, have his head down and not worry what everybody else is going to say. If he’s was paying attention to what everybody else is saying, it would have crushed him by now.”
So Clowney’s harsh comment wasn’t the first and surely won’t be the last.
“It’s sad, man, because the teams that are speaking about it, he’s just got done shredding them,” Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson said. “What he did to the Houston Texans, they should have arrested him for that, man. Dude was throwing off his back foot and making throws I’ve never seen before, right? …
“At the end of the day, dude’s playing good football. … He’s making those guys eat those words and I’m happy for him.”
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