Vontaze Burfict

Jaguars QB Bortles says criticism will ‘probably never stop’

Leave a comment

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.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

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.”

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Bengals give coach Marvin Lewis 2-year extension

Leave a comment

CINCINNATI (AP) Coach Marvin Lewis got a two-year contract extension Tuesday, providing him yet two more chances to try to get the Cincinnati Bengals the playoff victory that has eluded him for 15 seasons.

The agreement came after a second straight losing season and two days of discussions with owner Mike Brown. Lewis has the second-longest active coaching tenure in the NFL, behind Bill Belichick’s 18 seasons with New England.

Unlike Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls and made two other appearances in the title game, Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst coaching record in NFL history. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of futility in league history.

Road to Super Bowl LII: Stream, start time, highlights and more

Paul Brown Stadium was half-empty for the final home game, an indication fans had given up on the team and were hoping for change.

Instead, Brown decided to stay the course and keep Lewis, who wanted more say over the coaching staff and the roster if he stayed.

“Marvin has made significant contributions during his time here,” Brown said in a statement.

Lewis planned to meet the media on Wednesday. He said in a statement that he was committed “to making the necessary improvements to put this team in the best position to win.”

Lewis has acknowledged that he would have been fired in any other NFL city. Instead, he’s gotten second and third chances – and now a 16th chance – to lead the Bengals to a postseason win. Brown, an owner who values loyalty, has decided to keep Lewis around.

On Monday, Lewis said he was interested in staying only if he and Brown had a common vision for changes that needed to happen. He said the organization needs to do a better job building a roster that can contend for an AFC North title.

Lewis has by far the longest coaching tenure in team history – founder Paul Brown and Sam Wyche are tied for second at eight years – and a 125-119-3 record, including that 0-7 playoff mark.

Under Lewis, the Bengals have had some of their best regular seasons and some of the worst playoff moments.

The mastermind of Baltimore’s Super Bowl championship defense in 2000, Lewis came to Cincinnati before the 2003 season – a rare outside hire by the Brown family. Lewis turned the Bengals into a competitive team and then a playoff team after years of languishing as a laughingstock.

He hasn’t been able to win a playoff game, though. His best chance came in 2015, when the Bengals matched the franchise record with 12 wins and were in control in the final minutes of a playoff game against rival Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium.

Lewis’ team unraveled, fumbling to give Pittsburgh a final chance and then committing two unthinkable penalties – Vontaze Burfict and Adam “Pacman” Jones got 15-yard fouls – that set up the Steelers’ field goal with 14 seconds left for an 18-16 win. It was one of the worst meltdowns in NFL playoff history.

Even then, Lewis got yet another chance. His team never recovered. The Bengals won only six games last season. When Lewis and Brown met afterward, they couldn’t agree on terms of an extension of his deal that ended after the 2017 season.

Lewis watched his team become the first in 78 years to fail to get into the end zone while losing back-to-back home games to open a season. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired, but the offense never came around.

A 23-20 Monday night loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 4 essentially ended the Bengals’ chances. Paul Brown Stadium was less than half-full for the final home game, a 26-17 victory over the Lions on Dec. 24. In the final game at Baltimore, the Bengals rallied for a 31-27 win that eliminated the Ravens.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Titans RB Murray hurts right knee in loss to Rams

AP Image
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Tennessee could be without starting running back DeMarco Murray next week when it tried to clinch a playoff spot.

Murray injured his right knee with 2:23 left in the game against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. Coach Mike Mularkey said his running back will have an MRI, but it doesn’t look good.

The Rams lost left guard Rodger Saffold to a rib injury late in the game. Los Angeles safety Marqui Christian also hurt a shoulder.

Dallas played most of its game without five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith. He started against Seattle despite a right knee injury that kept him out of practice most of the week. He came out after the first series.

Other injuries included Cincinnati linebacker Vontaze Burfict. He returned after missing two games with a concussion only to hurt his right shoulder before halftime of a game against Detroit. Bengals running back Joe Mixon also returned after missing two games with a concussion. He left Sunday with an injured right ankle in the first quarter.

Buffalo lost backup running back Travaris Cadet to a right ankle injury in the second quarter. Safety Micah Hyde and cornerback Shareece Wright both left in the second half against New England. Both were shaken up on separate plays.

The Falcons lost tight end Levine Toilolo to a knee injury in the second half of their game against the Saints. New Orleans left tackle Terron Armstead suffered a thigh injury in the second half.

Miami had a pair of defensive players go down. Tackle Vincent Taylor hurt his knee on the opening kickoff, cornerback Alterraun Verner hurt his hamstring later in the half.

The Jets lost defensive end Leonard Williams in the second half with a back injury.

The Giants lost their leading receiver, tight end Evan Engram, in the first period with a rib injury. New York safety Landon Collins was knocked out of the game with a forearm injury in the third quarter.

Arizona linebacker Haason Reddick left with a foot injury in the second quarter.

For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL