Benched earlier this season and questioned for years [url=http://www.officialducks.com/authentic-adidas-ryan-kesler-jersey]Adidas Ryan Kesler Jersey[/url] , Tyrod Taylor and Blake Bortles have a chance to change public perception on the NFL’s playoff stage.
Taylor helped Buffalo end the longest, current postseason drought in North American pro sports (17 years) while Bortles led Jacksonville to its first playoff berth since the 2007 season.
Whichever one wins the next game could do wonders to his image.
The Jaguars (10-6) host the Bills (9-7) in an AFC wild-card game Sunday, a win-or-go-home matchup that means as much to the quarterbacks as anyone.
The Bills were in talks with free agent Brian Hoyer in March and ready to part ways with Taylor until he agreed to restructure his contract extension and make it a two-year deal worth $30.5 million. He has one year remaining, but the team could save $10 million by moving on after this season.
No one would be surprised to see it happen, especially after coach Sean McDermott benched Taylor in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman in November. Peterman threw five first-half interceptions in a 54-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, and Taylor has been the team’s starter since .
”I don’t focus on things that I can’t control, and I’m going to continue to be that way,” said Taylor, who has 14 touchdown passes and four interceptions this season. ”All I can control right now is my preparation, my focus, my work ethic to putting it all in for this week. It’s a one-game season right now, and that’s for everyone.
”I can’t allow distractions or thinking too far ahead.”
Bortles has taken a similar approach despite constant bashing – and not just the typical criticism from fans and media.
Tennessee defensive end Jurrell Casey told a Nashville radio station this week, ”As long as Bortles is back there, if the ballgame is in his hands [url=http://www.officialcoyotes.com/authentic-adidas-clayton-keller-jersey]Adidas Clayton Keller Jersey[/url] , he’s going to choke.”
Casey tried to clarify his comments two days later, writing on Twitter, ”Chill, y’all. I was just hyping our defense. If we put the pressure, some QBs will choke.”
Hearing talk such as that is nothing new for Bortles, who’s 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,” said Bortles, who is a big reason Jacksonville is hosting its first playoff game since 1999.
”I’ve never been somebody that felt that is the way you should handle things, but guys are different. I had the chance, was fortunate enough to play for George O’Leary in college and playing for Coach O’Leary, you learned very quickly how to take criticism. I had four years of practice doing that, so there’s nobody that can say anything worse to me than he did.
”I got benched every other day.”
Jaguars coach Doug Marrone actually benched Bortles in the preseason, stirring speculation that his days in Jacksonville were numbered.
But Bortles regained the starting job a week later and has been better than expected since [url=http://www.officialbruinsproonline.com/authentic-adidas-patrice-bergeron-jersey]Adidas Patrice Bergeron Jersey[/url] , although five interceptions in the past two games – both losses – have some questioning him again.
His first playoff game – Taylor went to the 2013 Super Bowl as Baltimore’s backup – could leave outsiders looking at him differently.
”Playing a playoff game in Jacksonville hasn’t happened in a while, so having that opportunity to play in front of our fans and our city and our stadium, I think, is awesome,” Bortles said. ”I think everyone realizes it’s your last chance. If you lose, you go home, it’s over.”
Here are some other things to know about Buffalo and Jacksonville:
STAR STATUS: Bills running back LeSean McCoy is questionable with a right ankle injury. McCoy said he was feeling ”a lot better” Thursday, but declined to make any guarantees about playing. McCoy accounts for nearly a third of Buffalo’s offense.
OLD FACE, NEW PLACE: Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus insists he harbors no ill will toward his former team. His actions might say otherwise. The 340-pound run-stopper will face the Bills for the first time since they traded him in October for a late-round draft pick.
MARRONE’S MAKEOVER: Jaguars coach Doug Marrone bolted on Buffalo in 2014, opting out of his contract and getting $4 million to walk away. Marrone landed in Jacksonville and will face Buffalo in his first playoff game as a head coach.
LONG TIME COMING: Jacksonville’s first home playoff game since January 2000 will be a packed house. The Jaguars sold every ticket available and even received permission to remove tarps covering four upper-deck sections to help satisfy demand.
J.T. Realmuto had another big game before another small crowd, which probably didn’t help his cause much in the All-Star voting.
The Marlins‘ catcher homered in the fifth and singled to spark a game-winning rally as the Marlins beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in 10 innings Monday.
Realmuto has 11 home runs and is batting .311 but ranks a distant fifth in NL All-Star fan voting.
”He’s a great player,” manager Don Mattingly said before the game. ”People just don’t know it yet.”
There weren’t many at Marlins Park to spread the word. Attendance was 6,004.
Brian Anderson walked against Ryne Stanek (1-2) to start the 10th and took third on Realmuto’s single. Yadiel Rivera followed with an RBI infield single.
Realmuto, hoping for his first All-Star appearance [url=http://www.officialbruinsproonline.com/authentic-adidas-tuukka-rask-jersey]Adidas Tuukka Rask Jersey[/url] , said he has no hard feelings regarding the voting.
”We don’t have as many fans as other teams have,” he said. ”That’s how the fan vote goes. All I can do is go out there and play and let my numbers do the talking for me.”
The Rays lost for only the second time in 10 games, and allowed more than two runs for the first time in seven games, ending a franchise-record streak. Tampa Bay has lost 21 one-run games, most in the majors.
Realmuto’s solo homer put Miami ahead 2-1. The Rays’ C.J. Cron tied the game in the ninth with a two-out RBI double against closer Kyle Barraclough, who hadn’t given up a run since May 8 .
Miami had runners at the corners in the 10th with none out when Rivera pulled a one-hopper up the line . Third baseman Matt Duffy backhanded the ball and double-clutched in foul territory before making a wild throw home, with the play ruled a hit.
”I tried to make a desperation play,” Duffy said. ”I didn’t get a grip and tried to rush the transfer.”
Rivera, a reserve batting .198, entered the game in the ninth as a defensive replacement and came through with his second walk-off hit this season.
”We go home happy,” he said. ”That’s the best part.”
Miami second baseman Starlin Castro tied a career high with four hits but also committed an error that led to an unearned run. Miguel Rojas had three hits, including a two-out RBI double in the second.
The Marlins’ Wei-Yin Chen allowed one run in six innings and it was unearned, lowering his ERA to 5.55.
”Today was a tough one,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. ”We didn’t have our best approach against Chen for whatever reason [url=http://www.officialbruinsproonline.com/authentic-adidas-brad-marchand-jersey]Adidas Brad Marchand Jersey[/url] , but you look past that and figure that we tied the game off a really good pitcher in Barraclough.”
Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi gave up two runs in six innings. Drew Rucinski (3-1) pitched a perfect 10th for Miami.
On a clear, 86-degree night, the retractable roof was open for the 17th time this year, extending the franchise record. Marlins owner Derek Jeter watched from the second row and had plenty of elbow room.
BREAKTHROUGH AGAINST BARRACLOUGH
The Rays trailed 2-1 to start the ninth but rallied against Barraclough, who entered the game with a streak of 20 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.
Daniel Robertson led off with a single, and following a flyout and a forceout, Jake Bauers slid home from first on Cron’s double, barely beating the throw from left field.
Marlins RHP Drew Steckenrider was hit in the lower right leg by Cron’s comebacker in the seventh but stayed in the game and pitched a scoreless inning, and said afterward he was fine.
RHP Trevor Richards (2-5, 5.06) is expected to start Tuesday for the Marlins against LHP Brian Yarbrough (7-4, 3.76).
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