By Michael DiRoccoESPN Staff Writer
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When coach Doug Marrone looks back at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ loss to New England in the AFC Championship game, one of the things that bothers him the most is that the Jaguars couldn’t run the ball effectively in the second half.
He and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett tried to salt away a lead behind Leonard Fournette and the league’s top-ranked rushing offense during the regular season. It may sound funny to critics, but maybe the Jaguars could have held on to beat the Patriots had they relied on quarterback Blake Bortles instead.
At the very least, the Jaguars could have been less conservative on first down, especially since Bortles has been especially successful throwing the ball on first down. He was the NFL’s seventh-rated passer on first down (64.9 percent completions, 11 TDs, 2 INTs, and 1,499 yards) during the regular season, ahead of some of the game’s top quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson.
The Jaguars relied on Bortles heavily in the first half of the AFC title game. He was 8-for-8 for 102 yards and a touchdown on first down to give the Jaguars a 14-10 lead at the half. However, Bortles threw only five first-down passes in the second half -- and two of those came on the Jaguars’ final possession, trailing by four points with 2:48 remaining. He completed just two passes for 23...