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Blake Bortles' gritty showing proves 'it' factor to team

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Blake Bortles had to battle just to see the field Thursday night, working out prior to the 21-13 win over the Tennessee Titans just to prove he could play through a mid-foot sprain.

As he has most of the season, the rookie showed flashes -- leading back-to-back 70-plus-yard drives to end and open the half -- but struggled with consistency, completing just 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards and one score. Bortles also ran for 50 yards, despite the foot injury.

Jags teammates believe the rookies' ability to make plays when needed while fighting through pain shows why he's going to be special down the road.

"That's that 'it' factor, man," receiver Cecil Shorts III said, per ESPN.com. "That's why he went third overall. He's got that 'it' about him. When you really need it, he's going to make the play, he's going to find a guy, he's going to do what he needs to do.

"You're only going to see him continue to get better and better and better."

Getting sacked four times Thursday -- to make it an NFL-leading 50 on the season -- didn't help matters.

"We've known this whole time he's a tough guy," left tackle Luke Joeckel said. "We watch him play. He's a hard-nosed guy. He takes some hits and he pops right back up. We knew going in this game he was a little bit limited, but he didn't show it at all and he made plays."

Bortles has gone through tough stretches that often displayed why the Jags' brass originally wanted to keep him out this year. However, in his moments of brilliance he's displayed a higher ceiling than any other rookie signal-caller in 2014. A gritty performance like Thursday's will only ingratiate Bortles toward teammates as he attempts to lead Jacksonville out of the NFL cellar.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews every Week 16 game and recaps the Jaguars' win over the Titans. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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