Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey became the next, and likely not last, player to take a shot across the bow of one Blake Bortles, predicting the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback's imminent downfall.
"As long as Bortles is back there, if the ballgame is in his hands," Casey told 104.5 The Zone in Nashville on Tuesday, "he's going to choke."
The defensive tackle later sort-of-kind-of walked back his bold claim.
If ever there was an expert on taking down Bortles, it would be Casey. Since the Jags quarterback entered the league in 2014, Casey has stared him down in eight games, sacking Bortles five times. Just last week, the three-time Pro Bowler sacked Bortles on a third-down stop with Tennessee up by two scores in the third quarter. The Titans went on to win the Week 17 clash, 15-10, holding Jacksonville to just three points on offense.
According to Casey, if you get Bortles and Jacksonville's offense down, it's easy to keep them down. "We didn't want their offense to score at all," Casey said. "And it looks like that's what happened. It looks like that's what happened. Sorry. At the beginning of the week, I was talking about that.
"King of the South? King of the South? Sounds great, but gotta be able to beat us. Jacksonville didn't play great today. Appreciate the turnovers. Helped us out a lot."
In a surprising turn of events, Bortles, long maligned by a wonky delivery and considered a garbage-time hero, looked more than competent leading Jacksonville to a division title this season. During an essential three-game stretch from Weeks 13 through 15, Bortles boasted a passer rating of 128.6 and a TD-INT ratio of 7:0 in three wins, one of which came against a still-competitive Seattle Seahawks team.
But Casey is right when he says that when Bortles is asked to carry the team to victory, he is at his worst. When leading this season, Bortles has a 107.3 passer rating and a 12:1 TD ratio, but when he is trailing or tied, his passing yards/attempt mark dips below 6.5, his passer rating crawls below 75.0 and his TD-INT ratio is 9:12.
Bortles has even gone against type in 2017, playing worse in the second half than in the first.
It's unlikely that Jacksonville and Tennessee meet again this season -- the only potential matchup would come in an all-South Championship Game in Duval. Both teams have their own tough tests this weekend, as the Titans travel to Kansas City and the Jags host Buffalo.
But if Casey's scenario comes to fruition and the Jags are fatally forced to rely on Bortles in the fourth, the defensive tackle can insist that, if not the division, he at least won the argument.