Pats say they won't underestimate 'winner' Blake Bortles

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Opponents have called Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles a choke artist and "trash." One long-tenured member of the New England Patriots' defense used a different word to describe him.


"It's kind of crazy," safety Devin McCourty said Wednesday, alluding to recent derogatory comments about Bortles. "The guy is still playing football. All the guys that said that, I'm sure they'd want to be in his spot right now, playing in a championship game.

"I've seen some of his interviews and it seems like he has a great attitude, laughing about it, cracking jokes. I think you see that on the field. The guy is a winner."

Bortles has been insulted by at least three opposing players, which is unusual in the tightly knit NFL fraternity.

Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney called him "trash," with Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey saying Bortles "is going to choke" in pressure situations. Earlier this season, Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas said Bortles is "a subpar quarterback."

The Patriots will face the Jaguars' much-maligned starter on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game (3:05 p.m. ET, CBS), vowing not to underestimate him.

"You can't be trash and be in the championship game," Patriots defensive back Eric Rowe said.

McCourty praised Bortles for making clutch plays with his arm and legs in the Jaguars' first two playoff wins.

"To me, you see a winner, a quarterback that is smart, that makes all the right plays," McCourty said. "When he's out there, he's trying to put his team in the right position, and it shows up."

Bortles was dreadful in Jacksonville's wild-card win over the Buffalo Bills, rushing for more yards than he passed -- 88 to 87. In last week's upset of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he made some clutch throws, completing 14 of 26 for 214 yards and a touchdown.

"I don't care much about what is said outside of our locker room," Bortles said Wednesday. "What I care about is in that locker room. Those are the opinions I care about is what I am trying to say. When other people say stuff or it comes from anywhere, it doesn't bother me. To see guys within that locker room stand up and say stuff is pretty cool. Those are the opinions that I value and the guys that I want to impress and do well for."

Information from ESPN's Michael DiRocco contributed to this report.