Belichick making Patriots into Bortles believers

Blake Bortles has been called trash, subpar and a choker, all by opponents he beat during the 2017 regular season to put the Jacksonville Jaguars in position to be called AFC champions.

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

SEE ALSO: CBS captures Blake Bortles crying on the sideline after loss to the Patriots

Some of the numbers and recent performances imply Bortles is not one of the NFL's elite quarterbacks. Consider that he ranked in the bottom five of 36 in passer rating among passers with at least 15 starts from 2014-2016. Two other names on that list: Case Keenum of the Minnesota Vikings and Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles, who are competing as the starting quarterbacks in the NFC Championship on Sunday.

Bortles had only 87 passing yards -- 88 rushing -- in the wild-card round win over the Buffalo Bills. He was 14 of 26 for 214 yards last week at Pittsburgh, but delivered a few timely, accurate throws to help the Jaguars pull off the 45-42 upset.

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AFC Championship game: Patriots vs. Jaguars
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AFC Championship game: Patriots vs. Jaguars
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds the football before the game. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Leonard Fournette #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars walks onto the field before the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots hands the ball offsides to Dion Lewis #33 in the first quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Brandin Cooks #14 of the New England Patriots is defended by Jalen Ramsey #20 and Telvin Smith #50 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (11) during the first quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Marcedes Lewis #89 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after a touchdown in the first quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after an injury in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: James White #28 of the New England Patriots carries the ball for a touchdown in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Jacksonville Jaguars' Carey Grant stretches out while making a gain during the second quarter. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Jan. 21, 2018.
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Marcell Dareus #99 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots' Brandin Cooks can't come up with the catch defended by Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, left, and A.J. Bouye during the third quarter. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA, on Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots throws the ball during the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown with Danny Amendola #80 in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Brandon Bolden #38 of the New England Patriots reacts in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) catches a touchdown pass ahead of Jacksonville Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) during the fourth quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with wide receiver Chris Hogan (15) after a touchdown by wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick promised his defense this week that Bortles belongs, imploring the squad not to sell short a quarterback that won a division title and two playoff games to set up Sunday's AFC Championship game in Foxborough, Mass.

"He makes it all go," Belichick said of Bortles. "He's played well. "He's got again a very high rushing average. When he carries the ball, he carries it productively, whether that's on the scramble or designed runs. He throws the ball efficiently, like he did in the Pittsburgh game. So (he) makes good decisions. He's a big, strong, tough guy that's hard to bring down, hard to tackle. He's got a lot of good receivers, good tight ends, good weapons, good offensive line."

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Blake Bortles after the AFC Championship game
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Blake Bortles after the AFC Championship game
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars after the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars after the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars after the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shakes hands with Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars after the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney referred to Bortles as "trash" and Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas labeled Bortles "subpar" following a 30-24 loss in December.

Then there was Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey, who took a video predicting Bortles would "choke" while the Titans moved on in the playoffs.

The Titans lost at New England last week a day before Bortles beat the Steelers.

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

Bortles said he's not worried about being tagged with any labels or nicknames, and if he's being harshly judged by less-than-traditional output on the way to the Super Bowl, go ahead and drop the gavel.

"I don't care much about what is said outside of our locker room," Bortles said. "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."

--Field Level Media

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