The miracle that almost was. The Jacksonville Jaguars, led by their unlikely hero Blake Bortles, came infuriatingly close to defeating Tom Brady and the Patriots, in what would have been the biggest upset since Super Bowl XLII. Unfortunately for Jaguars fans, and all NFL fans outside of New England, they couldn’t secure the victory. Tom Brady yet again proved that he is unaffected by Father Time, leading the Patriots to a come-from-behind victory. The bigger story here, however, is not Brady advancing to his third consecutive Super Bowl, but Blake Bortles joining the list of other improbable postseason heroes.
One of the most unforgettable underdog heroes in recent memory is David Tyree. Tyree, typically a special teams player, was integrated into the Giants’ offense during Super Bowl XLII in an attempt to improve their passing game. Throughout the regular season, Tyree had only amassed 4 total catches for 35 yards and 0 touchdowns. During the Super Bowl alone, Tyree had more receiving yards (43) than he did the entire season, added his first touchdown, and made one of the most incredible catches in NFL history. With the Giants down late in the game, Eli Manning eluded the Patriots’ pass rush and heaved a pass to Tyree the middle of the field. Tyree then leaped into the air, pinned the football to his helmet while being tightly covered, and managed to secure the catch, providing the Giants with new life and keeping their Super Bowl hopes alive. Manning would go on to throw the game winning touchdown to Plaxico Burress, but the hero of the game was David Tyree.
Another unlikely, postseason hero, this time in Major League Baseball, is Aaron Boone. Boone, was traded to the Yankees at the 2003 trade deadline, and was expected to fill their offensive hole at third base. However, for the remainder of the regular season, the third base man hit for a mediocre .254 batting average, 6 HRs, and 31 RBIs. Despite his less-than-stellar regular season, Boone provided one of the most electric hits in playoff history. During Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, against the Boston Red Sox, Boone crushed an 11th inning walk-off homerun, sending the Yankees back to the World Series. The homerun immortalized Boone as a Yankees legend. In fact, Boone left such a profound impression on the organization that he is now their new manager, replacing Joe Girardi after 10 years.
In the 2015 NBA finals, Matthew Dellavedova became an inspiration for unathletic basketball players everywhere, and a hero in the eyes of Cleveland fans when he replaced the injured Kyrie Irving at point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers. “Delly” came to be loved by NBA fans across the country for his unreplicatable hustle, and hated by some who considered him a dirty player, during the Cavs’ six game series against the Golden State Warriors. While he was not traditionally an offensive contributor, Delly managed to score 20 points, add four assists, and corral five rebounds during a huge Game three win for the Cavs, giving them the series lead. Throughout the rest of the Finals, Delly was virtually non-existent offensively, but he made up for it with his tight defense on Steph Curry, leading many to believe he was “Curry’s Kryptonite.” Despite his defensive prowess and invaluable hustle, the Cavaliers fell to the Warriors in 6. But, this did not diminish Delly’s legacy amongst Cavalier fans, earning him a permanent soft spot in their hearts. Dellavedova, earned the love of his city even without pulling off the victory.
Blake Bortles was dismissed by many as a bust after a dismal first three NFL seasons. In his 4th season though, Bortles improved, posting career highs in completion percentage (60.2%), wins (12 including the postseason), QBR (55.5), and a career low in interceptions (13) However, these are still pedestrian numbers compared to other playoff quarterbacks and the expectations coaches had for him entering this season. Nonetheless, Bortles found a way to win games, leading the Jaguars to their first their first playoff berth since 2007 and their first AFC Championship Game since 1999. Some of this success can be attributed to the Jaguars’ improvement on defense and the addition of Leonard Fournette to the rushing game, but players within their locker room credit the team’s success to Bortles’ improvement as a leader. This leadership and ability to “get her done” continued into the Jaguars’ postseason run.
In the Jags’ AFC Wild Card Game against the Bills, Bortles became the first quarterback since Michael Vick to rush for more yards than he threw (88 rush yards and 87 passing yards) and added 1 touchdown through the air. This is considered by many a horrendous game for a quarterback, but considering Bortles scored the team’s only touchdown and managed to win, he got much of the credit for the win. In the AFC Divisional Game against the heavily favored Steelers, Bortles drastically improved from his Wild Card performance, throwing for 214 yards, 1 touchdown, and rushing for 35 yards. The Jaguars, led by their unlikely hero Blake Bortles, then played the Patriots in the AFC Championship. Bortles shredded the Patriots, throwing for 293 yards and 1 touchdown, arguably playing the best game of his young career. Despite Bortles’ heroics, Tom Brady managed to come from behind to win, like he seemingly always does. Regardless, Blake Bortles has proven himself in the eyes of Jaguars fans, and became another heroic postseason underdog story.