The secret to getting Blake Bortles, quarterback for the AFC South co-leading Jacksonville Jaguars (something I mention because, even though it’s meaningless, it’s also true) to step up? Piss him off.

After the pusillanimous play-calling that characterized the play-it-safe-approach in the putrid Panthers loss a week-and-a-half ago, the usually even-keeled Bortles showed some fire toward his critics, saying, “It’s like a kindergartener saying something to a college kid.”

The Jaguars, against the Miami Dolphins, came out like a team with something to prove. Adding the elusive Marquise Lee piece to the wide receiver puzzle helped keep coverage honest, especially early on, giving Allen Robinson an opportunity to have one of the better games we’ve seen from a Jags wideout in recent years.

And TJ Yeldon? His stats are 83 total yards on 28 touches. Not a scintillating average. But to get that kind of volume from the Alabama product is quite encouraging, a suggestion that the Jags may have a bellcow back, albeit one without a signature run … yet.

For the first quarter-and-a-half, the Jags’ offense was straight fire. After? Diminishing returns. If the O was a college kid, it’d be one who did well on the first big test and barely passed the midterm.

Bortles’ final stats looked great. 273 yards and 2 TDs? You should be able to win with that.

There was enough to get out in front. And enough to get in field goal range at the end.

There were no backbreaking pick sixes. There were also no sacks; Sam Young stepped up in a way Luke Joeckel never quite managed.

And the defense? They did enough. Of course, they did enough against the Panthers the week before, too.

What this looked like to me was a game from a team that could be turning the corner. The AFC South may be more wide open than one may have thought.

The Colts have issues, as the Bills game showed us. The Titans? They got housed by Cleveland, who made good use of Marcus Mariota tape. And the Texans? Maybe when Arian Foster’s groin gets right, they’ll be able to run him into the ground yet again as their best path to the playoffs. But for now, their quarterback sitch seems to be a deal-breaker.

The Jags end their homestand 1-1, and to beat the Dolphins means just a little bit more than some other wins. The signature victory in franchise history, the 62-7 postseason obliteration of the Dan Marino/Jimmy Johnson Dolphins, means nothing to this generation of new fans, who didn’t have to deal with Dolphins hangers-on in the local market even as Jacksonville got its new team.

Mayor Lenny Curry talked a bit of smack on Twitter to Marco Rubio, who told some dude to start Tannehill in Fantasy because the Dolphins would win easily. Tannehill was still a solid start, but for Curry and the rest of the #ilovejax posse, the defeat of the Dolphins was sweet vindication.

Of course, the real test comes in New England on Sunday. Jags have beaten the Patriots once, when Scott Zolak was the Pats’ QB. No such luck this time, but these Pats are not the team they were in earlier years. They are beatable. If Blake Bortles can keep up with Tom Brady, he has a chance to shut his critics up for at least a couple of weeks.