Jaguars, now constructed to beat Patriots, change into AFC’s new bullies | NFL


The Jaguars on Sunday had been on the point of letting current AFC championship recreation historical past repeat itself. Then “Sacksonville” discovered its greatest self and put the Patriots away.

Jacksonville held a double-digit benefit within the fourth quarter prefer it did in that title recreation, however this time, the Jags constructed on their lead with huge performs to squash one other potential Tom Brady comeback. They used a lot of the identical components that labored of their playoff matchup, with Blake Bortles passing successfully and the protection manning as much as power a high-powered offense into lengthy, sustained drives.

The lead to 2018 was a 31-20 win, not a heartbreaking, 24-20 loss.

A lot has been made about how the Jaguars weren’t aggressive sufficient in January. The truth that eventual Tremendous Bowl-champion Eagles coach Doug Pederson referred to as out the Jaguars for that mistake added insult to the shortcoming to complete.

However an improved, attacking angle was not the one factor that allowed the Jaguars to take early management of the AFC title race. In addition they had the personnel to do the job higher.

Jacksonville coach Doug Marrone, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and defensive coordinator Todd Wash all referred to as an excellent recreation Sunday, out-coaching New England’s Invoice Belichick and Josh McDaniels. However the Jags wouldn’t have gained the rematch had VP of soccer operations Tom Coughlin and basic supervisor Dave Caldwell not understood the roster tweaks that had been wanted.

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Leonard Fournette was not obtainable to play the nearer function within the backfield, however that did not matter. Jaguars noticed their upgrades in all three phases of the sport at work.

The protection misplaced linebacker Paul Posluszny to retirement and nickel nook Aaron Colvin to free company. To assist substitute them, the Jaguars used a third-round decide on security Ronnie Harrison and signed cornerback D.J. Hayden. Harrison and Hayden had been vital to Sunday’s recreation as a result of the Jaguars used their nickel package deal as their base. Harrison flew round the sector because the “huge nickel” linebacker hybrid from the sturdy facet and racked up a team-high seven tackles. Hayden recorded 4 tackles, together with a sack of Brady.

The Jaguars combined up their protection of Rob Gronkowski, and Harrison’s dimension performed an element in containing the Patriots’ dominant tight finish. There was nothing downfield available, and the Jags had been in a position to restrict what Pats backs and receivers may do after brief catches within the open discipline. Final 12 months, former Patriots Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola had their manner. This time, James White and Chris Hogan had been restricted components when the sport’s final result was nonetheless unsure.

Jacksonville’s offense moved on from acquainted names like Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marcedes Lewis. Enter Donte Moncrief and D.J. Chark at extensive receiver to complement elevated starters Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook. The strikes had been prophetic contemplating the truth that the Jaguars misplaced Marqise Lee to an injured knee within the preseason. At tight finish, Lewis, a venerable blocker who supplied an occasional receiving impression, was changed by Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Jaguars additionally took an opportunity on one other good receiving tight finish in Niles Paul.​

Towards New England, the large our bodies of Moncrief and Seferian-Jenkins had been key in ending a pair of first-half drives with brief TDs within the crimson zone. Paul used his athleticism to get himself free for a 22-yard move within the fourth quarter. Chark misplaced a fumble after his solely catch, however his pace merited protection consideration in four-wide units.

Staff, participant stats from Sunday’s recreation

The Patriots excel at taking away opponents’ superstars. With Fournette out, they wished to let Bortles attempt to beat them. The issue for New England: When Bortles threw, the range, depth and underrated expertise of a fast, sure-handed receiving corps was on show. Jacksonville at all times had a good, single-coverage matchup in opposition to a defender within the again seven. Cornerback Eric Rowe was the New England defender exploited most frequently … till the Patriots had been pressured to bench him in favor of Jason McCourty.

That — having the ability to use a number of personnel groupings and never designating a participant as a single go-to man — is a web page out of the Patriots’ playbook. It is also how the Jaguars allowed Bortles to throw all over the place aorund the sector with no strain in his face.

Jacksonville’s largest free-agent acquisition, left guard Andrew Norwell, already was a main run-blocking improve over Patrick Omameh. However after left sort out Cam Robinson left the sport early with a knee damage, Norwell confirmed the worth of his move safety prowess and made certain Robinson’s alternative, Josh Wells, was not overwhelmed on Bortles’ blind facet.​

For the Jaguars, Norwell channels the imply, nasty streak wanted to push round a staff just like the Patriots. He’s to the offense in 2018 what Calais Campbell was for the defensive entrance in 2017.

Then there’s punter Logan Cooke. The Jaguars’ rookie, seventh-round decide who changed Brad Nortman additionally was vital Sunday, as he dumped two of his three punts contained in the 20. The Patriots at one level burned 8:20 on a field-goal drive after ranging from their very own 6-yard and later went three-and-out from their very own 10.

Scoring typically and possessing the ball are very important parts to taking down New England, however so are any benefits within the field-position battle.

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The Jaguars wanted to do three issues higher to beat the Patriots this time round: Be much more prolific within the passing recreation, get a bit extra bodily and play smarter situational soccer — all over the ultimate gun. All that got here to fruition, and the consequence would have been extra lopsided with out two fluky giveaways.

When it final performed New England, Jacksonville was the scrappy upstart having fun with a playoff breakthrough. The staff was determining the right way to counterpunch the large, unhealthy bully on the block. The distinction Sunday was in how the Jaguars got here out swinging with extra heavyweights and throwing extra haymakers than the Patriots may deal with.

The Jaguars nonetheless have a protracted approach to go earlier than they will actually rip away the convention championship belt. However they beat up the Patriots in Week 2 — one thing most groups do not do early in a season.

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