Jacksonville Yields Ten-Point Lead In Fourth Quarter, As New England Reaches Their Tenth Super Bowl: The Takeaway
Foxborough, MA — The Jacksonville Jaguars came into the AFC Championship with the perfect game plan for the New England Patriots. Keep the ball away from Tom Brady with long drives, use the short passing game to get quarterback Blake Bortles going, and win the turnover battle.
The Jaguars smacked New England in the mouth, similar to Pittsburgh the week prior, jumping out to a 14-3 lead on the road.
Jacksonville offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett called a great game in the first quarter and a half. Hackett had the Patriots off guard and out of position with new looks and RPOs (run/pass option).
But for some reason, the Jaguars took their foot off the pedal for the rest of the game, allowing the Patriots to creep back in. Also, Jacksonville’s defense loosened its coverage in the second half; it seemed like the Jags were playing not to lose, having never been in this situation before.
Jacksonville had New England right where they wanted them in the fourth quarter, up 20-10 with 14:52 left. But Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady found his rhythm without tight end Rob Gronkowski, hooking up with receiver Danny Amendola for two fourth-quarter scores.
A lot will be said about the refs and penalty discrepancy between the Jags and Patriots. New England, flagged for just one penalty throughout the game.
Jacksonville had a few questionable penalties called against them. Most noteworthy, the pass interference call against cornerback A.J. Bouye that led to New England’s first touchdown.
Also, when Jags’ linebacker Miles Jack stripped Pats running back Dion Lewis and had a clear path to the end zone; but the ref blew the whistle.
In conclusion, the no call on the Patriots final drive to run out the clock, when Jags’ linebacker Telvin Smith was held from making the tackle.
But teams have to expect those types of calls, especially in Foxborough facing the Patriots. With the odds stacked against Jacksonville, they had more than enough opportunities to win this game despite the penalties and referees.
Jacksonville Played Not To Lose
After the Jaguars jumped out to a 14-3 lead, they simply took their foot off the pedal, going into conservative mood. Jacksonville had an opportunity to score some points with 55 seconds left in the second half and two timeouts. But Jags’ head coach Doug Marrone choose to kneel and take a 14-10 halftime lead.
The play calling changed on offense in the second half as Jacksonville ran the ball much more on first down trying to shorten the game. Hackett called less RPOs and Bortles couldn’t find a rhythm.
Defensively, Jacksonville went to zone coverage in the second half instead of man to man. The Jags played primarily cover three and Brady is too good to sit back in coverage.
The biggest play of the game, Jacksonville had New England at third and 18 from their 25-yard line, the Jags gave up a 21-yard reception to Amendola. The Patriots went on to score a touchdown later on the same drive, closing the gap to three points.
Jacksonville’s vaunted pass rush wasn’t able to get to Brady as often as they wanted. As a result, Brady had too much time to dissect the defense and find Amendola time and time again.
When facing the Patriots, you can’t afford to go conservative. Sooner or later the championship pedigree of head coach Bill Belichick will show up and figure things out. Which is troubling, because he didn’t figure how to stop Bortles; Jacksonville did that on their own.
Jacksonville Belongs Among The Elite
This is the second game that Jacksonville opened up at least a touchdown underdog, and jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half. Last week in the divisional round, the Jaguars took a 21-0 lead vs. the Steelers.
Jacksonville’s rise this season is not a fluke; they are here to stay. Their Super Bowl window has officially opened. This team is young and extremely talented. More importantly, there’s no huge area of need on the defense.
The biggest question is what does Jacksonville do at the quarterback position. Bortles improved to an average quarterback but played very well over the last two games in which everyone got to see.
Do they keep him and hope he progresses, or do they go in another direction?