The Jacksonville Jaguars Fit Blueprint for Beating New England Patriots

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 17: Calais Campbell /

The 2017-18 Jacksonville Jaguars magical season continues this week in Foxborough, MA as they take on the mighty Patriots for the AFC Championship.

Many believe this game will be the Jaguars last of the season.  Being the first franchise to play for the conference championship one season after winning only three games is reason enough to celebrate.  However, recent history shows the Jaguars have a realistic chance to belay the celebrations until AFTER the Super Bowl.  The New England Patriots do not lose often in the playoffs, but when they do, it is to teams with similar strengths to this year’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 2015-16 Denver Broncos defeated the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.  That Broncos team lead the league in pass defense.  They sacked quarterbacks 52 times.  Both starting cornerbacks, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, as well as starting defensive end DeMarcus Ware, were elected to the Pro Bowl.   Sound familiar?  In the 2011 season when Tom Coughlin’s New York Giants took down the Patriots in the Super Bowl, his defense ranked in the top 5 for sacks, yards allowed, and interceptions.

History shows that for a team to beat the Patriots in the playoffs, they have to do three things very well.  First, they must get to Tom Brady with their front four consistently.  When teams have Pro Bowl talent up front, like the aforementioned Broncos and Giants, as well as the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, Brady has less time and fewer lanes to find open receivers.  The Jaguars front four are the best in the business applying pressure with their front four, as evidenced in their week 5 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  They blitzed once in 40 drop-backs, (1.7%) and still forced 5 turnovers.

Second, teams have to cover one-on-one across the field.  This means covering tight ends and running backs, as well as receivers.  While Rob Gronkowski is always a tough matchup defensively, the ability to force difficult throws in tight windows is how to slow him down.  Brady does not like to hold on to the football, especially at age 40.  Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, and Tashaun Gipson are athletic enough to accomplish this.  Combined with the Pro Bowl duo of AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey on the outside, the Jaguars defense can force Brady and the offense out of their comfort zone.

Lastly, teams must complete a few big plays.  The Jaguars do not need 500 yards of offense or 40+ points, but they do need two or three splash plays.  Whether it is Brady or the coaches, the Patriots’ offense tends to press after their defense makes mistakes, and occasionally that means Brady forcing the ball into windows that are not their.  If the opportunistic Jaguars’ defense sees that Tom Brady, look for that Sacksonville swagger to explode in full force.