Taylor McCloud — Pats Militia
Last season, before the Super Bowl, I wrote that I’ve never gone into a game thinking the Patriots are going to lose. Today is no different. I am 100% confident the Patriots will beat the Jaguars and go on to play for their sixth Super Bowl.
That being said, it’d be delusional to think a loss isn’t possible. (Yes, there’s a difference between thinking the Patriots are going to lose, and thinking that a loss is possible.) The Jaguars are in this game for a reason. They won ten games this season. They went into Pittsburgh and beat the Steelers twice. They are a good football team, lead by an absolute buzzsaw of a defense.
In the regular season, the Jags ranked second in yards allowed per game (286.1), second in points allowed per game (16.8), second in total sacks (55.0), second in interceptions (21) and were top-ten in a slew of other categories.
While their defensive schemes were certainly important to their success, they weren’t revolutionary. Their defense played as well as it did because it’s supremely talented. Calais Campbell ranked second in sacks with 14.5, and Yannick Ngakoue ranked eighth with 12.0. Behind those two, in the secondary, A.J. Bouye (Jaylen Brown’s favorite football player) ranked third in the NFL with six interceptions with six, and three more of their defensive backs finished in the top-15.
The most notable player in that bunch is Jalen Ramsey.
I can’t imagine Patriots fans are fond of Ramsey. He guaranteed a Super Bowl victory. He brushed off Tom Brady’s compliments when he said you can’t gas up a team that’s already gassed. And he said that Rob Gronkowski’s never seen a corner like him which definitely ran him up the list of public enemies in New England. But not my list.
Ramsey is an incredible football player. In just two years, he’s cemented himself as one of the best defensive backs in the league and has taken his spot as the face of one of the best defenses in the league. Is he loud? Is he brash? Of course. He’s a cornerback, he has to be. That’s how those guys get a competitive edge. That’s how they’re wired. What was he supposed to say about Gronk? “Oh yeah, Gronk, man. He’s great. He’s gonna tear us apart all day. It’s a shame, really.” Hell no. Ramsey does what he has to do, and so does that whole defense. I know it’s annoying when a team doesn’t bend the knee to the Patriots and let TB12 use them as a doormat, but good teams don’t roll over, and Jacksonville is a good team with an even better defense.
I’ll be careful in comparing the Jags to teams of the past, but to me, they’re following a path that’s been followed before. With Trent Dilfer at the helm, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens rode their defense to a title. Two years later, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did the same. The New York Giants won Super Bowls (unfortunately) in 2008 & 2012 on the strength of their defense. In 2014, the Legion of Boom brought a title to Seattle, and just a couple of years ago the Denver Broncos defended their way to a ring.
Again, I’ll be careful with the comparisons, but what Jacksonville is doing has happened before. Is their defense as good as some of those championship-caliber units? Probably not, but they all started somewhere. The Jags are highly competitive, play with a chip on their shoulder and are chock full of talent. If anything they’re well on their way to greatness.
However, to reiterate the point I made earlier, I don’t think the Patriots are going to lose this football game. There isn’t a single part of me that believes that. But I’d be foolish to think it wasn’t possible. For more than a decade now, it’s been said that the way to beat Tom Brady is to pressure him with the front four and play great coverage. (I don’t know why people act like that strategy only works on Tom Brady. Pressure and good coverage is the formula to beat every passing team ever.) The Jags are more than capable of doing both of those things.
By now, I’d imagine you’re experiencing one of two things. One: you’re not on this page anymore because you couldn’t bear complimentary language being used on a football team not named the New England Patriots or two: your eyes have burned from your skull for the same reason. (Patriots fans can’t stand complimenting other teams, especially when they’re loud.)
If I’m wrong, and you’re still reading, let me tell you something. The Patriots are the Patriots. Games like this are what they’re built for. Belichick and Brady, in January, playing an up and coming team for a chance to go the Super Bowl? Give me a break. Even though I showered them with 800 words of praise, do I think there’s even a smidgen (yeah, a smidgen) of a chance that Doug Marrone saunters into Foxborough and pulls out a win?
Follow Taylor McCloud on Twitter @tdmcld
Featured image via: Matt Stone