I ain’t worried about this team.
Don’t get it twisted now, Jacksonville deserves a lot of credit. The Jaguars made a very clear statement yesterday afternoon: we are here and we are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
We knew the Jaguars had a star-studded defense filled with dogs on every level. And we knew they had the personalities that talk that talk and walk that walk. They are the new Seattle Seahawks with their own version of the Legion of Boom and they played like it against the reigning AFC champs. Their secondary showed why they are regarded as one of the best in the NFL and their elite front seven put enough pressure on quarterback Tom Brady to make him uncomfortable all night.
But Jacksonville’s Super Bowl conversation begins and ends with quarterback Blake Bortles. The fifth-year quarterback picked up from where he left off last year in the playoffs and is beginning to show real signs of progression. Gone are the days where you can simply stack the line of scrimmage, hoping to stop the run and force him to beat you.
Bortles did a great job of picking apart New England’s questionable secondary as he was accurate with the ball, navigated the pocket well, and made the Patriots pay for their predictable defense. Jacksonville’s wide receivers beat New England’s secondary all night, especially Keelan Cole. The second-year receiver had himself a career game in which he reeled in 7 catches for 116 yards, 1 touchdown, and this jaw-dropping catch:
But what we saw yesterday is nowhere close to what we’ll see from this Patriots team come December and January. Brady and company got off to a slow start as Jacksonville’s front seven was able to control the line of scrimmage and frustrate New England for the better part of the first half.
Even when they were able to get that ferocious front seven under control, the wide receivers struggled to create separation from Jacksonville’s secondary. Red zone mishaps further hampered the team as a Stephen Gostkowski missed field goal, a Dante Fowler strip sack on Brady, and a third down athletic blunder from Cordarrelle Patterson thwarted the Patriots’ chances at a comeback.
We all forget how to be athletes sometimes.
But I’ll say it again: I ain’t worried about this team. We have seen all of this before. Brady has had worse receivers and Julian Edelman is still waiting to return from his four-game suspension. Just last year we saw Stephon Gilmore and the rest of the secondary struggle at the beginning of the season but turn it around come playoff time. And Coach Belichick will make the required adjustments on defense if they meet this team again as we can no longer sell out to stop Jacksonville’s run game.
As long as we have this coaching staff, this quarterback, and this offensive line, who has proven that they can compete with the best of them, I ain’t worried. Yesterday was simply about two teams at two different stages. One of those teams is hungry and firing on all cylinders. The other is in the midst of finding their tools to success while trying to mesh some new and returning pieces.
Come January, this team will be in a completely different position from today, the same position we have come to expect them to be in every winter: Super Bowl contention. I ain’t worried about this team.