So, my good friend Ben from Boston decided to engage in a little email fun over the last few days. Rather than keep this fun to myself, I'm going to include the interaction in full for your reading pleasure. Ben's got a quicker wit than I do, so he was more than fine to let me post our emails.
So without further adu...(Behind the Cut)
Just wanted to offer preliminary condolences to you and the other four Jags fans for the severe beating about to ensue on Saturday night. It's really cute that you guys made it this far in the playoffs, and hopefully your efforts will result in only half of next year's home games being blacked out! You can sleep easy on Saturday night knowing that you were blip on the radar No. 17 in my beloved Patriots' inevitable undefeated campaign and their rightful ascent to the hallowed mantle of "Undisputed Greatest Team Ever."
The fact that you, in any way, believe that you can slow the Pats' offense or score on our defense is laughable, and I pity your upcoming reality check. When you meet your certain demise on Saturday, you can go home with the same feeling you had after your Little League pizza party, knowing that your team gave its best effort and that Mommy & Daddy still love you. Unfortunately, your Little Leaguers are about to challenge Men, and Men that are hell-bent on fulfilling their undefeated destiny.
(smarmy enough yet?)
Seriously though, while the Jags are the one team in the AFC that worry me the most, I really don't see how you can win, and here's why:
- You're not going to be able to stop the pass: Look, I know that Mathis had two picks last week, but he also got burned a lot as well, and he's not quick enough to stay with Moss. Your DBs behind him are even more suspect - who's gonna cover Welker? Who's on Stallworth? I see the Pats passing you guys to death, like they've done to pretty much everyone else.
- Injuries severely hamper you from stopping the run: With Stroud, Peterson and a healthy Henderson, you've got the best run defense in the league. But without them? Average at best. Laurence Maroney has turned it on the last few weeks, and should get into the second level regularly against a D-line with the likes of Derek Landri, Reggie Hayward and Grady Jackson. Your linebackers don't impress me much either, though Durant is getting better.
- Do you really trust the Jags' passing game coming from behind? Garrard suprised the hell out of me this season, but he did so in very favorable conditions. Most of the time, he was passing with the Jags safely ahead, and there's not one signature moment this year that you could point to and say "THAT was the point where the Jags' passing game led them back from a deficit." Your receivers are soft, and drop a ton of passes. You're down to one healthy tight end. In fact, the only pass-catcher who worries me is Jones-Drew, but the Jags seemed to largely forget about throwing him screens this year, god only knows why. Fact is, if you get down (which you inevitably will), it's gonna be mighty tough to pass the team back into the game.
- Our Run defense is better than you think: In fact, our run defense ranked 10th leaguewide, just ahead of a certain vaunted run defense from Jacksonville. Wilfork is a beast. Seymour is playing his best ball of the season. Adailus Thomas is a freak. And while I'll admit that Taylor has had a ridiculous year, Jones-Drew's stats are way down, including his YPC, which is off a full 1.1 yards from last year. And Taylor, in his last playoff game against the Pats, ran for 24 yards on eight carries. Last week he ran for 48 yards on 16 carries. This guy is your best hope, and he averaged 3.0 YPC over those two playoff games.
To my beloved Benjamin.
I recently received your electronic correspondence, and I'm exceedingly disappointed in your presumption that my Jaguars and their "four fans" would suffer from a "severe beating", despite numerous pieces of evidence that lead me to conclude that the Jaguars can not only keep the game close, but in fact close the gap and overthrow the tyranny of the Patriots. My southern co-patriots and I wish to inform you that they'll be another Tea Party in Boston on saturday, but with celebratory Sweet Tea, the way it's supposed to be enjoyed, and with toasts to the Jaguars for their slaying of the grey sweatshirt dictators.
While the New England Patriots enjoy a significant statistical and a powerful personnel advantage, your New England Patriots are not without fault. Arrogance, of course being at the top, but there are other, more tangible things, that lead me to believe in the impossible team that the backwater team of Jacksonville can do a reverse Sherman's march and leave Foxboro in burnt and smoldering ruins. You see, the Jacksonville Jaguars are not acting as their own benefactors, but instead they represent the desire of all Americans to break the totalitarian bond that the New England Sports Machine has forced on the rest of us. We're not the representation of North Florida, but the dream of the entire country to slay a giant and let a real National Football League champion can be declared. We stand united against the oppression and ego of the Boston Sports Machine and their legions of intolerable fans, we shall overcome the bombastics and the egoists and show the world that there are teams outside of the North East.
Now let me address your points.
- You declare so confidently that the Jaguars shall not stop your passing attack. While Brady and his receivers are clearly your biggest threat, your ability to score on the deep pass will only further entangle you in the Jacksonville Offensive Grindhouse. Every time Brady quickly drives down the field and scores means another chance for David Garrard, Fred Taylor, Maurice Jones-Drew, and others to feed on clock time, running yards, and touchdowns. You will quickly discover that the one-sided attack of Brady and the pass quickly changes from your greatest strength to your biggest weakness, especially when you remember that the Jaguars do have a respectable, albeit unpredictable secondary. We allow many yards through the air, that is undeniable, but the Jaguars allow very few touchdowns, and that's enough. Our secondary need only to bend and not break to allow the Jaguars to stay in this game. We both know that nobody can completely eliminate the Passing Game of the Patriots, but you can slow it down.
- I laugh at your mentioning of injuries. The only people who worry about the Jaguars and their Injury situation are people who don't know anything about the Jaguars. You say we'll miss Mike Peterson, I say that Daryl Smith, Justin Durant, and Clint Ingram have more than replaced Peterson, especially in stopping the run game. Justin Durant, especially, has accumulated dozens of tackles and has all the speed of a defensive back. While he lacks the experience of Mike Peterson, he's more than ready for the challenge of facing the Patriots, and he's got the speed to cover the passing game as well. Losing Henderson hurts, I won't deny it, but Grady Jackson and Derek Landri have stepped right in and played exceedingly well. We've got a very deep roster, and while nobody knows who they are, the film doesn't lie. Besides, your running game is a clear afterthought in your offense, and I don't fear Laurence Maroney, not after facing Joseph Addai, LT, and Willie Parker this season. I don't know that any team in the league has faced a harder set of Running Backs than the Jaguars this season, so if you expect us to suddenly fear Maroney, you've got to be kidding.
- Do I trust the Jaguars passing game to come from behind, absolutely not. I'd be a fool to think the Jaguars are going to win some sort of air it out shoot out with the New England Patriots. That's not the way we play the game. Our offensive style is a grinding, time consuming, beat Brady by keeping him on the Sideline scheme. What I expect our passing game to do is keep drives alive, convert on 3rd down, and exploit the inevitable 7/8/9 men in the box that New England will have to commit to stopping our running game. Our Passing game is a model of efficiency, especially with our bigger physical receivers that can push around your cornerbacks, whether it be the high dollar Samuel or the marginal Hobbs.
- Yes, your running defense has done a great job stopping the powerful rushing attacks of teams that have been consistently down by multiple touchdowns. It's fantastic that such a vested group of veterans could so easily stop the committed attacks of teams that had to score many points quickly, and would have clearly chosen to run the ball. Your critique of Jones-Drew is misleading, while his YPC is down a bit, he's still a force to be reckoned with in the return game, the passing game, and no back in the league gives a better second effort on 3rd or 4th down to get the crucial yards. Fred Taylor suffered from a bit of cramping against the Steelers, but if you consider the hot streak he's been on over the last many weeks, he's still someone to worry about. You've even got a full back in Greg Jones that can pound the rock. It's a war of attrition when you take on the Jaguars running game, and we've pounded the ball down the throat of the first, second, third and fifth best defenses in the league, you really learn to not fear anyone.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have absolutely nothing to lose on Saturday. They are considered a hopeless underdog who with a loss merely join the club of teams that were unable to slay the giant. If they lose to the Patriots and New England wins the Super Bowl, the loss is further rendered meaningless. They are playing with House Money, so to speak, as we've proven that we can compete in the toughest division in the NFL, win on the road in the playoffs, and have a solid team to continue building and strengthening. Despite all the confidence of the Patriots, the fact that a loss in the playoffs will render the entire 16-0 worthless can lead even the best players to over-reach. What starts off as confidence can suddenly turn into a mistake, and It doesn't matter who coaches you, the pressure of maintaining such a high level of performance can wear down any player. This reminds me of 1997 when the Jaguars went on the road into Denver and stopped the overwhelming favorite Broncos. Nobody expected the Jaguars to do anything in that game and they stunned the world. So we've even got a little bit of a precedent in our team history to pull a little surprise in the playoffs.
So yes, these are my thoughts.
Sorry it took so long to get back to you, I was busy counting my winnings from gambling on the Pats all season. I will address your misinformed points one by one:
- You note that "Arrogance" is the team's biggest fault, but I think you forget who you're dealing with here. An "arrogant" team would have been upset all season, but this Pats team never lost their drive, becoming the first squad in NFL history to go 16-0. An "arrogant" team wouldn't be practicing as hard as they are this week. An "arrogant" team wouldn't have won three Super Bowls. With any other group of players or coach, I'd certainly worry about arrogance, but this Pats team is far too driven to fall victim to arrogance. To the Patriots, "Arrogance" is simply the name of Rick Martel's cologne. (an old WWF reference there which you may be too young/uncool to understand)
- You feel that the Jags will keep the Pats offense off the field simply by enlisting, and I quote "the Jacksonville Offensive Grindhouse." Except that no such "Grindhouse" exists. In fact, the Jags average 27:01 minutes of possession per game, nearly six minutes less than their opponents. While you are a run-based team, you haven't exhibited the capacity to grind out the clock against lesser defenses, so why should I believe you can do it against the Pats? Moreover, the Steelers (whom yes, you beat, but just barely) tried a similar strategy against the Pats about a month ago, holding the ball for nearly 35 minutes. They got smoked 34-13, and the game wasn't that close.
- You simply can't tell me that injuries aren't hurting your defense. While it looks like Henderson will play (though he'll probably be limited), the loss of Stroud and Peterson hurts, especially late in games. I cite last week's game against Pittsburgh, where the Steelers exposed your backups in the second half, and leading to an 18-point lead being blown. And while I'll grant you that Durant has been impressive, I get the impression that the Pats O-line (the best in the league, without question) will find a way to neutralize a rookie who has only started a handful of games. Besides, Durant might end up being stuck covering Ben Watson, as he's your only linebacker who can match up with Watson's speed.
- Your rushing attack is good, but I again think that you're going to have to abandon the run at some point and go to the pass, which is a huge weakness. In Week 7 against the Colts (when Garrard got hurt) the Jags got down early. Instead of going to your strength, you had your backup quarterback throw 24 times in one half, including for two picks. If the Jags got down early and threw that much with their backup quarterback, how much will they try to throw with their starter?
- I don't know how anything involving Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams can be called a "model of efficiency." Your receivers drop a ton of passes, and at terrible times. If your tall receivers were actually physical, I'd say you'd have an advantage against our smaller corners, but Jones & Wilford can't even do that, and Williams is still Reggie Williams, he of 38 catches all year. Also, you have a huge weakness at tight end, which is how teams beat New England (see Dallas Clark in last year's playoffs). And while Garrard was accurate in the regular season, I saw him throw two awful picks last week in his first big playoff start. The Pats defense has a way of making accurate QBs look bad in the playoffs, and Garrard should be no different.
- You discuss precedent, but the two times the Pats and Jags have met in the playoffs, the Jags have been beaten by an aggregate score of 48-12. Warrants mentioning.
- Yes, the Jags have nothing to lose, but I again think you're underestimating the drive of this Patriots team. This isn't some mentally weak squad that lucked into 16-0, this is a team completely on the same page with an insane drive to win, starting from the top. Crappy coaches don't win Super Bowls, and Belichick has won three. He's the bet in the business right now, bar none. Simply put, he's not letting this team get complacent, he's not letting this team get arrogant, and he's not letting this team lose. The playoffs are oftentimes about coaching, so I leave you with this: do you really see Jack Del Rio beating Bill Belichick?
Your letter is discomforting, if only for the sheer quantity of miss-statements and un-truths. Because of time interests, I shall handle them individually and quickly.
- You mean to tell me, honestly, that there is no arrogance coming from the New England Patriots, the team that has Rodney Harrison griping because there's not a 100% consensus that his team will win? An arrogant team is going to be a general winner, otherwise they wouldn't be arrogant. Evidence, how about the 4th quarter passing with large leads. Two kinds of teams do that; unbalanced ones with no running game (Texas Tech, Hawaii, any team with Mike Martz), or arrogant teams looking to prove a point. How can you deny the arrogance of your team? You've got a coach that says "fuck you" to just about every NFL rule and procedure, from the dress code to the injury report to memo's about videotaping", a coach who leads his team with the example that it's not even OK to show an ounce of respect to the other teams head coach, another one of 32 men to rise to the top of the coaching latter, and a guy who doesn't respect the sanctity of another mans marriage. Of course the Patriots are arrogant, it's in everything they do.
- You let time of possession mislead you my friend. The Jaguars overall ToP might be 6 min less than their opponents, but that's a reflection of how games went, rather than anything to do with the inability of the Jaguars to grind the clock. In fact, you might have been the first person this season to imply that the Jaguars can't grind it out. I'd suggest you look at game by game drive charts and note the length of individual drives and go from there. Note that Oakland and Buffalo, two serious contenders, were the only two teams to have more than 30:00 min time of possession against the Jaguars. Note that the Jaguars had over 35 min ToP against the Colts, Steelers, Chargers, and Titans, all four teams that would go to the Playoffs.
- Wow, reaching for the whole "David Garrard got hurt and the Jaguars threw poorly" angle. You've completely ignored the game after that, where the Jaguars devoted exclusively to the run against a team that was burning everyone through the air (at that point), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jaguars ran 43 times to a mere 16 pass attempts. Tampa was a pass only team at that point, having suffered the decimation of their running game. The game you reference against the Colts is what we like to call "an outlier", something that when compared to the length and breadth of the season is outside the norm and less representative of the whole.
- Fact: Jaguars wide receivers have dropped less balls than ever. Fact: bashing the Jaguars wide receivers is a tired talking point leftover from last season. Fact: Ernest Wilford is one of THE best wide receivers in the league on 3rd down. Fact: Reggie Williams has scored 10 touchdowns and averages 16.6 yards per catch. Garrard spreads the ball around pretty effectively, much like Tom Brady did a few years ago when the Patriots didn't really have a true "number one" receiver. The precedent for what the Jaguars are doing at WR is set by a team that won a few Super Bowl's that way, before they sold their soul to the Devil.
- Because I'm pressed for time, I'll leave you with this: All the Money on this game is going to Vegas, you know the Casino's will do anything to recoup some of their season long losses with the Patriots. Do you really trust a team to be that consistent on winning against the spread and not get a little bit of Vegas payback?
I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny in Elementary School, but you still apparently hold out hope for a jolly fat man to come down your chimney, delivering an upset win. Your level of delusion is frankly troubling, and I know the name of a few good therapists in Florida who can help settle whatever Daddy Issues brought you to this point.
1. There may be a touch of arrogance in what the Pats do, but honestly, what does it matter? Arrogance, confidence, being cocksure - they're all synonyms, and whatever it is that's motivating the Patriots is sure damn working right now. To be this successful and still retain that big of a chip on your shoulder is a testament to the team's philosophy and coaching, but if you want to call that arrogance, go ahead. The Pats are driven to win, and know
they're going to do so. The Jags are driven to have less than half of their home games blacked out next year.
2. My point in bringing up the ToP stat is that the Jags don't exactly grind it out as much as everyone thinks they do. The Jags passed the ball 47% of the time this season, so they aren't exactly the grind-it-out offense that everyone deems them to be. In fact, more of their first downs came from passes than from rushes. And in two of the games you referred to where they held the ball for 35 or more minutes (Colts, Titans) they ended up losing. Besides, you're going to get laid more with the girl who puts out on the first date rather than the Catholic girl who makes you wait three months to get to second base. The Jags are the offensive version of that Catholic girl.
3. Fanhouse made a really good point today as well - the Jags can't stop teams who spread out the field. They got smoked by the Saints, and Roethlisberger nearly beat them (and would've if the ref noticed Khalif Barnes holding on like Wilson Phillips) when he finally decided to throw. How are you going to defend Welker coming out of the slot? How are you going to stop Moss running 50 yards one way and Stallworth going 40 yards the other? Oh, and Maroney averaged 102 yards per game over his last three games, so we can run the ball too. You're doomed.
4. I cited the Colts game because they're the one team that comes closest to the Pats in skill level, both offensively and defensively. You couldn't beat them, and you certainly won't beat us.
By the way, my favorite stat ever: Boston's three major teams are 52-4 since October 15th. Suck on that.
If anyone knows good therapists, it's certainly you. If I were to psychoanalyze you, I'd say you have an overwhelming desire to feel like your part of something big, simply to compensate for the numerous shortcomings in your own life. Show me evidence that you were a Patriots fan before 2000 and maybe I'll give you credit, but as far as I'm concerned you're just another spoiled fan who's never dealt with adversity or constant losing seasons. Even when you are a "loveable loser" like with the Red Sox before they won it all, you quickly made the entire world sick of your nonsense as soon as you got one. Ever heard of being humble? Being thankful that you had a chance to compete at all? The NFL works on cycles, you won't be on top forever, and someday you'll realize that it's not as easy as it's made to look up there in the Great White North.
And to correct you, Jacksonville lost in week one to the Titans, that game had the lowest TOP of the Jaguars all season, the game I was referencing was a 28-13 beat down, in which the Jaguars held the ball for 34 min, and ran for over 160 yards. Again, it's better to admit that you don't know what you're talking about rather than to make things up.
And since you're so held up over that holding call, I guess that means I can play the "revisionist history" game and cite a terrible overturned fumble against the Colts in week 13 that would have given the Jaguars the win. Not that I like dealing with stuff like that, but if it's OK to change history for you, then it's OK for me. Let's be frank, refs don't call holding in the playoffs. They let players play. Besides, the way you keep whining about that call makes me wonder if you'd have rather seen the Steelers again, maybe that'd make you even more confident? If that's possible.
Listen man, I too can read a stat line and try and draw conclusions, but your idea that the Jaguars arn't who we think they are (thanks Dennis Green) makes no sense. Maybe it's hard for you to imagine that a team can be more effective at something than the Patriots, but it happens. The football world does not revolve around Boston, despite your current success.
I've sad a dozen times how the Jaguars will stop the "Patriots Spread", and that's by doing what you say the never do on offense. But since It's impossible for me to get into your dense crystal light filled head of yours that the Jaguars are an efficient and effective offensive machine, and I certainly can't expect you to cram in a few dozen hours of film study, I'm just going to resort to calling you an ignorant overweight homer who can't see reality or accept anything other than sycophantry out of your sports media.
Who would have thought that the City where Democracy in America was born would reject free speech and different opinions. Who would have thought that the Legacy of Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party would be washed away with bombastic journalists and blind loyalists. New England Un-Patriots, more like it.
Un-Patriots. Did you borrow that from your Morning Zoo Crew radio show, or did you come up with that on your own? Either way, it's retarded.
Unlike 60% of the fanbase here, yes, I was a Patriots fan prior to 2000. I remember cheering on Hugh Millen and Scott Secules through 1-15 years, I remember Steve Grogan playing in a neck brace, I remember drafting Asian offensive lineman Eugene "Wang" Chung, and I even remember when John Stephens was our team's savior at running back. I wore a Stanley Morgan jersey to kindergarten so often that my teacher asked my mother if I owned any other piece of clothing. I've done the "loveable loser" years and high draft-pick years, so I think I as a Boston fan have earned the right to enjoy the view from the penthouse for a while. Besides, if you can name me another city that's three major sports teams went 52-4 over a three-month stretch, I'll buy you some Sam Adams.
And besides, you CAN NOT really talk about team history when your team wasn't even around when Kurt Cobain was alive. Kids who were born when the Jags started aren't even in high school yet. The Jags weren't around for any season of "The Cosby Show." When the Jags started, Guns N' Roses was still recording "Chinese Democracy." Your history dates all the way back to who, Mark Brunell? He's still in the league! Good thing you have all those other pro sports teams...oh that's right, no other league is crazy enough to put a team in Jacksonville. Maybe it's because you can't even sell out an NFL stadium for eight dates a year. For Chrissakes, Jags football in Lower Alabama is the sixth-favorite sport behind NASCAR, NASCAR, college football, NASCAR and NASCAR. Maybe if the Jags made a bunch of left turns, people would care.
But enough about why my city is Major League and yours is Minor League. The fact that you really think the Jags could win this game is just utterly laughable, I can't stress it enough. You can talk all you want about "ooh, we beat the Titans!" and "we sure came pretty close against those mean ol' Colts!" but the Patriots went 16-0. Sixteen wins. No losses. No "almosts" or "only ifs" or "buts" - undefeated. Nobody stopped them. They set records in important categories like "scoring" "touchdown passes" and "wins." The Jags, however, may have set a record for "lowest attendance for a winning team" or "most games started by a man with the first name of Quinn." The Jags may be efficient, but the Patriots are extraordinary.
And while you keep telling me that the Jags are going to stop the Pats offense, you've provided me very little strategy as to how this will happen. Who's matching up with Welker? How do you plan on covering Moss? Who's going to rush the passer? You use your schyster car salesman tactics to talk a big game, but show me some actual facts here.
Speaking of facts, here are two more:
Records Against playoff teams:
Jags: 4-3, 0.42 point average margin of victory
Patriots: 6-0, 19.5 point average margin of victory
QBs in the playoffs:
Garrard in the playoffs: 2 games, 1 TD, 2 INT, 49.2 passer rating
Brady in the playoffs: 12-2 record, 20 TD, 9 INT, 86.2 passer rating
You mean to say that I'm talking to an honest to god dyed in the wool legitimate Patriots Fan? I'm simply stunned. You know, I really felt like you guys did something good in 2001, showing that Rams team that they were fake. I really dug Tom Brady when he was the Anti-Manning, doing his thing with no-name receivers and just winning games. But something happened that just burnt me out on the whole nasty affair. I mean, it's fucking crazy, there's little more in the NFL that I loathe than the Indianapolis Colts, but I even find myself rooting for them to win, just so they can kick your ass in the Championship Game, were my Jaguars to fall short. Somehow Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, ESPN, and the New England Fan Base has so damaged my ability to enjoy football that I'm rooting for the Colts.
Yes, it's completely legitimate to attack a team cause they're young. By your logic, you can only criticize teams that are younger than 1959, so if you play the Colts next week, remember you're just a young team compared to them (1953, to be specific). But no way am I going to let you get away with throwing pop culture in my face. Let's look at the list of terrible things to come out of Boston.
- The British
- Mitt Romney
- Fever Pitch
- Bill Simmons
- Boston, the Band
- Witch Hunts
- That Accent
I've told you in each of these emails how the Jaguars will stop the Patriots offense, but you're too dense to get it. The Jaguars can only hope to stop the Pats offense by keeping them off the field, like I've said. But if you want to get into specifics, I think that Paul Spicer, Grady Jackson, John Henderson, and Rob Meier will have to have HUGE days on the D-line in attacking the Patriots offensive line up the middle. The underneath routes to Wes Welker are a lot less effective if you can collapse the pocket up the middle. Tom Brady, despite his superior quarterbacking skills, is still human, and still can be pressured to make a mistake. Attacking the middle of the offensive line and collapsing it there can make Tommy boy have a long day. If nothing else, the quarterback must go down and he must go down hard.
Facts: Three of the Jaguars "playoff team" losses were teams in its own division. When was the last time the Patriots faced two other playoff teams in the oh so difficult AFC East. 6 of your 16 wins were gimmies. If you're wanting to wave your "we've been in more playoff games" dick , go for it, cause I've never challenged the idea that the Patriots weren't more experienced.
"Waaaah, my city has no culture or identity of its own, waaah." And the "I'm so sick of Boston winning everything" is getting old as well - jealousy is a pungent scent.
When your city produces something other than Skynyrd, lemme know. And for the record, Mitt's not one of ours, and Boston was kind of a great band, whose drummer ran a used record store in my town that always smelled like pot and never opened before noon.
Anyways, We can continue this squabbling but it's time to put up. 38-10 Pats, and it won't even be that close. Your prediction?
Fine, surrender, typical yankee behavior. Jags win 24-21, and it's damn close.
So there you go, a banter filled way to set the stage. If you read this whole thing, damn!