Today on Season Ticket, Chris Gasper (@cgasper) goes behind enemy lines and talks to Jaguars reporter Gene Frenette ahead of the AFC Championship game. The two break down what the Jags need to do to win in Foxboro, their formidable defense, and how Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick's history might impact this game.
- Gene Frenette (@GeneFrenette), Sports Columnist, The Florida Times-Union
On the Jaguars defense
Gene Frenette: The Jaguars are going to have confidence regardless of who it is they play — that’s just the way that group is ... I’m willing to bet Belichick is a lot more concerned about this defense than any other defense he’s played this year because it’s got the two things that Belichick loves: speed and flexibility.
Chris Gasper: They have some of the components you need to be able to bother Tom Brady: the ability to get pressure just with that front four and then a very good secondary behind that front four. And also: speed at the linebacker position. So, I actually think that the Jaguars match up better [with the Patriots] defensively than most teams.
Gene Frenette: It’s funny you say that because last week — and I won’t name the Jaguar that told me this — but he said going into the Steelers game, he thought the Steelers would be a tougher matchup overall than the Patriots, which I thought was an interesting comment to make. But I’m sure a lot of that was tied to the fact that he didn’t think the Patriots offense, as strange as this sounds, would be as problematic for this particular defense as the Steelers.
"I do believe this game is going to come down to the wire. I think Patriots fans are going to be nervous in the fourth quarter."Gene Frenette
On Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles
Chris Gasper: If the Patriots say to Blake Bortles, "You have to beat us and you’re going to have to string four to five drives that are seven, eight, nine plays [long], and you have to be accurate and throw the ball into tight windows repeatedly," is he capable of doing that from what you’ve seen this year?
Gene Frenette: He’s capable but I don’t know if he’s capable for 60 minutes. Blake can be very up and down. He can have his moments where he’s going to frustrate defenses because he's athletic enough to make a good play and he’s certainly athletic enough and mobile enough to extend a play and run 10-13 yards on a third and eight — he’s masterful at doing that ... The number one priority is ball security — you’re not going to beat the Patriots if you make more than one turnover in the game, that’s my feeling. If you have multiple turnovers against the Patriots, you’re dead.
On the effect Jaguars executive vice president of football operations, Tom Coughlin, has had on the Jaguars this year
Gene Frenette: From the very first day that he was hired on January 12th of last year, he set the tone that this is going to be about winning. When [former head coach] Gus Bradley was here, it was so much about the process and about just trying to get players going through this whole process of getting to where they could win, but he never really talked about winning. Tom, from the moment he came into the building, was asked a question about that in his opening press conference: “Is there going to be a bigger emphasis on winning?” I’m paraphrasing there, and [Coughlin] goes, “Well, what else is this going to be about if it’s not about winning?” He sets the tone in that building. Doug Marrone is the coach — Tom Coughlin is not micromanaging Doug Marrone. He lets him coach, he lets him do his job, game-planning and all that stuff. But behind the scenes, Tom Coughlin is a force in that building and I think it’s made a huge difference with these Jaguars players.
"If you have multiple turnovers against the Patriots, you’re dead."Gene Frenette
On Tom Coughlin's history with Bill Belichick
Chris Gasper: A lot of Patriots fans here have pigskin PTSD when it comes to Coughlin because of the two Super Bowl [losses] — Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI — and his ability to go and beat the Patriots and Bill Belichick. He and Belichick were assistants together on Bill Parcells' staff with the Giants, so Coughlin is not someone who looks at Belichick as this coaching God — there’s no aura there. Is that something that you think helps the Jaguars? You said he sets the tone in the building, and if the tone is coming from Coughlin then I would not expect Jacksonville to come in here like some other teams who are just chasing ghosts from the minute they step into Gillette Stadium.
Gene Frenette: Let’s just look at the five games that Coughlin and Belichick had when Bill was with the Patriots and Tom was with the Giants. All five games — and Coughlin is 3-2 in those games — the winning coach was trailing in the fourth quarter. Those games were decided by three, three, four, four and one.
Chris Gasper: Coughlin sees Belichick not as one of the greatest coaches of all time, but as a peer and he’s able to sort of humanize him to a point where that intimidation factor, which I think is such a big part of the Patriots success, particularly at Gillette, sort of goes away.
Prediction on the game
Gene Frenette: This is one of the few games where I settled on a score and I went back and forth on which team I thought was gonna put up what score. I really like the score 20-17 and, trust me, I have really gone back and forth in my mind who I wanted to put at 20 ... The only reason I didn’t pick the Jaguars to win is because I’ve never seen Blake Bortles down three or four with three or four minutes to go, make the game-winning drive ... It’ll be interesting and I do believe this game is going to come down to the wire. I think Patriots fans are going to be nervous in the fourth quarter.