Last week the Jacksonville Jaguars survived after blowing an 18-point fourth quarter lead only to rally to beat the Steelers 31-29 in Pittsburgh. This week will be even tougher, as the Jags head to Foxboro to take on the undefeated New England Patriots in a prime-time 8pm game on Saturday night. Do the Jags have that 1996 magic again? That was the year they were heavy underdogs and upset the Denver Broncos in Mile High in a divisional matchup. If they do, here will be five keys that they need in order to get the job done.
1. Do what you do best: Run the ball – Jacksonville got to this point with a pounding running attack that puts up 149.4 yards a game, second best in the league. The Jags are strong running inside, and one thing they can do is wear down the aging linebacking core of the Pats. 5-foot-7 Maurice Jones-Drew is great at getting through the first wave of defense, and with Fred Taylor hitting it on the outside, there is no question the Jags can and must run on the Pats to make this upset come true.
2. You Cannot Turn the Ball Over – The Pats are good in the pass defense, and love to make jumps on the ball and get quick INT’s. Last week David Garrard, who threw just three picks in the regular season, let two throws get away, and the Steelers picked them off and turned both into points. The Jags have to make the Pats work for every point they get, and by giving them short fields it could kill the Jags in the end.
3. Stop the Pats Run Game with Your Front Seven – This is key since the Pats run so much spread, the Jags can’t allow the Pats run game to get off, and even more important will be to do it without having to throw another defender in the box. The Pats can surprise you with their run game, and if they can get a jump start on that, the Jags are going to be in trouble when Brady takes his shots down the field.
4. Mix Up the Coverages – Jacksonville will do it’s best with what it has in their shaky secondary, and can do that with throwing in some Cover 2, man-to-man, and zone coverage at Brady to make him at least take a little more time in deciding where to throw. Hopefully if they can do that, the talented front four of the Jags can apply some pressure. If Brady gets settled in the pocket, look out, as the Pats can simply pick you apart, which they have done numerous times over the season.
5. Keep the Score and Possessions at a Minimum – The Jags average 25.7 points per game, and in their wins have averaged 29 points. If they want to win this game, they are going to need at least 24-27 points, and will need to keep the ball away from Brady as much as possible. While the running game should be able to do that, they have to be creative and avoid a lot of 3-and-outs, or the Pats will humble them quickly. A 27-21, 29-28 game is the type of score they want to see. They will fall if the score is in the 30’s or worse.