AFC Championship Game: How to Beat the Patriots

Michael McMasterContributor IIIApril 6, 2017

The offense really wasn’t the problem for the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend.

Running the ball looked easy, and when their 240-pound quarterback needed to make plays, he used his surprising speed and his cannon for an arm to convert first downs and scamper into the end zone.

David Garrard was everything the Jaguars could have asked him to be. Jacksonville’s receivers played as well as they have all year, and Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew did exactly what they were asked to, controlling the clock and running the ball effectively.

The undefeated Patriots have had three close calls this year, but their playoff game against the Jaguars was not one of them.

Offensively, the Jaguars did everything they needed to do. They made their possessions long, and they made the most of their scoring opportunities.

But with the game plan that head coach Jack Del Rio and defensive coordinator Mike Smith put together, the Jaguars never had a chance.

Granted, game planning to defend one of the most prolific offenses in the history of the NFL is a daunting task, but in the three games where the Patriots were nearly beaten this year, there was one thing in common: The defensive line put pressure on Tom Brady to throw the football.

On their first defensive play of the game, Jacksonville’s defensive tackle John Henderson ripped Brady down to the turf, and already up 7-0, it seemed that the Jaguars might have unlocked the secret to beating the Patriots. But as the game wore on, the Jaguars ignored their early success and did not pressure Tom Brady.

Against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, the Jaguars only brought a three man rush. A three man rush against Tom Brady is practically an invitation to take a first down.

After the first play, Brady was never sacked again.

After taking the snap, Brady had time to look down field for the covered Randy Moss, smoke a cigarette, check his hair, pay his child support, and then finally check down to Wes Welker for a 10-yard gain.

The Jaguars defensive line tried desperately to get to Brady, but with no help, their chances were worse than a puppy going for a weekend stay with Mike Vick.

In order to beat the unbeaten, a lot of things need to happen. Brady needs to be pressured, the offense needs to put up points, and the challengers need to have luck on their side.

The Patriots are now two games away from perfection, and now that Peyton Manning is not standing in their way, they have to like their chances.

Unfortunately, if anyone is going to beat the Patriots, it’s not going to be the Chargers. In Sunday’s game against Indianapolis, the Chargers defense allowed Peyton Manning to throw the ball at will. Manning rifled the ball around the field for 402 yards and three touchdowns, and he was never sacked once. Although the Colt’s Pro Bowl quarterback did throw two interceptions, both were tipped passes that should have been caught.

The San Diego pass rush did not get to Manning, and it will not get to Brady.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the overconfident, cocky, and arrogant Philip Rivers will receive a rude awakening from a seasoned New England defense, posed for another Super Bowl victory.

As the final seconds ticked away from the game clock on Sunday and Rivers ran to the stands to taunt several Colts fans, all I could think was that I hoped he got hit by a bus on his way home from the stadium. But, I took solace in the fact that running into the New England defense is pretty much the same thing.

So when it comes right down to it, it is going to be up to the Packers or the Giants to tackle the machine in New England. Pay careful attention to the Giants and the Packers this Sunday, because this weekend, it’s the only game that matters.