The Jacksonville Jaguars are jonesing for a little trash talk heading into the AFC Championship Game. All they’re asking for is a little (dis)respect.
The Jaguars have found something that works for them. They like being the underdog. They love feeling like their opponent isn’t taking them seriously. They thrive when no one believes they’re capable. They’re all about a good slap in the face — metaphorically speaking.
It worked in the AFC divisional round when they beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jaguars stayed quiet while the Steelers took Jacksonville for granted. Weeks ago, Mike Tomlin suggested he expected to play the Patriots a second time in the playoffs. Then in the week leading up to the game, Steelers cornerback Mike Mitchell promised that the Steelers would beat the Patriots in the AFC championship. Le’Veon Bell tweeted that he expected to get a “round 2” against the Patriots on the morning before the Steelers’ game against the Jaguars.
Defensive tackle Malik Jackson got fired up about Bell’s tweet after the AFC divisional game Sunday, via ABC.
“Coach [Doug Marrone] told us about that this morning. It’s disrespectful. It’s stupid as [expletive], to be honest with you. You don’t give a team that came in here and smacked you in the mouth ammo to come out here and just be on you all day. We’re bullies. … They’re waiting for the teacher to come break everything up. We stood there, and we smacked them in the mouth. … Now look at them. They’re pissed that they called us out.”
Players were taking screen shots and sending Bell’s tweet to one another. It was classic pregame bulletin board material. It made sense that these trash-talk-junkies get pumped up over it.
So as the Jaguars turn the page, they were waiting for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to spit in their faces. They wanted Bill Belichick to post a GIF of a dumpster fire with the caption “Blake Bortles” on his SnapFace account. They wanted some kind of fuel. Here’s what they got from Brady on WEEI sports radio to kick off the week.
“This is the biggest challenge we’ve faced all year. We’ve had a good offense, they’ve had the best defense, and that’s always a challenge when you go up against those guys, and when you watch them play over the course of a whole season, you can see why. … I’d say certainly the best team we’ve faced all season, and if we don’t play our best, then we’re not gonna advance.”
Oh no he didn’t!?
Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith rushed to put that quote on the bulletin board. No, seriously. Smith read in between the lines, and found his truth.
Later in the week, Josh McDaniels said the Jaguars were “really, really, really talented” on defense. Rob Gronkowski said the Jaguars were going to be a “big, tough challenge.” Belichick called Bortles “the trigger man.”
Throw that up on the bulletin board, Telvin!
The Patriots aren’t playing into the Jaguars’ game — New England tends to kill their opponent with kindness. So the Jaguars, who could use a little disrespect right about now, manufactured some smack talk. That’s why Jacksonville knows that Brady, Belichick, Gronk and McDaniels are huddling in front of film laughing at the ineptitude of the Jaguars’ pass-rush — at the coverage woes of A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.
Those snooty, snotty New Englanders have no respect for what they’re doing in Jacksonville (according to Smith). The Jaguars are married to that reality, because that’s what works for them. They need Brady to be looking forward to the Super Bowl. They’ll believe anything to make it true. Contrived as it may be, they think that’s what gives them the best chance to win.
It worked last week. Do you, Jaguars, do you.