Jaguars Bring Their Tough Defense North
By Site Staff - Scout.com
New England and Jacksonville have well-deserved reputations as two of the more physical teams in the NFL. When they collide on the cold turf Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, the team that can take its physicality to the next level could be the team moving on in the AFC playoffs. It's a fight the Patriots plan to be ready for.
Over the last month-plus, not including Sunday's season finale - a loss to Miami in which few regulars saw more than a quarter of action - the Patriots' defensive front has been as dominant as any in football. In fact, over the second half of 2005, New England's run defense went from the bottom five in league rankings to the top five. With Jacksonville always looking to get the rushing game going with Fred Taylor and Greg Jones, the Patriots front has to be ready for a trench war.
"We know they are a physical team. We know they are going to come to play," linebacker Willie McGinest said. "We know they won 12 games. They play the game for 60 minutes."
"We can't do anything now but watch film and prepare," nose tackle Vince Wilfork added. "We wouldn't be playing them if they weren't a good team. It is what it is. Nobody is going to bow down to us and we're not going to bow down to anybody."
But Jacksonville, anchored by a dominating defensive tackle duo of Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, brings its own physical front to the game. That means the Patriots' makeshift offensive line, which includes just two opening-day starters, will have to be at its best to protect Tom Brady and try to establish the ever-important ground game.
The matchup has the makings on both sides of the ball of a knock-down, drag-out battle that could leave a survivor more than a true winner, a team that will have to go on and face either Denver or Indianapolis on the road in the next round of the postseason.
"We finished the season strong, but that really has no bearing on the postseason at this point. So it's a one-game season," defensive end Richard Seymour said. "We understand that and it's going to be exciting. This is the reason you play football, to be in the postseason and to play some of the elite teams. This is what it is all about, the Lombardi Trophy. That's what we are chasing, no doubt about that. But it starts Saturday and we're going to be ready to play."