A tremendous AFC Championship Game is in the books and again, the New England Patriots demonstrated that short of a nuke or silver bullet to the heart, you can’t kill them.
Tom Brady engineered yet another fourth quarter comeback hitting Danny Amendola on a laser in the back of the end zone with just under three minutes to play for a 24-20 win.
The upstart Jaguars played very well, led for the entire game after their first TD in the first quarter made it 7-3. And, they have a tremendously bright future.
It’s also a record eighth time and counting, that Brady and coach Bill Belichick will play for a Super Bowl win in two weeks.
A bunch of great story lines.
So why, is everyone on the internet and social media, obsessed with the officiating, when it wasn’t really a factor, at all, much less, in a dramatic second half?
In fact, the only penalty called on either team was a pass interference on Jalen Ramsey of Jacksonville with 6:21 remaining against Brandin Cooks of the Patriots. And, the replays clearly showed it was the right call on Ramsey hitting and grabbing Cooks before the ball got there.
Oh, and the Jags defense, still leading 20-17 at that point, stuffed New England on the next three plays and forced a punt.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative about the refs being in Robert Kraft’s pocket!
In fact, there was a properly officiated and replay reviewed strip fumble that went the Jaguars way. That was LB Myles Jack getting the ball out on Dion Lewis after he had made a catch.
They got it right and it was in the Jaguars favor.
Another point: there were only seven total penalties in the game.
Not 10, 12, much less more.
It was a mostly clean game. Period.
And while some are pointing to the second quarter, where A.J. Bouye was also flagged for P.I. on Cooks setting up the Pats first TD, that looked fairly obvious and correct, too.
Cooks is the Patriots best deep threat and Bouye was clearly using his body to impede him from getting to a ball that landed in bounds at the five yard line.
Earlier in the half, the Jags had two obvious false starts and Blake Bortles clearly did not get the snap off on a key third down before the play clock read 0 and deserved a delay of game.
What’s the beef there?
Now, if your argument is that the Patriots should have been called for more flags, then we need specifics.
It is worth noting and in the favor of the conspiracy crew, that New England became the first playoff team since, …. New England in 2011, to have a playoff game with only one penalty.
Still you have to have proof.
We come down on the side that you have to make your own breaks and luck.
The Patriots did that. The officials did not do it for them.
That’s why they are back in the Super Bowl, again.
Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue hinting he’s gone again?
One of the key free-agent questions for the Jaguars continues to be whether or not they’re going to allow their best pass rusher, Yannick Ngakoue, to test the free-agent market coming up? And, once again, the player may be giving a clue that he’s going to do just that.
Ngakoue tweeted Wednesday morning the following phrase, which seems to indicate, yet again, that he will be playing somewhere else in 2020:
— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) February 26, 2020
This goes along with something that we wrote earlier in January. That’s when just a couple of days after the season Ngakoue posted essentially a goodbye message to Jaguar fans. This came on the heels of him having held out for a new contract for the first few days of training camp last August, but not receiving a new deal during the season, etc.
Ngakoue, whose 37.5 career sacks are the most by a Jaguars player after 63 career games, is sure to be a sought-after player from many different teams. GM Dave Caldwell said at the end of the season when asked about re-sgning his star pass rusher, “He is a tremendous player and even a better person. How he handled his business this year was tremendous. But, I would say that’s priority No. 1, to make sure he comes back to Jacksonville. Hopefully, we can get that done. ″
It’s also worth noting that at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine at media availability in Indianapolis, coach Doug Marrone repeated that he wants Ngakoue to remain in Jaguars teal and white:
Doug Marrone: ‘’No doubt where I stand or the coaches.”
—They want Yannick Ngakoue back. pic.twitter.com/vOorH4hH95
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 26, 2020
However, it remains to be seen if Marrone and Caldwell are willing to “pony up” huge money for him or even potentially, put the franchise tag on him before free agency begins next month?
Ngakoue figures to want a contract close to what the top ends are getting paid right now. Demarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark both signed five-year, over $100 million deals in 2019 and received guaranteed money that exceeded $62 million. That is massive for Jacksonville.
If the Jags opt for the “franchise tag,” then the talented end will be making around $19 million dollars, which is the current average of the top five players at his position. The Jaguars could also put the tag on him and then work on a longer term, salary cap friendly, deal that would replace the tag later in the off season.
Jaguars confirm they are declining option on DT Dareus
At Tuesday’s media session at the NFL Scouting Combine, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell made official what had been rumored for the last couple of days regarding defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: he will not be brought back for a fourth season in Jacksonville.
Caldwell confirmed the Jaguars are not picking up DT Marcell Dareus' option.
— John Reid (@JohnReid64) February 25, 2020
Dareus only played briefly in 2019, as he suffered a core muscle injury that sidelined him after only six games and he was placed on injured reserve. The former number one pick of the Buffalo Bills had played for coach Doug Marrone for a couple of seasons in Western New York.
Marrone and Caldwell traded for Dareus during the 2017 season and he helped them with their rise to the AFC South title and two playoff wins. This included Darius registering two sacks and four other tackles-for-loss in the Jaguars three playoff games that year.
Dareus made the Pro Bowl twice in Buffalo in 2013-14.
However, he has not lived up to his hefty contract that was reworked Jacksonville last February. Last season, Dareus made over $8 million dollars and the team would have been on the hook for $20 million this year had they picked up the option. That obviously wasn’t going to happen.
Dareus also has had legal troubles off the field, including a civil suit against him in Tampa for alleged sexual misconduct. As we wrote previously, a woman alleged that Dareus had sexually assaulted her in January of 2018 at a North Tampa Florida home, while Dareus was in town for the Alabama-Clemson College Football Playoff Championship Game.
However, that suit filed in Hillsborough County court was “dismissed with prejudice” last April, which means it cannot be re-filed.
Dareus, if healthy after the core muscle injury rehab, may have some value as a defensive tackle on the free agent market.
As for the Jaguars, they have former #1 pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan to play more in the middle and are trying to decide if free agent-to-be, DE Yannick Ngakoue, can be afforded for their 2020 salary cap?