New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is aware of the Jacksonville Jaguars' athletic defensive unit and has already begun preparing his offense for a new challenge with a NFL Super Bowl berth on the line.
Defending champions the Patriots rolled past the Tennessee Titans last week, earning a spot in the AFC championship round, but their next opponent is a bit of a surprise.
Many believed New England would host the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, but Jacksonville pulled off a shocking upset. The Jaguars' young defense forced turnovers at key moments, as they have done all season.
"We're kind of working our way through it here. We're not where we're going to be on Wednesday," Belichick said Monday during a media conference call. "We have a lot of work to do. We haven't seen them in quite a while, but obviously, they're well coached.
"They have a lot of good players. We saw that from training camp. They've been in two close games and they've made a lot of critical plays in critical situations. They've made the plays they've had to make, and that's what you have to do at this time of year."
Despite the Jaguars' inexperience in the playoffs, Belichick marvelled at how organised and mature they looked against the Steelers.
"Very impressive," Belichick said of the Jaguars win. "They did a great job. They do a lot of things well, play good defense, can rush the passer, can stop the run, turn the ball over, can run the ball, have a lot of explosive players in the passing game, they're good in the kicking game, they're very aggressive in the kicking game. They're well coached.
"I know that, for sure. They've handled the situations that have come up in those games very well — fourth-and-one in the first quarter, things like that. They've really done a good job, so yeah, it's impressive."
Jacksonville utilises a blend of power and speed on their defense, something Belichick noticed. He singled out a few players who have caught his eye.
"They have some fast players. Some big players, too, like Marcell Dareus, Malik Jackson and guys like that," Belichick said. "I mean, they've got a lot of good football players. They bring a lot of problems. They bring speed, size, power, instincts, athleticism. [Jalen] Ramsey — I mean, he's a big corner now. They've got a lot of good football players that have a lot of skill."
The Patriots are trying to defend their Super Bowl title, but will first have to execute their way past a tricky Jaguars squad on Sunday, playing some of their best football on both sides of the ball.
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