JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jalen Ramsey had more to say about the Patriots before he beat them than he did after.
Gucci jacket draped around his shoulders, matching chains laying flat across his bare chest, Jacksonville’s loud and proud corner was relatively quiet after his team’s 31-20 win against the Patriots, casually insistent that this game carried no extra significance because of last season’s AFC Championship game.
“If you want to write that you can, but it’s a new year,” Ramsey said. “We’ve gotten past that.”
The Jaguars talk a lot of trash. They say they don’t care what anyone thinks of them, that only they know how good they really are. The first part of that probably isn’t true, but it was hard to argue with the second part of that on Sunday.
“We expected to win this,” said defensive end Dante Fowler, not long after his strip-sack of Tom Brady stamped out a potential Patriots comeback.
The Jaguars want you to believe two things: That they know they’re the best team in the AFC and that nobody else does.
Cornerback A.J. Bouye spent his morning watching NFL Network, taking issue with the predictions he saw made there.
“Steve Mariucci, is that his name?” Bouye asked. “He said something like, ‘Tom Brady had this completion percentage in the playoffs,’ and he said he would bring it today, that’s what he said to Dan Marino. I took a picture of it and sent it to the DBs. That got us fired up, so make sure you ask him how that went.”
Here is how it went: Brady was 24 for 35 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. Blake Bortles was 29 for 45 with 377 yards and four touchdowns. Technically, Brady won the completion percentage battle, but Bortles won the war.
“I believe we won all three phases of the game,” Bouye said. “You don’t say that against New England, but I believe we won defense, offense, and special teams.”
He added: “We knew we were better.”
The Jaguars insisted that the win wasn’t about avenging the AFC Championship game loss, but the game did start to resemble that January contest at one point. The Jaguars had a 24-3 lead midway through the third quarter when the Patriots started coming back. This time, though, Jacksonville steadied itself. The Jaguars didn’t repeat the mistakes of the past and stayed aggressive. Bortles was still throwing deep with less than four minutes to go and an 11-point lead when he hit tight end Niles Paul for 22 yards on second and 16.
“That’s how we want to win, and that’s what we kept saying,” center Brandon Linder said. “Don’t take your foot off their throat, man. That’s what we kept saying, and we did that.”
Late in the game, the Patriots would have gotten the ball back and been able to take another shot if they could have stopped the Jaguars on third down. Instead, on third and 8 Bortles scrambled 10 yards and gave his offense a fresh set of downs, enabling Jacksonville to run out the clock.
Linder said that he expected that kind of game from Bortles, and that he had nothing to say to anyone who felt differently about the often-critiqued passer.
“I don’t think we’ve got to say anything,” Linder said. “He just did it.”
It was a hard point to argue. The Jaguars tried their best to talk just about themselves, their 2-0 selves, after the win.
Ramsey, who has something to say about every player in the league, was suddenly interested in talking only about his teammates. He’d nearly finished talking with reporters after the game when he called everyone back, realizing he’d forgotten to give out kudos to all his teammates.
“Tashaun Gipson, he balled today,” Ramsey said. “Every time it came his way he balled, did his thing. Barry Church did his thing. Keelan Cole. Shoutout Dede Westbrook, shoutout Boat [Bortles], shoutout to ASJ [Austin Seferian-Jenkins], he got his first touchdown. Shoutout to Corey Grant, he balled out there, sealed the game for us on that last drive.”
Ramsey paused, considering who to compliment next. Then he grinned.
“Myles Jack wasn’t down,” he said.
OK, so maybe he had a little bit to say about the AFC Championship game.
The Jaguars talk so much that sometimes it comes out of both sides of their mouths. It’s hard to take it seriously that someone doesn’t care what you think of them when they are constantly reminding you that they don’t care what you think of them.
But when the players said they expected to beat the Patriots on Sunday, suddenly it didn’t sound so much like trash talk. It sounded like they were right.