JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One is a four-time Super Bowl winner. The other has been ridiculed by opposing players and fans alike.
Most would not put Tom Brady and Blake Bortles in the same category, but Sunday, they'll be competing for the same prize: a trip to the Super Bowl.
The challenges presented to both Brady and Bortles by the opposite defenses are very different.
Bortles will face a defense ranked 29th in the league in yards per game allowed. Only three teams gave up more yardage than the Patriots. Despite that, New England surrendered only 18.5 points per game, fifth best in the league.
"It's like the bend-but-don't-break cliche," Bortles said. "It's a great trait to have--if you give up yards and your back is against the wall, to prevent guys from getting in the end zone."
The Jaguars have been particularly effective in the red zone this year. Bortles has not thrown a red zone interception, and none of the Jaguars have fumbled away a ball inside the opponent's 20-yard-line. It will be important for that trend to continue if Jacksonville is to pull the upset over the defending Super Bowl champions.
"It's something we've been good at all year long (which) is getting in there and getting six points," Bortles said. "It's going to be a good challenge. It's going to be a battle."
The Jaguars defense, on the other hand, spent the entire year among the league leaders, finishing second in both yards per game allowed and scoring defense. They had some success against a former Super Bowl champion, Ben Roethlisberger, against whom they intercepted five passes in October, only to see Big Ben respond with five touchdown passes in last week's Jaguars victory in Pittsburgh in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Jaguars will have to do better than allowing five touchdowns to Tom Brady if they want to win.
"He is the best quarterback to ever play the game," said Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell of Brady. "The reason why he is (the best) is because he prepares. He knows everything you want to do. He can literally call it out as soon as you call a play and line up; he knows exactly where you want to go because he knows what you are in. I have only beat him one time. To do that you have to disguise your defense and put pressure on him up front.”
In the red zone, the Patriots biggest threat, both literally and figuratively, is tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught passes for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns this year.
"It's a big challenge," Gronkowski said. "(The Jaguars) have very talented players, Especially on defense, it will be the best team we're facing all year. We gotta be ready. We gotta be prepared."
If history is any indicator, the Patriots will be prepared. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is renowned as one of the game's best tacticians and the Patriots know how to attack top defenses. One team to look back on is the 2015 Denver Broncos, who beat the Patriots en route to a Super Bowl championship. One Jaguars defensive star, Malik Jackson, was on that team.
"Malik is definitely a guy I have talked to the last couple of days in getting a feel how he was successful at beating him," Campbell said. "They (Denver Broncos) did a really good job in 2015, him in particular did an incredible job, so hopefully we can use some of that knowledge to win that game."
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