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The Jacksonville Jaguars Lost to the Referees, Not the Patriots

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                    Raymond Strawn III

     The New England Patriots had another comeback victory, winning 24-20 against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the American Football Conference Championship game. But did the Patriots have help from the referees? There was a discrepancy among penalties between the teams. Throughout the game, the Patriots had just one, and the Jaguars had six. The Jaguars had the same amount of first downs as the Patriots, but the Patriots had three first downs from penalties, while the Jaguars had none.

    The Jaguars won the time of possession and turnover battle and had a higher third-down conversion and red-zone percentage. The Jaguars rushed for twice as many yards (101) as the Patriots (46) and the Jaguars’ yards per pass were almost identical (7.0) to the Patriots (7.1). The game stats alone may have suggested the Jaguars were robbed by the refs.

   I watched the game and noticed some inconsistencies among the officiating. I disagreed with the helmet-to-helmet flag against Jaguars safety Barry Church on Rob Gronkowski in the second quarter. Yes, Gronkowski left the game and never returned with a concussion, but Gronkowski jumped to make a catch, and at 6’6,” it was hard to avoid not hitting Gronkowski in the helmet from that angle. But I understood why the flag was thrown and precedent was set for that game.

   However, in the third quarter, Patriots receiver Danny Amendola wasn’t penalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson after the play was over. Jaguars Cornerback A.J. Bouye said, “I was pissed because I seen Amendola head-butt the hell out of Gip in front of the ref, and you all don’t call nothing?” There was no consistency among the rule for helmet-to-helmet hits, favoring the Patriots.

   The next play after the flag on Gronkowski was another questionable call against the Jaguars, a defensive pass interference against Bouye. This 32-yard penalty helped set up the Patriots to score a touchdown before halftime, the only touchdown the Patriots were able to score during the first half. With the defensive pass interference against Bouye, the refs set a certain standard for the cornerbacks; however, there was a double standard. There were a few passes from the Jaguars that were similar to the plays they were flagged for, but there was no flag in sight. The biggest was on a fourth-down play late in the game. Bouye also stated that he wanted to see a flag thrown on that fourth-down play against Patriots cornerback Stephen Gilmore. I agree.

   A questionable delay of a game penalty cost the Jaguars a first down, and a missed holding call on the third-down and nine run with 1:30 left in the fourth quarter ended any possibilities for the Jaguars to come back. During replay of that running play, there was a holding call on the edge of the run that allowed Dion Lewis to break free for an 18-yard run, which was the longest run the      Patriots had all game. It could be said that the only reason Lewis was able to break free for the longest run in the game was because of that missed holding penalty. The Patriots were called for the fewest penalties in a playoff game since 2011, where the Patriots were once again called for one penalty against the Ravens.

   It could be possible that the refs were letting the Patriots “play it on the field.” We all know the dominance and dynasty the Patriots have had for over a decade. The refs know this too. Maybe the refs were afraid of interfering with that greatness. Maybe the refs didn’t want to impact the game by throwing the flag against the Patriots on any questionable calls. Instead, the refs impacted the game by not throwing the flag against the Patriots on those penalties, costing the Jaguars the game.

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