FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Before one of the greatest postseason performances ever by a quarterback, and a short time before Jacksonville would play maybe the bravest and smartest game in franchise history, Jaguars defensive lineman Paul Spicer had an idea. He decided to create a handmade sledgehammer.
|David Garrard and the Jaguars are left dejected, despite giving their best effort. (AP)|
The sledgehammer became a week-long symbol for the Jaguars leading up to their game against New England. The Jaguars were going to pound some damn heads.
Then came the best part of the story: Spicer brought his spanking-new sledgehammer onto the team charter flight here. There have been NFL players who brought guns and mistresses on team flights, but never a sledgehammer. How exactly do you pack a sledgehammer, anyway? Is that a carry-on?
In the minutes prior to the divisional game, which would end with New England going to 17-0, the entire Jaguars team made a motion like they were pounding a sledgehammer into the ground of Gillette Stadium. They were really buying into this.
The Jaguars would indeed knock the Patriots for a loop, seeing eye to eye with the best team in football, matching punch for punch, sledge for sledge, hammer for hammer (sorry), but in the end it was:
Patriots 1, Sledgehammer 0
AFC title game, here they come. Again.
The final score was 31-20 and the Patriots kept their bid to be perfect alive and well. Yet the score was incredibly deceptive.
"We went toe to toe for awhile with these guys," said Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio.
The two teams were tied at 14 at the half and with nine minutes remaining in the game, Jacksonville trailed just 28-20 despite the stunningly brilliant quarterback Tom Brady starting with 16 consecutive completions.
"Great physical game," said former Jaguars tight end Kyle Brady, now a Patriot. "They fought hard, we fought hard."
The sledgehammer is the perfect metaphor for what happened in this contest. It was an old-time, brutal slugfest with Jacksonville using a punishing running game, some smart coaching by Del Rio (he remains one of the unheralded bright leaders in the sport) and patient, long drives that kept New England's vaunted offense off the field and made the Patriots defense at times look aged and slow.