By MARK LONG
The Associated Press
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tashaun Gipson remembers his first game against Tom Brady five years ago as vividly as his last one eight months ago.
They had similar endings.
Brady threw two touchdown passes in the final 61 seconds to stun Gipson and the Cleveland Browns in 2013. The three-time league MVP tossed two scores in the final 9 minutes to defeat Gipson and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game in January.
“There’s just nothing you can do when you’re playing a guy like that,” said Gipson, a free safety.
The Jaguars understand that as well as anybody. They are the only AFC team that has never beaten the New England Patriots with Brady under center. Their 0-8 record includes a few tight games, several lopsided losses and, most recently, a come-from-behind gut punch that kept Jacksonville from the Super Bowl. Now, the Jags believe they are overdue for a victory against one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks.
Their next opportunity comes today against the Patriots (1-0), a rematch of the conference title game.
And there’s no doubt the Jaguars (1-0) have had it circled on the calendar for some time.
“Jacksonville has never beaten him?” Gipson said.
Nope. Winless in eight tries.
“So, 1 of 9,” he said, predicting a victory. “I like it.”
Jacksonville has stewed since its last loss to New England, lamenting missed opportunities to put the Patriots away and what they insist was a bad call on linebacker Myles Jack’s forced fumble and recovery.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve been thinking about last year’s results,” Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye said. “We definitely want to win against them here.”
“We can use that [loss] as motivation, but we can’t get that back. It’s a new year. That’s how it is every year. Whatever happened in the past, you forget about it. Those that hold onto it, they stay complacent or they get ahead of themselves because they’re comparing to what happened last year. We can’t do that.”
Still, there have plenty of reminders this week.
Coach Doug Marrone has played Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” during practice; the song is a staple at Patriots home games. The Jaguars also have the Super Bowl playing repeatedly in the locker room.
Although players understand it’s Week 2 and there’s little at stake, they also know what knocking off the defending AFC champs could do for a young team moving forward.
“It would definitely show that we’ve grown and we’ve gotten that little monkey off our back,” Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson said. “I think the outside world would really see us graduating to that next stage. But we’ve still got 14 games to play. This isn’t an end-all, be-all, but it is a meaningful game.”
For the Pats, it doesn’t seem to mean quite as much.
“It’s going to be an emotional environment,” Brady said. “I think everyone, whenever you play some of the best teams, you want to see where you’re measured up to, and that defense has been ranked very high all last year, and I could see why. … They’ve got a lot of very talented players, some of the guys that are probably the best at their position.
“It should be a really great game for us to go out and see what we’re made of.”
Here are some other things to know about the Patriots and Jaguars:
Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette expects to be a “game-time decision” because of a strained right hamstring. Fournette missed practice Wednesday and Thursday because of the injury sustained in the opener.
SPECIAL TEAMS FOCUS
The Patriots, usually stout on special teams, struggled in the opener. They allowed 156 yards on kickoffs, a number way higher than special teams coach Joe Judge wants to see.
“This time of year, a lot of times it’s working different combinations of players and getting guys in the right position to make plays next to one another,” Judge said.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said there would be an extra emphasis on ball security in preparation for the Jaguars, who have scored an NFL-high nine defensive touchdowns since the start of last season.
The Patriots had three fumbles (two lost) in their opener, and Gronkowski was responsible for one of them.
“I think they get a turnover one out of every five possessions they average. That statistic right there is unbelievable,” Gronkowski said. “It just shows how good of a defense they are, and you can’t just go out there and just jog around. … When you have the ball, you’ve got to protect it and get up the field.”