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Game that was: Stopping Gronk


JACKSONVILLE -- Senior writer John Oehser examines the game that was in the Jaguars' 31-20 victory over the New England Patriots at TIAA Bank Field Sunday …


Tashaun Gipson was disappointed he didn't make the Pro Bowl last season.

It's only Week 2, but the Jaguars' free safety turned in a Pro Bowl-level performance against a Hall-of-Fame level player Sunday.

Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski caught just two passes for 15 yards on Sunday, and it wasn't All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey matched up against "Gronk." 

Rather, it was Gipson.

"All week on TV, I saw people saying, 'Who's going to stop him?''' Gipson said with a smile. "I heard Jalen. I heard [middle linebacker] Myles Jack. Nobody ever mentioned me. It kind of hurt my feelings. [Former Jaguars running back and NFL Network Analyst] Maurice-Jones Drew hurt my feelings; he didn't even give me a chance to go at him."

Gipson, who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in the 2016 offseason, said defensive coordinator Todd Wash told him throughout the week he would be man on man on Gronkowski much of the game. 

Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith was asked to assess Gipson's performance on Gronkowski.

"What were his [Gronkowski's] stats?" Smith said. "Ain't nobody talking about them, so I guess he [Gipson] went crazy. That's what you've got to do. We knew their offense ran through 12 [Patriots quarterback Tom Brady], 87 [Gronkowski] and 28 [running back James White].

"We knew if we forced them to get the ball to other guys we'd have something."

Gipson said the key was getting his hands on Gronkowski early in routes and being physical.

"A lot of people know we have lockdown corners, but a lot of people don't know that since last year I've been going on tight ends," Gipson said. "I think I've been having a lot of success, so I was excited about this matchup. I was sad he [Brady] didn't throw [at Gronkowski] as much, but I can't complain: zero catches.

"You hold a guy like that to zero catches – a Hall of Fame guy – that's truly a confidence booster. We have some good tight ends this year. You start looking and say, 'If I can do this to Gronk it's hard to see why I shouldn't have success against other tight ends?'"


Defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. made a mammoth play in his first game of the season. Fowler, who was suspended in Week 1 for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, sacked Brady on 3rd-and-9 from the Jaguars 24 with the Jaguars leading 24-13 in the fourth quarter. Fowler fell on the fumble. While the Jaguars didn't score on the ensuing possession, they punted the Patriots to their nine-yard line – and Fowler's takeaway prevented a Patriots field-goal opportunity that could have made it a one-score game. "We came in at halftime and we said that we need to make a play, we need to get a takeaway," Fowler said. "I told myself that I would put it upon myself that I'd do it for my team and I was able to make that happen."


Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole caught seven passes for 111 yards Sunday, but one that stood out was a one-handed reception for 22 yards in the first quarter. Cole stabbed at the ball with his right hand for one of the most remarkable catches in the NFL this season – or in recent memory. Cole was asked afterward if it was the best reception of his career. "So far," he said. "That's all I have to say about that. I have to watch it too."


Fowler on the crowd at TIAA Bank Field Sunday: "You know, I've played at The Swamp [Florida Field]; you know I thought it was actually better than The Swamp. I honestly thought I'd never see another place like The Swamp. Just to see all the people having fun, dancing around, having a good time and winning, perfect Sunday."


Jaguars LB Telvin Smith on Jaguars QB Blake Bortles: "That's my quarterback. I've been saying it all week. It's crazy. He has a monster game and still the questions are going to come back. That's our quarterback. I'm telling you: We love the guy, we believe in him. We ride with him."


Defensive end Calais Campbell: "We have some ball players on this team. Different guys show up each and every week, and it's fun to be a part of this defense because we have so many different guys that cam play this game."

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