Patriots

Brady: Boger's officiating crew over-eager with penalty calls against Patriots

Brady: Boger's officiating crew over-eager with penalty calls against Patriots

During his weekly radio interview, Tom Brady admitted that the Patriots offense could have done more even though it put up 30 against the Panthers. But he also implied that he felt as though he had two opponents at times on Sunday: Ron Rivera's defense and Jerome Boger's officiating crew.

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“Yeah, I mean they called it pretty tight on us yesterday," Brady told WEEI's Kirk and Callahan show. "I’ve watched the film a bunch of times. We just didn’t get the calls. I guess they got the calls and we didn’t get them. I don’t know what to say."

The Patriots were docked for two offensive pass interference penalties -- one each on Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola -- as well as two hands-to-the-face penalties on Stephon Gilmore. In all, they were flagged seven times for 55 yards. The Panthers were flagged once for 33 yards on a pass-interference call that was made when Gronkowski was contacted down the field.

The Gronkowski offensive pass-interference penalty seemed to be handed down after minimal contact. Amendola's was more obvious because of the amount of contact, but it seemed as though the defender cut off Amendola mid-route.

Brady clearly didn't love either call.

"Gronk is doing what he’s got to do to get open. There was such minimal contact and the ref just felt . . . they were cued up ready to throw it," Brady said. "It is what it is. We didn’t get it. We overcame that one and the one to Danny, we didn’t overcome. Danny is just trying to get across the guy's face. The guy kind of contacted him, Danny is trying to shed him on his route. I don’t know what they can do more than that."

Brady indicated that there's a history of Boger's crew calling things closely while working Patriots games. Since 2007, Boger’s crew has consistently thrown more flags for more yards than the league average. 

“Again, they were calling it tight on us," he said. "From previous [games], that crew has called much more penalties on us than the other team. We just have to figure out how to play and tighten it up. If we don’t get the calls, we don’t get them, we still have to go out and play better than we’ve played. It’s just about us doing our job better, all of us. And we can. It’s not like that was the best game we could possibly play and we lost.

"I think we all know we can play better and if we play better we’ll win. It’s got to be done, just not talked about. That brings more urgency to everything we’re doing. The meetings, the practices, the games. We can’t let up for one second. We have to keep pushing each other to be at our best. Hopefully over the course of the next three months we can rise to a much higher level than we’re at high now."

Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

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Will the real Jaguars defense please stand up?

FOXBORO -- Are we giving the Jaguars defense too much credit?

The numbers, on the surface, paint Jacksonville's defense as one of the best the NFL has seen in years. They finished the season as the league's top passing defense in terms of yards allowed, and they were second when it came to points allowed, total yards and sacks.

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Then there are the postseason awards that have been bestowed upon their defensive regulars. Jalen Ramsey, AJ Bouye, Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson have all been named Pro Bowlers. Ramsey and Campbell are First-Team All-Pros, while Bouye and Telvin Smith are Second-Teamers. Campbell is in the running for Defensive Player of the Year. 

So why, then, is there this lingering feeling that the Jaguars defense isn't all it's cracked up to be? They allowed Ben Roethlisberger to heave his way to 42 points in the Divisional Round. In Week 16, they gave up 44 to Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners. Hell, Blaine Gabbert and the Cardinals put up 27 and beat them in Week 12. 

Those results don't exactly scream "all-time defense." So what is Jacksonville? Overrated? Properly rated? 

One thing is for certain: The Jags played an easy schedule. The combined winning percentage of their opponents in 2017 was a league-low 44 percent. And when it comes to the defense in particular, they had the second-easiest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. It didn't hurt that they were able to play the Colts with Jacoby Brissett, the Texans before Deshaun Watson became a star and after he got hurt, and the NFL's No. 23-ranked Titans offense. Twice. Each. They also got the Ravens (No. 27 offense), Jets (No. 28), Bengals (No. 32), Browns (No. 24) and Cardinals (No. 22). Add it all up and that's nine games -- more than half their schedule -- against bottom-third NFL offenses. Two more games came against a Houston offense that featured starting quarterbacks Tom Savage and TJ Yates. 

When you dig into the analytics it's harder to find ways to poke holes in Jacksonville's credibility as a top-tier defensive unit. Pro Football Focus grades the Jags as their No. 1 defense, and it's really not close. Football Outsiders calls them their No. 1 defense in terms of DVOA. Even when you factor in some of its recent performances -- like letdowns versus the Steelers and Niners -- Jacksonville is still the league's No. 4 defense in weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that games that were played earlier in the season are gradually less important. 

At the same time, the analytics can be occasionally unkind to the Jaguars. Football Outsiders has them ranked as one of the most inconsistent defenses in the league. According to their variance statistic, Jacksonville is the fourth most inconsistent defense in football. A deeper dive into the numbers has also located an apparent soft underbelly of the Jaguars defense. Per Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis, the Jaguars are dominant against three-receiver sets -- No. 1 in the league, in fact -- but they're the No. 23 defense in the NFL when it comes to defending personnel groupings that feature one or two wide receivers. That would explain, in part, why the Titans (who Sharp rated as the least-likely team to employ three-receiver sets this season) and Niners (who went with more "21" and "12" personnel looks late in the season) were able to beat the Jaguars. 

The most difficult argument against the legitimacy of the Jaguars' defensive rankings is the talent they put on the field on a weekly basis. Their roster, defensively at least, stacks up with some of the most imposing defensive units in recent memory. The Seahawks had four First and Second-Team All-Pros on their defense in 2014. The Broncos defense had five Pro Bowlers in 2015. The Jaguars have five players who were named either All-Pros or Pro Bowlers or both this year, and they probably should've had a sixth in pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 12 sacks (eighth in the NFL) and a league-best six forced fumbles. 

The verdict? The Jaguars defense is loaded with blue-chip players. It will be the best unit the Patriots offense has seen this year. But they have been inconsistent, they have holes -- which we touched upon in this week's Quick Slants the Podcast with Jerod Mayo -- and there remains the very real possibility that Tom Brady and his teammates will light up the Gillette Stadium scoreboard on Sunday. 

Now, is Brady healthy? Good question. Will he have enough time to throw? We'll see. But if the answer to both of those questions is "yes" (or "enough"), then the Patriots should be headed to Minnesota. This Jaguars defense is very good, but it's far from inpenetrable.

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: Tom Brady injures right hand during practice

0:41 - Tom Brady injured his right hand during practice on Wednesday. Tom Curran, Albert Breer, Michael Holley, and Tom Giles discuss how this injury could impact Brady’s ability to throw against the Jaguars on Sunday.

6:06 - Isaiah Thomas has asked the Celtics to cancel his video tribute on Paul Pierce Night, and Pierce said that Thomas was trying to ‘punk’ Danny Ainge into a tribute video. Michael Holley, Kyle Draper, and Tom Giles debate if Isaiah Thomas or Paul Pierce is in the wrong.

11:19 - Albert Breer discusses how much credit Tom Coughlin deserves for the Jaguars great season and if Coughlin’s success against the Patriots and Bill Belichick will come into play on Sunday.

15:37 - Joe Haggerty joins BST from the TD Garden to break down the Bruins win over the Canadiens and Claude Julien’s return to Boston.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE EPISODE