Jaguars unleash swagger, smack talk after beating Steelers
PITTSBURGH – As soon as the doors swung open, the sound was unmistakable.
This was a confident group, one that had been doubted, and – in its players' eyes – disrespected. They weren't mad, they later said. This is just who they are.
For those just catching up to the notion that the Jacksonville Jaguars might actually be really good, Sunday was a revelation. This team brims with swagger and isn't afraid to let the world know as it continues its playoff push.
"They thought they wanted to fight," linebacker Telvin Smith shouted as he walked through the locker room, dishing out high-five and daps. "The same (expletive) we beat last time. And they was the one talking all that (expletive)."
The Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey on the Steelers: pic.twitter.com/4ZlAH9QfjT— LeadingNFL ™ (@LeadingNFL) January 15, 2018
The Jaguars stunned the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road 45-42 and clinched their spot in next week's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Though Pittsburgh clawed back from a 21-point deficit to get within striking distance, the Jaguars were more physical. And they didn't look back.
"No, we're cool," cornerback Jalen Ramsey said when asked if this team – amid all the trash talk – was mad. "We're chilling.
"Pardon my language, but we don't give a (expletive). We really don't care. We knew we was going to come in here. We knew we was going to do. We don't really worry about all of that. When y'all bring that to us, it's honestly the first time we hear about it. We don't care about none of that. Talking is cool. You can do all the talking you want – on Twitter, to the media, all of that – but when you get on the field, you're going to have to produce. You're going to have to show us what you're really about. We confident because we know the work we put in. We know the blessings the Lord has given us. So we going to go out there confident. We going to go out there swagged up."
According to Jacksonville's players, Steelers safety Mike Mitchell stood outside the Jaguars locker room before the game trying to intimidate them.
Jaguars players said Mitchell relayed these words: "Y'all going to know my name."
That was in addition to comments Mitchell made earlier in the week, guaranteeing a win to Sports Illustrated.
Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell all but did the same, posting a message on his Twitter account Saturday night that hinted at the anticipation of a matchup against New England.
Thanks to a consistent and physical rushing game, as well as a defense that intercepted Ben Roethlisberger in the first quarter to set up another score, Jacksonville sapped the juice out of the crowd with three consecutive touchdowns.
AJ Bouye on Mike Mitchell: 'He doesn't really do much over there, I guess, except for talk. So he said we're going to know his name, I still don't remember his name. I know its Mike something. He'll be watching us next week.'— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) January 14, 2018
Multiple Jaguars players said they could sense mounting frustration from Pittsburgh.
"We almost fought them a couple of times," outside linebacker Lerentee McCray told USA Today Sports. "What's your mom say when you say something stupid? She put a bar of soap in your mouth, right? But we ain't your momma. We're your stepdad. We're going to hit you in the mouth."
19. #Jaguars DT Malik Jackson: "We're bullies. We don't need to say we're bullies. We don't need to talk about what we're going to do. We just need to smack you in the mouth, just like we did today…."— John Oehser (@JohnOehser) January 15, 2018
Perhaps no other player endured more this week than quarterback Blake Bortles. After he rushed for more yards (88) than he threw for (87) in a wild-card victory against the Bills last week, the fourth-year quarterback once again was the butt of jokes.
One of them came from Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, who said before a 35-14 loss to the Patriots on Saturday that he was trying to make Tom Brady "look like Blake Bortles."
And though he started slowly Sunday against the Steelers, Bortles made smart and efficient decisions, especially on third downs.
He finished the game with 214 yards and one touchdown on 14-of-26 passing.
"He's a dog," defensive end Malik Jackson said of Bortles. "I want to know what Jurrell Casey has to say about him choking in big moments – while he's sitting at home watching us next week."
The Jaguars, though, now face their toughest test in the defending-champion Patriots, who have won five Super Bowls and appeared in seven under Brady and coach Bill Belichick.
Despite the confidence, exuberance and fearlessness, players knew that talking was meaningless without action to back it up.
"When we all come together, when we do it right, we're a tough team to beat," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "We can beat anybody."