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Even in front-office role, Coughlin's presence with Jaguars enough to raise unease in Patriots fans

By MARK DANIELS
The Providence Journal, R.I.

January 16. 2018 11:43PM
TOM COUGHLIN 



FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Coughlin is a name that elicits feelings of unease in Patriots Nation.

Coughlin, of course, coached the Giants to two Super Bowl victories over the Patriots. His 2007 team quashed the Pats’ hopes for an undefeated season in Super Bowl XLII. His 2011 squad upset the Patriots again in Super Bowl XLVI.

Each game had its magical moments. Plays like David Tyree’s helmet catch will be forever linked to Tom Brady’s two Super Bowl losses.

Of course, so will the Giants’ pass rush.

Brady and the Patriots fell to two Coughlin-coached teams that were able to bring constant pressure on the Patriots quarterback. Now, as the Patriots prep for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, Coughlin is once again a part of the story.

Now the Jaguars executive vice president of football operations, Coughlin might not be standing across from Bill Belichick on the sideline, but his Jaguars do have one thing in common with those Giants teams — an elite pass rush.

“Yeah, I don’t know,” Belichick said on Monday when asked if he sees Coughlin’s signature on the Jaguars’ defense. “I know (general manager) Dave Caldwell’s been down there for quite a while, has put a lot of that team together. Tom came in and exactly how that’s worked between Tom, Dave and (coach) Doug (Marrone) and the other people involved down there, I mean, you’d have to really ask them about that.”

The book was written about Brady back in that first Super Bowl loss to the Giants: Hit the quarterback early and often and you’ll throw the Patriots’ offense out of rhythm. The theme has remained the same. The last time the Patriots lost in the playoffs, against Denver in the 2015 AFC Championship Game, Brady was hit 17 times.

The 2007 and 2011 Giants teams both had a versatile pass rush. The 2007 team had three of the NFL’s best — Osi Umenyiora (13 sacks), Justin Tuck (10) and Michael Strahan (nine) to go along with Fred Robbins (5½) and Mathias Kiwanuka (4½ ). The 2011 team was similar. That year, the Giants were able to bring a pass rush without blitzing thanks to four players: Jason Pierre-Paul (16½ sacks), Umenyiora (nine), Tuck (five) and Chris Canty (four).

This year’s Jaguars team is similar. Jacksonville has one of the NFL’s best pass rushes, led by Calais Campbell (14½ sacks), Yannick Ngakoue (12), Malik Jackson (eight) and Dante Fowler Jr. (eight).

“They’re very well-balanced and you don’t see that a lot,” Belichick said. “You don’t see that type of balance with good pass rushers, but they have a lot of good ones and they do a good job. They have good players that do a good job with their scheme.”

This season, the Jaguars finished with 55 sacks, which was second in the NFL. The 2011 Giants team finished third in the league with 48 and the 2007 squad was first with 53.

Regardless of what’s happened in the past, the Patriots’ offensive line hopes to come together on Sunday.

“Really, we’ve just got to go about our work the same way we do every week — prepare the same,” said right guard Shaq Mason. “Don’t make it bigger or smaller than what it is. Study up on these guys and go out there and compete with them.”

“I think it’s a mistake if you take anything we’ve ever done in the past and translate it to what we’re doing now,” added left tackle Nate Solder. “I think it’s a different story. We’re writing our own story this year.”


Patriots/NFL

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