I’m not saying the AFC title game was fixed for the Patriots, but holy shit that was some powerful home field advantage. The Jacksonville Jaguars were flagged six times for 98 yards while the Patriots were called once, for a holding penalty on a kickoff, for 10 yards. The last time any team was called for only one penalty in a playoff game?
The Jaguars were called for two defensive pass interference penalties, one of which was embarrassingly soft: A.J. Bouye was penalized for hand-fighting with Brandin Cooks down the sideline toward a Tom Brady pass that looked uncatchable anyway.
But the 32-yard penalty set the Patriots up for a touchdown two plays later. (The Jaguars had only been had been flagged for defensive pass interference five times in the entire regular season, the lowest in the NFL.) That touchdown sent that Patriots into the locker room down by four points instead of 11.
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Then in the third quarter, Myles Jack made what should have been the play of the game when he stripped the ball from Dion Lewis as the two went to ground. Jack got up and took off down the wide open field toward the end zone. It would have given the Jaguars a three-score lead with under 14 minutes remaining. But the refs whistled Jack down by contact, even though the replay shows he wasn’t touched after he had full control of the ball and was clear of Lewis.
A couple of missed pass interference calls on Marcedes Lewis in the fourth quarter, and at least one missed holding call on the Patriots late in the game, and that was that.
Jack, when asked about it the officiating and penalty discrepancy, said, per ESPN:
“Interesting. My thoughts on that is ... yeah, that’s kind of self-explanatory. I didn’t know that.
“I’ll just say that’s self-explanatory. Interesting. That’s all I’m going to say.”
“You all see it,” Bouye said. “I got players hitting me up in the NFL saying the same thing.” He also said Danny Amendola head-butted his teammate, Tashaun Gipson, right in front of the referees, seemingly trying to goad him into a penalty:
“I’m going to defend my teammates. You all see it on TV, the one where Amendola head-butted Gip. Right after the whistle was blown. Right in front of them. I’m just asking how you going to let them do that?
“I understand you’re all going to let us play, but we know they’re going to try to instigate stuff. They head-butted my man. C’mon, man.”
The refereeing is only part of the story—Doug Marrone’s decision to kneel with 55 seconds and two timeouts left before halftime was uninspiring, and the Jags’ inability to do anything expect grind out one-yard runs on basically every drive in the second half was frustrating. But watching the evil empire get all the calls again, while having to listen to Tony Romo gush over Brady for hours on end is enough to turn anyone into a conspiracy theorist. So squeeze whatever pleasure you can from tinfoil hatting this game:
And video of that moment:
The Super Bowl is going to suck.