Chiefs face a Jaguars team looking to avenge last year’s startling loss
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville’s 2018 season began to unravel in Kansas City.
After a 3-1 start that included a victory against New England, the Jaguars were more than confident walking into Arrowhead Stadium last October. There was pregame trash talk, subtle predictions and a belief in Jacksonville’s locker room that they would be the first to stifle Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
The Chiefs scored on three of their first four possessions, returned an interception for a touchdown, led 20-0 at halftime and seemingly could have dictated the final score.
Kansas City went on to win 30-14, sending the Jags into a seven-game tailspin that ruined their much-hyped season and caused them to make the ultra-expensive decision to part ways with inconsistent quarterback Blake Bortles and sign Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles.
They’re counting on that offseason move making a huge difference in the rematch Sunday in Jacksonville.
Foles will make his Jaguars debut against one of his former teams as Jacksonville tries to prove last year was a fluke. The Chiefs, meanwhile, begin their quest to get back to the AFC championship game — and beyond.
“They got on top of us early, and we just weren’t able to come back,” Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said. “That game was last year, and like I said before, the teams are different. We’re a different team, and even to some respect, I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure they’ll be a little bit different.
“It’s hard to go do what you’ve done the year before, whether it’s been good or bad. I think we’ve seen that here. So each year presents a new challenge.”
The challenge of slowing down Kansas City remains the same.
The Chiefs led the NFL in scoring last season, averaging 35.3 points, and ranked third in NFL history. They led the league in yards per play (6.84) and yards per game (425.6) and ended up with the league MVP (Mahomes).
They lost at home in overtime to New England, falling just short of reaching the Super Bowl for the first time since 1970. With Mahomes, Hill and Kelce intact for another run, they’re a trendy pick to win it all.
“You still have that little nervousness going into the start of the season, but the same time having that familiarity and knowing what you want to accomplish is different,” said Mahomes, who threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns in 2018. “Last year, you think you know, but you don’t.”
As good as Mahomes was all of last season, his worst game came in the blowout against Jacksonville. The Jags were the only team to hold him without a TD pass in the regular season, and Mahomes finished with a career-low 62.7 passer rating.
“It wasn’t good enough,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said.
PRO BOWL MATCHUP
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey will shadow Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill in a matchup of Pro Bowl players.
Hill caught four passes for 61 yards in last year’s meeting, including a 36-yard gain against Ramsey.
“Last year doesn’t matter, so please don’t ask me about last year,” Ramsey said. “It was a totally different team.”
REID AND FOLES
Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles credits Chiefs coach Andy Reid for helping him regain his love for football.
Foles nearly quit following the 2015 season in St. Louis but gave it another shot thanks to urging from his wife and some coaxing from Reid. Reid and Philadelphia drafted Foles in the third round in 2012. They played one season together with the Eagles and then reunited in 2016 in Kansas City.
“I’m glad he’s playing,” Reid said. “He’s great for the NFL. He’s a unique guy. He’s a great person, does a lot of things off the field. He’s a great family guy on top of that and then his play on the field is also good. … This is the reward here. He has another opportunity to be the starter, the Game 1 starter for a team.
“I can’t tell you I’m going to be pulling for him, but it’s a nice story up to this point.”
The Jaguars have had their hands full with All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce in recent years. Kelce had 10 receptions for 158 yards in wins against Jacksonville in 2016 and 2018.
“If you put a smaller body on him, you’re probably going to have some issues because he is such a big, physical guy,” Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash said. “We’ve got to put a bigger body on him. Who that might be? I’m not sure yet. … He’s a tough matchup for us and everybody in the league, really.”