The Patriots suffered an ugly loss today, as they fell 31-20 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a rematch of January’s AFC Championship Game. Jacksonville thoroughly outplayed the Pats on both sides of the ball, as they grabbed the lead early and never let it up.
Here are some takeaways from today’s loss.
1. The Jacksonville offense had its way with the Pats’ defense
The Pats’ defense took a serious step back from last week’s impressive performance against the Houston Texans, as they were porous and inept against Blake Bortles and the Jaguars’ offense. Playing without his top weapon in Leonard Fournette, Bortles did not miss a step, as he had 377 yards with 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. Today’s game was reminiscent of the first 3 and a half quarters of the AFC Championship Game, as Jacksonville dictated the pace of the game with strong rushes and passes. However, unlike the Championship Game, the Jaguars kept up their pace, which enabled them to finish off the Patriots. In the second half, after forcing 2 turnovers, it appeared as if the Patriots defense finally had its act together, but they ended up giving a 61-yard dagger when Dede Westbrook went uncovered across the middle of the field. To add insult to injury, the Pats lost 2 key starters in Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung, as both players suffered concussions.
2. The Patriots’ offense was absolutely anemic
The Patriots started off today’s game by advancing to the Jaguars’ 38-yard line, with a balanced rushing/passing attack, but they ended their opening drive with a missed field goal. Following that drive, the Jaguars put their clamps on the Pats’ offense, with the Brady Bunch scoring their first points with 8 minutes left in the second quarter. Jalen Ramsey and the Jags defense backed up their talk, as they limited Rob Gronkowski to 2 catches for 15 yards, and constantly harassed Tom Brady throughout the game. As CBS’ Tony Romo mentioned, the effect of the Jags’ pass rush was evident, as Brady tried to operate as quickly as possible. The sole bright spots for the Patriots’ offense were James White who had over 70 receiving yards, and Chris Hogan who caught both of Brady’s touchdowns. When it appeared as if the Patriots had gained momentum following a fourth quarter Bortles interception, Dante Fowler Jr. strip-sacked Brady, which prevented the Pats from trimming their 11 point deficit.
What’s next: The Pats head to the Motor City to take on their former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and the winless Detroit Lions (0-2)
The Patriots secured a berth in Super Bowl LII, with their heart-stopping triumph over the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Pats overcame a 20-10 fourth quarter deficit with 2 Danny Amendola touchdowns to stamp their tickets to Minnesota with a 24-20 victory.
Here are a few takeaways from yesterday’s game.
1. Tom Brady is the GOAT
TB12 had another vintage playoff performance, but to do so, he had to overcome the mysterious injury to his right hand. Brady’s hand didn’t appear to impact his throws, and he sported some black tape over his thumb. The Pats got off to a quick start on their opening drive, but didn’t have any worthwhile drives until the ending of the first half. Brady was constantly harassed by Jacksonville’s dominant pass rush, who got after him and forced him to rush his throws. Brady shook off his shaky start, and got to work in the fourth quarter. As he has done several times before in the playoffs, Brady was able to lead the Patriots to victory by thoroughly dissecting Jacksonville’s vaunted secondary with a variety of trick plays at his disposal. Brady’s clutch performance gives him a chance of winning his sixth Super Bowl on February 4th.
2. ‘Dola and Cooks step up in Gronk’s absence
The Patriots’ chances of mounting a comeback appeared to be bleak when Rob Gronkowski was knocked out of the game with a concussion after being smacked by Jacksonville’s Barry Church. Luckily, TB had Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola step up in Gronk’s absence. Cooks had 6 catches for 100 yards, and also drew several defensive pass interference calls which moved the Pats down the field. Danny Amendola has been one of the Patriots’ most unheralded receivers for the last few years, but it is absolutely impossible for anyone to discount his impact during the Pats’ last few Super Bowl runs. Amendola took over the game in the fourth quarter, with a clutch punt return to give the Patriots prime field position, and he also corralled 7 catches for 84 yards. Amendola had 2 touchdown catches, including a breathtaking toe-tapper to give the Patriots a lead they would never relinquish. Amendola’s ability to come up with plays in the clutch will be vital for the Patriots to have a chance of winning the Super Bowl.
3. No one is better at making defensive adjustments than Bill Belichick
At halftime, it appeared as if the Patriots were already on the ropes, as Jacksonville appeared to be able to drive down the field without any resistance due to their reliance on chunk plays and their clever usage of play action passes. The frequency of rushing plays and play action passes made it extremely difficult for the Patriots to guess if Jacksonville was running or passing the ball. This allowed the Jaguars to gain easy yards, and keep their drives alive. Blake Bortles had the game of his life in the first half, as he easily carved up the Pats’ defense.
In the second half, Belichick had more men near the line of scrimmage, ensuring that Leonard Fournette would not have a hole to run through. Belichick and Matt Patricia dared Bortles to beat them from the pocket, but Jacksonville’s lack of faith in their quarterback showed in the second half, as they had several questionable play calls which doomed their drives. The Pats were also able to get after Bortles in the fourth quarter, with Trey Flowers and the veteran James Harrison making his life difficult. Harrison also had a strip sack on Jacksonville’s last drive, which derailed the momentum they had gained over the previous few plays. Jacksonville’s last offensive play took place on a 4th & 14, when Bortles lobbed a pass towards Dede Westbrook, hoping that the receiver could catch the ball to keep their season alive. However, the Patriots’ maligned free agent signing Stephon Gilmore jumped up and swatted the ball to the ground. Gilmore has been criticized by fans and pundits alike due to his inconsistent play throughout the season, but has been quietly making plays to help win games. Gilmore finally proved that he was worth the $65 million the team invested in him by helping them to advance to the Super Bowl.
4. Gronk’s health
Rob Gronkowski was expected to have a great impact on yesterday’s game, with the media wondering how the vaunted Jags defense would deal with the transcendent tight end. However, Gronk was a non-factor in the game, catching 1 pass for 21 yards, and was knocked out of the game with a concussion after colliding with Barry Church. Gronk being injured in the AFC title game clearly brings up bad memories from 2011, when he injured his ankle against the Baltimore Ravens, and was clearly hobbled during the loss in Super Bowl XLVI. Thankfully, Gronk should be cleared from the concussion protocol sometime in the next two weeks, and give TB another weapon to add to his arsenal for the Super Bowl.
What’s next: The Patriots will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII, which is a rematch of 2004’s Super Bowl XXXIX, where the Patriots emerged victorious against the Donovan McNabb and the Eagles to secure their third Super Bowl in 4 years with their 24-21 victory. Ironically if the Patriots win on February 4th, it will be second time they win three titles in four years.
The Blitz for Six continues today at Gillette Stadium, when the Patriots take on the Jacksonville Jaguars for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LII.
Here are a few things to consider entering today’s game.
1. Will he or won’t he?
Patriots Nation had a collective heart attack earlier this week, when news broke of Tom Brady suffering a right hand injury during practice. Ever since then, the media has been heavily debating whether or not Brady will be playing in today’s game, with many pundits believing that this development proves that the Patriots were wrong to trade Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers. Although Brady did suffer a deep gash on his right hand (hence the title of today’s article), it appears as if he will be ready to go against Jacksonville.
2. Stopping Leonard Fournette
The Patriots defense was dominant against the run during last week’s rout of the Titans, as they limited Derrick Henry to 28 yards on the ground. Today’s task won’t be much easier, as they take on the freight train, Leonard Fournette, who demolished the Steelers for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fournette took over the game in the first quarter, and would have likely had more yards if not for an ankle injury he sustained in the second quarter. To have a chance of winning, the Patriots will need to keep him contained throughout the game.
3. Blake Bortles vs the Pats defense
Blake Bortles is one of the NFL’s most criticized players, as both fans and players believe that he is an overrated and ineffective quarterback. Bortles silenced most of his doubters with a surprisingly clutch game against the Steelers, as he was able to constantly lead the Jaguars down the field to close out Pittsburgh. Bortles has also demonstrated his prowess in getting out of the pocket to pick up first downs. Knowing Bill Belichick, it is obvious that the Patriots will show Bortles the respect he deserves, in order to properly understand the way in which he plays. Making Bortles uncomfortable will be essential for the Pats to have a good chance of winning today.
4. Matchup of the day: Pats’ offense vs Jags’ defense
The most intriguing matchup of today’s game is between the Patriots’ offense and the Jaguars’ defense, as both units are the best the NFL has to offer. TB12 and his plethora of weapons will face their tallest task of the season, as they take on Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, and the rest of the ferocious Jaguars defense. Jacksonville’s ability to get after the quarterback with only 4 rushers allows them to have more men in coverage, making it harder for TB12 to pass across the middle. The Patriots should rely on Gronk, and also their running backs, such as Dion Lewis, who should be able to pick on Jacksonville’s linebackers, due to their immense speed. Studying tape from Jacksonville’s contest against Pittsburgh will be really important, as Big Ben and the Steelers’ offense were able to pick apart Jacksonville’s normally unstoppable defense. TB and Josh McDaniels may have also looked at Jacksonville’s game against San Francisco, where their former protege Jimmy Garoppolo shredded the Jaguars. Finding and exploiting weaknesses in the Jaguars’ defense will be essential for victory.