Tom Brady and the offense struggled to find a rhythm for much of the first half, but the Patriots still put up 23 points on the afternoon. The defense also held the Jaguars to just three points over the final 43 minutes of the game, even if they allowed them back in the red zone twice.
Stevan Ridley had a nice bounce-back game with 18 carries for 84 yards to steady the ground game, and Wes Welker did his job on the outside to keep pressure off Brady — at least partially.
Chad Henne ended up throwing three interceptions, including a pair to Patrick Chung to close things out, but he also lit up the Patriots’ secondary for a season-high 348 yards and put some fear into the hearts of Bill Belichick and the coaching staff.
Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower and the Patriots’ defensive pressure proved too much in the end, though, as Henne was forced into mistakes and allowed Chung to close out the game.
In the end, a win is a win. So, who is your Patriots player of the game?
Fourth Quarter, 1:46, Patriots 23-16: Coming into this game, the Jaguars ranked last in the NFL in sacks, but they’ve taken Brady down three times today.
The Patriots’ offensive line, which has been so solid all season, has struggled over the past few games. That marks the third game in the past five that Brady’s been taken down at least two times, too.
This O-line really needs to step it up and figure out their issues, because Brady can’t keep taking these licks.
Fourth Quarter, 3:26, Patriots 23-16: Now, that’s one heck of a four-down stand. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those goal-line type stands from this Patriots defense.
After the way they started this game for the defense, which was just God awful, the pressure from both Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower just changed the fortunes of this game.
Patrick Chung came up with the interception, which was the Patriots’ second of the day, but it was the work of Jones on that play that really caused the turnover.
The way this defense responded after such a tough start is really encouraging as this team moves closer to the postseason.
Fourth Quarter, 8:37, Patriots 23-16: The Jaguars scored 13 points in the opening 17 minutes of the game, and that field goal just gave them their first three since.
The Patriots’ defense has really locked up since their atrocious start to the game, making big stops on the ground and through the air. The usual suspects have stepped up, as Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Devin McCourty have all made big plays, but Brandon Deaderick has been the real surprise.
Deaderick has seen some extended playing time on the afternoon, and his ability to push the pass rush on Henne and to get his hands up in the air to bat down balls has helped New England slow down the Jaguars. His play has also returned some momentum to the Patriots’ offense, which seems to be rolling yet again.
Fourth Quarter, 14:15, Patriots 23-13: What was once a 10-point deficit is now a 10-point lead.
Brady and the Patriots’ offense are finally back in rhythm, and much of that success is due to the play of Wes Welker.
Welker has now caught eight passes for 78 yards, including that touchdown, and his punt returns have helped give the Patriots some better field position, too.
Welker was a ghost the past two weeks, catching a combined eight passes for just over 100 yards, but he seems to be back and the Patriots’ offense is clearly benefiting from his return to prominence.
End Third Quarter, Patriots 16-13: Brady’s led a somewhat stale offense for the majority of the game, but Josh McDaniels has been spicing some things up over the last few drives.
First it was the direct snap to Ridley, then an end around to Welker, what’s next? McDaniels realized that the Jaguars were ready for most of the Patriots normal plays, so he’s thrown some trickery their way. It’s working, too.
Beyond the play calling Brady has been stellar since the end of the first quarter, now 20 of 35 for 241 yards, and Ridley has continued his strong running with 15 carries for 80 yards.
If Ridley can continue busting it out on the ground, this game should end with the Patriots on top by double digits.
Third Quarter, 5:54, Patriots 16-13: The Patriots’ offense feeds off the momentum of their defense, and Marquice Cole just gave Tom Brady the ball and some energy to work with.
Cole’s first interception of the season, which is the third of his career, was a good motivating point for the Patriots and could see this as a turning point for the Patriots.
Now, it’s up to Brady to see if the Patriots can drop the hammer on the Jags.
2:53 p.m.: While the Patriots attempt to extend their lead down in Jacksonville, there is some positive news coming out of Houston.
The Texans are currently getting shut down by the visiting Vikings, as Adrian Peterson and the Vikes jumped out to a 16-3 lead. A Houston loss would at least keep the Patriots’ first-round bye hopes alive, which would be a major turn in the tides.
We’ll see if AP and the Vikes can continue their dominance, but the Patriots first need to close out a win over the Jaguars.
Third Quarter, 11:54, Patriots 16-13: You wouldn’t expect it to take 34 minutes, but the Patriots have finally taken the lead in Jacksonville.
Brady was dipping and dunking all the way down field during their first possession of the second half, and maybe even more important he finally is linking up with Brandon Lloyd again.
If Brady and Lloyd can continue to hook up then the Patriots shouldn’t be too concerned about the Jaguars; defense. Now, it’s Aaron Hernandez’s time to get going on the outside.
Halftime, 13-13: The first quarter was real ugly for the Patriots, but Brady and the boys have rebounded nicely.
After just a 3-for-8 start and a pair of picks, Brady is now 14-for-24 with 162 yards and a touchdown. Much of that is thanks to Danny Woodhead’s impact on the offense, which has seen him gain 45 total yards and score a touchdown to tie things up for New England.
While Brady has returned to his typical elite form, Chad Henne looks like a real-life starter with the way he’s played in the first half. Henne is 15 of 24 for 210 yards and a touchdown, leading the Jaguars’ offensive push.
The defensive struggles have to be concerning for the Patriots, but since Talib came in on the outside there hasn’t been of an issue. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich haven’t created much pressure on Henne and Devin McCourty, who has become accustomed to the safety position, needs to tighten up his coverage out on the corner.
There’s plenty of football left, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots threw up a second half similar to the Buffalo game earlier this season.
Second Quarter, 0:17, 13-13: Remember that Danny Woodhead talk? Well, apparently we were right.
Woodhead continues to roll this Patriots offense along, scoring on 14-yard touchdown pass to get this game all tied up at 13-13. His involvement in the offense the past few weeks has provided a major spark, and the Patriots seem to be back to their gameplan heading toward the half.
Second Quarter, 2:07, Jaguars 13-6: A big defensive stop finally got the ball back for Brady and the offense, and Brady’s making the most of it.
The Patriots apparently realized they were getting a little stale, because there’s been a bit of trickery going on to help get this offense going forward again.
A fake reverse on Wes Welker’s punt return was first on the list, then the old direct snap to Ridley gained a first down to keep the drive alive. That direct snap even reminded me of the play they used to run for Kevin Faulk every now and again, and it still works.
This is beginning to look a lot like the old run and gun Patriots we’d see in the mid-2000′s. Yes, the Super Bowl years, for all of you wondering.
Second Quarter, 5:27, Jaguars 13-6: The Patriots just continue rotating these running backs.
Stevan Ridley got the start and seemed to take on the full load in the early going, but since a couple of stuffed runs both Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden have gotten the majority of the work.
Woodhead has been extremely productive the past few weeks, helping to get the Patriots’ offense rolling, and he did the same again today with a 24-yard catch and run to get Gostkowski back in position for another.
Since Brady appears to be struggling with the downfield throws, maybe more dump outs to Woodhead are on the horizon. That would likely signal a significant decrease in Ridley’s time in the backfield, too.
Second Quarter, 13:07, Jaguars 13-3: If anyone thought the Jaguars would be in command of this game, especially after the way the Patriots got beatdown last week, then kudos but you were probably alone.
Brady has not seemed himself early on in Jacksonville, throwing a pair of picks, and the Patriots’ secondary appears to be back to its early-season struggles without Dennard or Talib out there consistently.
Josh Scobee hit his second field goal of the game, and the Jags now hold a 13-3 lead.
End First Quarter, Jaguars 10-3: What is happening? No seriously.
The Patriots, who looked almost unbeatable on offense through Week 14, have now seen two consecutive slow starts. Brady threw two picks in the first quarter alone, which makes it two consecutive weeks with two picks or more.
Henne has the Jaguars’ offense rolling against this Patriots defense, too, hitting on 10 of 14 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Brady is just 3 of 8 for 50 yards and the pair of picks.
Wow, talk about strange. This is becoming troubling.
First Quarter, 2:34, Jaguars 10-3: Stevan Ridley suffered through some fumbling issues over the past two weeks, but he seems to have overcome those.
Ridley has the Patriots’ offense rolling once again, running five times for 44 yards, to take pressure off of Brady and give New England an opportunity to get on the board.
If Ridley can continue running with that sort of aggression and power, the Patriots should be in good position offensively throughout the rest of this game.
First Quarter, 5:44, Jaguars 10-0: Things have not gone well for the Patriots so far in Jacksonville.
A putrid effort by the defense has Chad Henne looking like Tom Brady, Drew Brees or even just a legitimate starter, and Brady’s interception allowed the Jags to tack onto their early lead.
The Jaguars now have a 10-0 lead on the Pats, which is even more demoralizing than it sounds as they score an average of just 15 points per game. Talk about ugly, this is looking gruesome early on.
First Quarter, 9:34, Jaguars 7-0: All of the injuries seem to be taking their effect in the Patriots’ defense.
Devin McCourty, who has played at safety of late, was forced to start at cornerback alongside Kyle Arrington, who also hasn’t played on the outside in a while. The ailing Patriots allowed Chad Henne to look like Drew Brees, going a perfect 6-for-6 with 56 yards and a touchdown to give the Jags an early 7-0 lead.
This patchwork defense could be a big concern this afternoon, as both the Jaguars’ passing and rushing attacks were rolling on all cylinders during that opening drive. Vince Wilfork will need to establish more of a presence up front and McCourty really needs to lock down on the outside, even if he isn’t used to being there anymore, if New England hopes to get out to a comfortable lead.
12:59 p.m.: I hope you’re ready for some football, because by the look of Brady in the photo below I’d say there’s going to be a big number put up on that scoreboard this afternoon.
Brady’s focus on today’s game does bring up a few thoughts ahead of kickoff, though, So, let’s jump into this week’s Three and Out and see what some of the Patriots’ biggest storylines are heading into this one.
1. Secondary health – Alfonzo Dennard, the Patriots starting right cornerback, will sit this game out with a knee/hamstring injury, but he’s not the only Patriots’ player ailing. Aqib Talib is still dealing with a hip injury. With both starting cornerbacks struggling to keep healthy, Talib’s mobility and Kyle Arrington’s ability to play on the outside will be huge factors against Chad Henne and some talented Jaguars wide receivers.
2. Ball Security – The Patriots had four turnovers in last week’s loss to the 49ers, including a pair of fumbles by Stevan Ridley. This week, Ridley’s ball security and Tom Brady’s precision downfield will be key to jumping out to, and maintaining, a big lead in Jacksonville.
3. Replacing Spikes – Brandon Spikes has been dealing with some lingering ankle and hamstring issues. This week he’ll take a seat and get some much-needed rest, meaning someone will have to step up in his linebacker position. Rob Ninkovich is the most likely candidate, as the linebacker/defensive end hybrid will probably play from his feet and let Trevor Scott get some reps on the line. Nink’s ability to fill Spikes’ role as a run stopper will be huge.
12:27 p.m.: Tom Brady wasn’t too pleased with last week’s loss, and he let that fact be known after the game. This week, the Patriots’ starting quarterback appears to be focused on getting back to his winning ways.
Before Sunday’s game, Brady was out on the field getting pumped up for kickoff with his normal pregame workout routine — some running and a little light passing. He was also sporting some “Beats by Dre” headphones, likely bumping some hot jams to get Brady even more amped.
Check out Brady doing some pregame work at Everbank Field down in Jacksonville.
12:05 p.m.: The Patriots may not have some of their key stars on the field in Jacksonville on Sunday, but they’ll still have plenty of weapons to work with.
After a tough loss to the 49ers last Sunday, Tom Brady and the Patriots will be coming out firing here against the Jaguars. With so many red flags rising from last week’s loss, which Patriots player needs to step up most over these final two weeks of the season?
11:32 a.m.: Gronk, Dennard and Spikes were already known to be out, but a few more Patriots will be joining them on the inactive list in Jacksonville.
The list includes defensive linemen Ron Brace and Jake Bequette but Aqib Talib has been left off the list, which appears to be a good sign for the cornerback’s ailing hip.
As for the rest of the inactives, here’s a list of the Patriots and Jaguars players who won’t be suiting up on Sunday.
TE Rob Gronkowski,
LB Brandon Spikes,
CB Alfonzo Dennard,
FB James Develin,
DE Jake Bequette,
DL Ron Brace,
OL Marcus Zusevics
RB Rashad Jennings,
RB Maurice Jones-Drew,
CB Antwaun Molden,
RB Jonathan Grimes,
LB Brandon Marshall,
OL Eben Britton,
DE Austen Lane
11:15 a.m.: Tom Brady and the Patriots’ offense will be looking for a big bounce back performance in Jacksonville, but they will still be without their big, burly tight end.
Rob Gronkowski has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Jaguars. He joins cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and linebacker Brandon Spikes on the inactive list as it appears the Patriots will be resting some of their stars ahead of the playoffs.
There has been much made of Bill Belichick sitting his players this week, but with slim hopes for a first-round bye in the playoffs this might be the better long-term option for the Patriots.
8 a.m. ET: Last week’s loss to the 49ers was stuck in the Patriots’ craw all week. But that may be a good thing — New England needs to close out the season on a high note heading into the playoffs.
Tom Brady was the most frustrated of all by the loss, which he said made him feel like he hadn’t won a game in “three years.” The performance wasn’t the Patriots’ best, that’s for sure. But the loss did manage to produce some positives for Brady and the Patriots.
Fighting their way back from a 28-point deficit and nearly pulling out the victory were major motivational points, even if the Patriots aren’t interested in moral victories.
Now, the Patriots head into Jacksonville, looking to take out their frustration on the dreadful Jaguars. Brady, Stevan Ridley (who had a costly fumble last week) and the rest of the offense will be looking to throw a big number up on the board and reestablish the Patriots’ place among the dominant teams in the AFC.
Chad Henne, who has a history of solid performances against the Patriots, will at least offer a challenge to the Patriots’ defense. If Maurice Jones-Drew starts in the backfield, then Vince Wilfork and the defense could face a much more difficult challenge.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m., but we’ll have all your Patriots info throughout the day. So, keep it locked here for all your news, notes and analysis.