Final. Patriots 35, Jaguars 7: The Patriots improved to 10-5 and have won the division title for the 12th time. It’s their ninth AFC East crown since 1996 and their seventh in the last nine years. Also, the Patriots won the 2006 AFC title with a Week 16 win against the Jaguars, and they’ve won the 2009 division crown with a Week 16 victory against the Jags.
Fourth quarter, 1:20: Brian Hoyer finally relieved Tom Brady at quarterback, and the Patriots have been busy running out the clock here at Gillette.
Fourth quarter, 12:41: There’s obviously a strategy involved with kicking (or not kicking) an onside kick, but cowering here makes no sense for the Jaguars, who sent one deep. Of course, it’s more likely Santa Claus will land his sleigh on the field during the game than the Jaguars coming back to erase this deficit, but the Jaguars are playing for their season. If they’re willing to go for it twice on fourth down in their own territory, they should be willing to attempt an onside kick in the fourth quarter.
I was also 0-for-2 with the last post because Tom Brady returned to the field for this possession. So, too, did Randy Moss and Wes Welker.
Patriots 35, Jaguars 7. Fourth quarter, 12:41: David Garrard evaded a number of tackles on his way to a two-yard touchdown run that got the Jags on the board. Ty Warren wasn’t on the field during that series, but the Patriots didn’t use many formations that suited him. I think they’re already trying to rest some of their walking wounded. If the Patriots recover this onside kick, I can’t imagine Tom Brady would be back on the field.
Patriots 35, Jaguars 0. Fourth quarter, 14:54: Tom Brady threw his fourth touchdown of the day and his third to Randy Moss, who hauled in a 17-yard catch and reached the ball over the goal line to cap off the nice play. Moss has four catches for 45 yards. While the Jaguars challenged the ruling, the video boards showed a fan doing Moss’ “spread the defense” celebration and then the camera cut to Moss, who was laughing hysterically on the sideline. Moss then followed suit by doing his celebration, and that pattern followed for another minute. Since then, the crowd has been busy chanting, “Randy! Randy!” It’s as lively as this place has been all season.
End of third quarter: That was a two-possession quarter, with the Jags eating up eight and a half minutes and the Pats consuming the other six and a half. New England takes over with a second-and-3 on the Jacksonville 12, and a chance to put this game even further out of reach. The crowd has given the Patriots numerous ovations for this impressively dominant performance.
Third quarter, 4:00: Wes Welker has 10 receptions (on 10 targets) for 110 yards, and he has tied Andre Johnson’s NFL record with seven 10-catch games this season. Welker could break the record in Johnson’s house next week, but it’s unlikely given the uncertainty of the starters’ playing time.
Third quarter, 6:26: Shawn Springs recorded his first interception of the season to halt Jacksonville’s most productive drive of the day, and the Patriots have the ball at their own 10. David Garrard was late delivering to Mike Sims-Walker, who found a pocket in the zone by the goal line, and Springs jumped the pass.
Third quarter, 12:00: The Jags have now gone for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 35 twice Sunday. This time, David Garrard picked up the first down on a quarterback sneak. Interesting and unrelated, there has only been one penalty in this game. It was the Jags’ false start in the second quarter.
Third quarter, 14:52: The Jaguars have the ball at their own 26. And unless the Jags can find one of those 28-point scoring plays, I think they’re in some trouble.
Halftime: The Patriots take their 28-0 lead into the half, and they can puff out their chests after that performance. They were utterly dominant on both sides of the ball, and the score reflects the pounding the Patriots put on the Jags. New England will be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Patriots 28, Jaguars 0. Second quarter, 0:45: It’s almost Brian Hoyer time here at Gillette. Tom Brady threw his third touchdown of the day and his second to Randy Moss. This time, Moss was wide open in the end zone and hauled in an easy six-yard grab. The starters are going to get a lot of rest over the next week.
Second quarter, 2:51: This is an impressive showing on both sides of the ball. The Patriots got the ball back at their own 33 after Jacksonville’s punt, and they can start hammering the nails into the Jaguars’ coffin with this drive. I knew the Jaguars were overmatched against the Patriots, but I didn’t think they’d get humiliated Sunday with a playoff berth still on the line.
Patriots 21, Jaguars 0. Second quarter, 5:04: Sammy Morris got the chance to finish off what he started and plunged into the end zone from one yard out to extend the Patriots’ lead. Earlier in the drive, Morris tied his career long with a 55-yard run. The Pats lead by 21 and the Dolphins are down by 24 (and counting), meaning there would need to be some semblance of a 46-point turnaround for the Dolphins to remain alive in the division race. The Patriots can crack out their new hats and T-shirts now if they’d like.
Second quarter, 8:07: Tully Banta-Cain recorded his first sack of the day — giving him 9.5 this season — and David Garrard couldn’t resuscitate the Jags in obvious passing situations. The Patriots have the ball back at their own 25.
Second quarter, 10:09: Well, so much for the last post. The Patriots went three-and-out, which included Tom Brady’s first two incompletions, and Jacksonville takes over at its own 38-yard line following the punt.
Second quarter, 11:06: After the first punt of the game, the Patriots take possession at their own 15-yard line. With the way Tom Brady and Co. have moved the ball here, they might be on their way to a cushy lead on this dreary day.
Second quarter, 14:54: Jacksonville gets the ball at its own 20, and the Patriots have some serious room for error at this point in the day. They’ve got a 14-point lead, and the Dolphins are trailing by 17 against the Texans. The Pats will be ripping down the goal posts after this one.
Patriots 14, Jaguars 0. Second quarter, 14:54: Tom Brady hit Chris Baker for a 26-yard touchdown on the Pats’ second play of the drive. Baker did a nice job pushing off of his defender (credit an assist to the officials there) and then making a solid catch while falling backward. Here’s the story of the game so far: The Patriots have capitalized on both of the Jaguars’ mistakes, while the Jags have come up empty after the Patriots’ lone miscue.
End of first quarter: The Patriots have a 7-0 lead and a second-and-9 at the Jacksonville 26-yard line on the other side of the break. It was a fairly dominant performance for the Patriots in the first quarter.
First quarter, 0:06: David Garrard hit Brandon Meriweather right in the numbers, which isn’t good for Garrard because Meriweather isn’t on his team. Meriweather had touchdown aspirations during the interception return, running off of a few blocks and reversing field to find his way to the Jacksonville 27-yard line. This is the second consecutive drive the Patriots have started in Jacksonville territory.
First quarter, 2:42: The Jaguars have the ball at their own 26-yard line after the kickoff. On a side note, Marc Bertrand from 98.5 The Sports Hub is in the stands and has found Vince Wilfork in the Patriots’ luxury box with his wife, and Wilfork was cheering after the New England touchdown.
Patriots 7, Jaguars 0. First quarter, 2:48: Tom Brady hit an open Randy Moss in the back of the end zone for a two-yard touchdown pass. Moss crossed right to left through double coverage to help the Patriots grab a lead. The Pats’ offense is on fire against this porous Jacksonville defense.
First quarter, 4:47: The Patriots got a huge effort from their safeties on that series. Brandon Meriweather stuffed wide receiver Mike Thomas for no gain on an end-around on third-and-1, and James Sanders stopped running back Maurice Jones-Drew for no gain on fourth-and-1. So much for Jacksonville’s chance at a momentum-changing drive, as the Pats take over at the Jags’ 35.
First quarter, 9:36: Officials have upheld the call, and Jacksonville keeps possession. This is Maroney’s fourth fumble of the season and his second on the goal line.
First quarter, 9:36: The officials determined Laurence Maroney fumbled the ball before reaching the end zone, and the Jaguars take over at their own 1-yard line. However, replays appear to dictate otherwise, and Bill Belichick might challenge the play during the television timeout. (Update: Belichick has thrown the challenge flag, and he’ll likely send a nice holiday card to the people who have looped the replay on the stadium video boards.)
First quarter, 10:30: One further note on the playoff scenario: If the Patriots and Bengals each win out, there would be a strength-of-victory tiebreaker, which is impossible to determine at this point.
First quarter, 13:30: By the way, if the Patriots win Sunday and the Bengals lose to the Chiefs, the Bengals can still take the No. 3 seed next week with a victory against the Jets and a New England loss to the Texans. The same can be said in the other direction. If the Patriots lose to Jacksonville and beat Houston, and the Bengals beat the Chiefs and lose to the Jets, the Patriots would take the third seed.
First quarter, 14:55: Julian Edelman returned the opening kickoff to the New England 17-yard line, and the Patriots are in business.
1:01 p.m.: The Jaguars called tails and won the coin toss. They deferred to the second half, and the Patriots will receive the opening kickoff.
11:52 a.m.: Let’s start by taking a look at those who are returning to the lineup for the Patriots. Fred Taylor (ankle) will play after missing the last 10 games. Ty Warren (ankle) is back after missing last week’s game against the Bills. Right guard Stephen Neal (ankle) returns after missing three games. And Myron Pryor (chest) is back after missing a pair of games with a chest injury.
On the other side of the dime, Vince Wilfork is missing his second consecutive game with a foot injury. He briefly worked out on the field about an hour ago but couldn’t go. Mike Wright will start in his place. Nick Kaczur (shoulder) is out for the second straight week. Sebastian Vollmer will start at right tackle. Terrence Wheatley (not on injury report) is out for the fourth consecutive week and 10th time this season. Darius Butler (not on injury report) is surprisingly inactive for the second time this season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (not on injury report) will sit due to Taylor’s return. Titus Adams (not on injury report) is out due to Pryor’s return. Rich Ohrnberger (not on injury report) is deactivated for the 12th time this season, and Isaiah Stanback is the third quarterback for the second straight week.
With Butler and Wheatley out, the Patriots only have three of their primary cornerbacks ready for the Jaguars. If Leigh Bodden, Shawn Springs or Jonathan Wilhite go down Sunday, safety Pat Chung could see some action at corner, or special teamer Kyle Arrington could see some time with the defense.
11:43 a.m.: Running back Fred Taylor, defensive end Ty Warren and right guard Stephen Neal all return to action Sunday against the Jaguars. Meanwhile, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork can’t crack the lineup with his foot injury. Taylor has missed the last 10 games with an ankle injury but makes his storybook return to play against his longtime team.
The Patriots’ seven inactive players are cornerback Terrence Wheatley, cornerback Darius Butler, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, defensive lineman Titus Adams, right tackle Nick Kaczur and Wilfork. Additionally, wide receiver Isaiah Stanback is listed as the third quarterback, so he can be used in an emergency situation in the first three quarters or any time in the fourth quarter. I’ll have a little more detail in a few minutes.
11:00 a.m.: As Pepper Johnson so famously shouted during Super Bowl XXXVI, “Get yo rest!”
The Patriots assistant coach can yell that again Sunday when the Pats host the Jaguars. With a victory, the Patriots will lock up the AFC East title, and they can rest some key players next week against the Texans. Since the Patriots are out of contention for a first-round bye, the rest they can give Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Ty Warren would be significant for their playoff chances, and they might be well served to give a break to Wes Welker, Randy Moss and some of the banged-up offensive linemen, too.
The Jaguars really shouldn’t give the Patriots much of a challenge. Jacksonville is an average team that has taken advantage of a soft schedule, and there’s no reason the Patriots shouldn’t close the door on the division Sunday.