FOXBORO, Mass. — Duron Harmon knows NFL teams are quick to pounce on any perceived weakness they spot in an opponent.
That’s why the New England Patriots will work hard this week on defending crossing patterns after the Jacksonville Jaguars tormented them with such routes during New England’s 31-20 loss Sunday afternoon.
“I wouldn’t call it an issue, but it’s something that obviously they had success on,” Harmon said Monday. “Obviously something that we feel like teams might try to target us now for. But we just have to have a good week of practice and get back to playing it how we played it the first week.”
Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles completed 9 of 14 passes for 151 yards, six first downs and a 61-yard touchdown when targeting receivers on crossing routes against the Patriots. Six different pass-catchers were involved in this effort: wide receivers Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief, tight ends Austin Seferian-Jenkins and James O’Shaughnessy and running back Corey Grant.
Bortles also completed another pass to Moncrief on third-and-7 crossing route that would have resulted in a first down had the play not been called back for an illegal use of the hands penalty on guard Andrew Norwell.
The Patriots did show improvement against crossers during the second half — cornerback Stephon Gilmore broke up two passes over the middle in the red zone, and a smart coverage call helped produce Kyle Van Noy’s interception — but faltered again late on what proved to be their worst defensive play of the afternoon.
On a first-and-10 with just under eight minutes remaining, no Patriots defender came close to covering Westbrook as he dragged across the formation, caught the ball in space, broke a Van Noy tackle attempt and sprinted 61 yards for a game-sealing score.
Harmon said the Patriots expect future opponents to test them with similar route concepts until they prove they can stop them. Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, whose team will host New England this Sunday night, certainly knows the Patriots’ defense well after running it for the last six seasons.
“It’s a copycat league,” Harmon said. “If you have a little bit of problems one week, a team’s going to come back the following week just to see if you made the corrections. And I’m pretty sure — I know for sure — that we’ll have a great week of practice and make all the corrections that we need to make to have a better performance on defense on Sunday.”