Weeks before this game, I said that something would go wrong with the Patriots. All of my fellow Patriots fans told me I was insane. At one point I even thought they might lose. I really didn't have an answer but it just felt like this game against Jacksonville would be one in which they just let down their guard. Obviously, I was hoping I was wrong and I was. Fault accepted. However, contrary to what most Pats fans predicted, this game was not a blowout and the Jaguars gave New England quite a challenge.
I was literally surprised at how Jacksonville opened up this game, with a 9-play 78 yard drive which culminated in a Justin Blackmon touchdown catch. Perhaps the Patriots defense came in way too overconfident because we definitely saw how they got shredded up on that opening series. In addition, I was also surprised at how the Patriots responded with their first possession of the match: An interception thrown by Tom Brady. Granted, it wasn't his fault (because Stevan Ridley still has butterfingeritis) yet, that's not how you expect the Pats to open up the game against a team that was tied for the worst record in the NFL. The Jaguars rightfully deserved the 10-3 lead after the 1st quarter.
I saw some #UpsetAlert tweets on my twitter timeline when the Jaguars made it 13-3. A bit pretentious but I could understand because the Patriots really didn't know what was going on. But as the quarter went on I saw a change in the tempo of the New England offense and keeping true to that, they ended up tying the game at 13 under 2 minutes. Of course, you shouldn't need a comeback to defeat the Jaguars (the Texans thought so too) but the objective was to get a win through simple mechanics at that point, which is what the Patriots did. I was very impressed that they stopped trying to play fancy because in those situations when you're down by 10, basic football mechanics help big time.
When the 3rd quarter started, I honestly was debating if this game was worth watching anymore because neither team was doing anything. Constant 3 and outs and a really slow-paced offensive display. But I stayed and the most action I got out of that quarter was seeing a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. Yet in some ways, it was a bit of a concern to me that the Patriots were 3/4 of the way through the game but only had a 16-13 lead going into the 4th quarter.
The 4th looked a lot like the 1st, with action. At the end of the 3rd, the Pats were deep inside the Jags' redzone. Brady of course, opened up the 4th by finding Wes Welker for a 2 yard touchdown reception. Now I could breathe a little since the Patriots built a 10 point lead and it stayed that way for the majority of the match. Marquice Cole and Patrick Chung made statements by picking off Henne but the Patriots just couldn't find a way to extend the lead despite the numerous opportunites given to them by Jacksonville. It was as if both teams were trading opportunities but the Jaguars finally got a field goal to cut the New England lead to a TD.
On the Jaguars' final possession, I was very upset at Chung's discipline. By illegally hitting Cecil Shorts in the head, the Pats were forced to give up 15 yards and work with a new set of downs to defend. He should know that blind-side hits to the head can't be tolerated at that stage of the game. Despite the Jaguars driving all the way down the field (and at one point 12 yards away from the game-tying TD), Chung redeemed himself by grabbing Henne's pass, sealing the 23-16 win. The New England Patriots are now 11-4 and can still capture that first round bye (Houston did a favor by losing but Denver unfortunately won). Regardless, that's a great feeling to have as the Patriots enjoy their Christmas break.
- Congrats to Tom Brady for tying Johnny Unitas' record for most consecutive games with 1 TD pass or more (47). Brady now only trails Drew Brees by 7 games and can break the record in 8 games. Despite the 2 INTs, I think Brady's going to enjoy himself after that win and recognizing those stats.
- Stepehn Gostkowski is really confusing me. On the night when most of our FoxboroBlog staff and I attended the Thanksgiving showdown against the Jets in NJ, Gostkowski missed a 30 yarder. Yet today, he got one from 25, 50, and 38 yards out, respectively! How does that work?!
- The Patriots O-Line was again a big question mark. When you know Brady gets sacked two times in a row, there's definitely a problem with the O-Line. They have 1 more regular season game to figure the problem out and fix it.
The Patriots will play the Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on th 30th to close out their season. Until then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Pats fans!