Patriots

Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: Jamie Collins

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Ten most important Pats heading into 2015: Jamie Collins

Leading up to the first day of training camp, we’re going to look at the most important Patriots, counting down from 10 to 1

5. JAMIE COLLINS

Why? The dude is a freak. F-R-E-A-K, FREAK! I’m sure you’ve seen the Instagram post, but in case you haven’t, you are very welcome. There's no better athlete on the Pats roster. Collins played quarterback at one point in his high school years, before converting to defensive back and now becoming one of the best young linebackers/players (yep, I just went there) in the NFL. And you know what I love about Collins? I think he’s just beginning to fully understand what he’s capable of. Mind meeting athleticism meeting experience meeting . . . holy crap, I’m a bad mammerjammer.

Previous Performance: Spent the first eight weeks (seven games) of last season looking like a nervous kid in a new school. No eye contact. Low talker. Then Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick unleashed the hounds against Peyton Manning and Denver, and Collins became Mr. Popular and damn near Mr. Perfect. The sight of Dont'a Hightower and Collins over the guard/center gap caused many a sleepless night for QBs, offensive linemen, offensive coordinators and all their families. I think anyone who watches the league would be hard-pressed to say there was a linebacker who played better. It didn't just come in flashes, either; it was a week-to-week consistency that often eludes younger players. 

Questions surrounding the player: Can he sustain it for a full season? Collins didn’t emerge until late in his rookie year, which was to be expected, but that slow start last year was somewhat unexpected, maybe because I placed unrealistic expectations on him based on how that rookie campaign ended. I’d also like to see him be a little more aggressive at the point of attack versus the run. There were a few games (season opener in Miami, first meeting vs. the Jets, against the Ravens in the playoffs) were he didn’t meet power with power. But again, that’s just part of the learning curve.

Overall Outlook: He’s already one of the best in the game. Can he became the best? I don’t see why not. This is gonna be fun.

Jaguars beat Seahawks 30-24, take outright lead in AFC South

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Jaguars beat Seahawks 30-24, take outright lead in AFC South

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Blake Bortles threw two perfect passes for touchdowns, Jaydon Mickens set up another score with a 72-yard punt return and the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-24 on Sunday.

The Jaguars (9-4) intercepted three passes by Russell Wilson, including two on deep balls, and won for the sixth time in their last seven games. This victory, coupled with Tennessee's loss at Arizona, moved Jacksonville atop the AFC South.

It's the first time since 2010 that the Jaguars have had the outright division lead this late in a season.

The loss didn't sit well with the Seahawks (8-5), who had two players ejected in the final minute. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was ejected for throwing a punch during a melee that included defensive tackle Michael Bennett and Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette.

More pushing and shoving occurred after the next play, and defensive end Quinton Jefferson was tossed. Jefferson tried to climb into the stands after getting hit with what looked like a plastic bottle. Seattle coach Pete Carroll also got flagged for coming onto the field. Carroll walked into Seattle's huddle, possibly to calm his players down.

The ending did little to ruin Jacksonville's celebration, which had a lot to do with Bortles and the league's top-ranked defense.

Coming off one of the best games of his career, a 30-10 victory against Indianapolis, Bortles was equally efficient and effective against the Seahawks.

Two of his better throws ended up in the end zone. He floated an 18-yarder early in the third quarter to rookie Dede Westbrook, the first for the 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist. Bortles' second one was even better, a deep pass that hit Keelen Cole in stride and went for 75 yards.

Cole's second touchdown in as many weeks came on the ensuing play after Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a 26-yard score that tied it at 10.

Jacksonville's third-quarter surge wasn't done. Mickens zigzagged through the middle of Seattle's coverage team and ended up getting stopped at the 1-yard line. Leonard Fournette handled it from there, scoring for the ninth time this season.

That was enough - just barely - for Jacksonville's defense.

Trailing 27-10, Wilson avoided a sack and hit Paul Richardson for a 61-yard score. Down 30-17, Wilson connected with Tyler Lockett for a 74-yarder.

Wilson had a final chance to rally his team, but he failed to convert a fourth-and-9 pass from the Seattle 43.

Fournette iced the victory by gaining 13 yards on a third-and-11 play with less than 2 minutes remaining.

RARE MISTAKES

Wilson's early mistakes left Seattle in a huge hole. It was the first time this season and the fourth time in 105 career games that Wilson threw three interceptions. It was his first game with three or more picks since throwing five against Green Bay in December 2016.

INJURIES

Seahawks: All-everything LB Bobby Wagner left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return. ... LB K.J. Wright (concussion) left the field late in the third quarter and was ruled out. ... RB Mike Davis (ribs) was knocked out briefly but returned.

Jaguars: RB Corey Grant injured his right shoulder while fumbling a kickoff. ... TE Marcedes Lewis jammed a finger on his left hand. ... WR Larry Pinkard left in the second quarter while being evaluated for a concussion and was ruled out at halftime. Jaguars played without speedy LB Telvin Smith (concussion).

UP NEXT

Seahawks: Host the Los Angeles Rams in game that could help determine the NFC West champion.

Jaguars: Wrap up a three-game homestand against Houston.

Cardinals beat Titans, knock them out of AFC South lead

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Cardinals beat Titans, knock them out of AFC South lead

GLENDALE, Ariz. - Phil Dawson kicked four second-half field goals and the Arizona Cardinals shut down Tennessee's offense nearly all day Sunday in a 12-7 victory over the Titans, who had entered the game leading the AFC South.

Dawson connected from 47, 23, 32 and 35 yards and missed from 40 for the Cardinals (6-7), whose victory came two weeks after they beat then-AFC South leader Jacksonville on the same field.

The Cardinals intercepted Marcus Mariota twice in the second half after the Titans (8-5) nursed a 7-0 lead at halftime.

Mariota completed 16 of 31 passes for 159 yards. Tennessee managed 65 yards rushing against the Cardinals after gaining 198 on the ground in a win over Houston a week ago.

Mariota was 6 of 16 for 60 yards with two picks in the second half.

The Cardinals gained 64 yards in the first half and 197 in the second.

Blaine Gabbert completed 17 of 26 for 178 yards for Arizona with no interceptions, but was sacked eight times, most by a Cardinals quarterback this season. Kerwynn Williams rushed for 73 yards as Arizona outgained Tennessee on the ground 136-65.

The lone score of the first two quarters came after Andy Lee's 33-yard punt gave Tennessee the ball at the 50. The Titans needed nine plays, Derrick Henry sweeping right and diving at the pylon on the 6-yard touchdown play.

Mariota directed the Titans on a drive from their 26-yard line to the Arizona 40 in the final 49 seconds of the half, but Ryan Succop's 58-yard field goal try bounced off the crossbar.

Arizona took the second-half kickoff and, despite Tennessee getting two sacks, got a 47-yard field goal from Dawson to cut the lead to 7-3.

Then came a big Tennessee gamble that failed.

After the subsequent kickoff, the Titans faked a punt on fourth-and-1 from their 35. Initially, officials ruled that Eric Weems had made the first down. But Arizona coach Bruce Arians challenged the spot and, after a review, it was determined the runner came up a few inches short.

The Cardinals took over and Dawson's 23-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-6.

Dawson missed a 40 yarder that would have given the Cardinals the lead with 12:04 to play. But the 42-year-old kicker would get another chance.

Rookie Chad Williams ran 33 yards on an end-around to ignite an eight-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in Dawson's 32-yard field goal to put Arizona ahead 9-7 with 5:59 to play. Gabbert overthrew a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone on third down to force the field goal.

Josh Bynes intercepted Mariota over the middle on the next possession and returned it 25 yards. A late-hit penalty against the Titans play moved the ball to the Tennessee 7. Jurrell Casey's second sack of the game forced yet another field goal by Dawson, good from 35 yards to finish the scoring.

FITZ MOVES UP

With his 23-yard catch on the Cardinals' first possession of the second half, Fitzgerald moved past his boyhood idol Randy Moss into third place on the NFL career yards receiving list, trailing only Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice.

Fitzgerald was a ball boy for the Vikings and used to wash Moss' cars for cash, and even borrowed his BMW to go to the high school prom.

INJURIES

The Titans lost starting left tackle Taylor Lewan in the second quarter with a lower back injury. Arizona outside linebacker Gabe Martin left in the first quarter with a hamstring injury.

UP NEXT

Titans: at San Francisco next Sunday.

Cardinals: at Washington next Sunday.