Patriots

Patriots

They’ve seen this movie before. We all have.

This is the scene where the demoralizing, not-very-close loss ushers in the early stages of panic. Everything is suspect. Nothing may ever work right again. Desperate measures and acquisitions are suddenly on the table.

During Bill Belichick’s downtrodden press conference/staredown he muttered the simplest, tried and true approach.

“Live with it. Own it. Move on,” he said.

The Patriots are 1-1 after a loss to the Jaguars. What happened to the Patriots offense was somewhat predictable. What Blake Bortles did to their defense was more disconcerting.

But whether it’s Jacksonville in 2018, Kansas City in 2017, Kansas City in 2014 or any other early-season egg-laying we’ve seen in the past, you know it’s a temporary thing.

“It’s a long year,” said Tom Brady. “You have a bad day against a good team and that’s a recipe for losing. And we had a bad day. We gotta learn from bad days. Things don’t magically happen. You gotta make them happen. All of us have to have more urgency to do things right more often through the course of practices, games. It was us. The first couple drives, it was us. And then you’re in a position where you’re behind and then you’re playing against a great team on the road that plays well when they’re ahead.”

The Jags were ahead because Blake Bortles once again played out of his head, against a Patriots defense that gave him too much time to throw and his receivers too much room to operate.

 

Jacksonville went 10 for 14 on third down. Each of their first five drives crossed midfield and there wasn’t a glimpse of anything resembling defensive urgency until Dont’a Hightower sawed DeDe Westbrook in half after a third-quarter catch and Stephon Gilmore followed that play with a punchout forced fumble on D.J. Chark.

The Jags gained two yards on their next two possessions and the Patriots -- who trailed 24-3 midway through the third -- looked poised to break Jacksonville’s hearts when they took over at the Jags 25 with 13:23 left trailing 24-13.

Then came a strip sack, a punt that pinned the Patriots inside their 10, a special teams gaffe, and a 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown, and the Patriots got the result they probably deserved.

Jacksonville wasn’t about to let the Patriots do the same thing to them that they did to Houston. They weren’t going to merely try to dissuade Brady from going to Rob Gronkowski. They decided to erase him. And they did, holding him to two catches for 15 yards.

That meant the Patriots had to rely on three middling wideouts, a rookie running back, the always useful James White and Brady to try and get points. The Jaguars had to like those odds.

“They make it tough on our offense . . . we could never just string enough plays together,” said Brady. “They just limit your yards after catch. They’re very sound. It’s relatively a more simple scheme but those are sometimes the best defenses because they’re fundamentally sound. They forced us to drive it and we weren’t able to do it. … They executed really well. We didn’t.”

The Patriots know their offensive attack isn’t near what it needs to be. Why else would they be trawling for skill position talent all last week?

But even though they lost Trey Flowers in the first quarter and Patrick Chung at halftime (concussions for both), a defensive performance this inept was surprising. Cornerback Eric Rowe got yanked after the first two series. Devin McCourty had a less than stellar game. The tackling was poor and there were too many simple throws for Bortles.

After harassing a rusty Deshaun Watson all over Gillette Stadium last week, the defense looked lethargic in Jacksonville.

The Jaguars are not a potent offense. They managed one touchdown last week against the Giants. The Patriots defense just played poorly.

Brady was talking about his side of the ball but he could have been speaking for the whole team when he said, “We gotta make improvements. September and October, that’s what it’s for. There’s a lot of practices. We need a lot of time to figure out what we do well and what we don’t do so well. You gotta try to win in the meantime and today obviously wasn’t good enough.”

So the Patriots live with it, own it and move on. To the 0-2 Lions next Sunday night.  

 

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