And so it was. The Jaguars got their revenge for last year's loss in the AFC Championship Game with a 31-20 victory. Here's how it played . . .
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAD THE BALL
The Patriots got moving a little on their first drive with a 23-yard completion to Jacob Hollister before an uncalled hold on Rob Gronkowski (by Jags linebacker Telvin Smith) led to a lengthy field-goal attempt that Stephen Gostkowski shanked. On their second drive, they went to Sony Michel three times and didn’t convert a first down. After their third fruitless possession, both Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels unloaded on the offense. On the ensuing drive, Brady went 8-for-10 throwing short passes underneath and to the sideline and got the Pats to the Jags 11 before they stalled and settled for a Gostkowski field goal. After a three-and-out to open the half, the Patriots cashed in a recovered fumble with a Brady-to-Chris Hogan touchdown pass. They settled for a field goal on their next drive to make it 24-13 and were back in business in Jacksonville territory after a Kyle Van Noy pick. But La’Adrian Waddle got beat by Dante Fowler and the strip sack took probable points off the board. The Patriots were forced to punt on their next drive early in the fourth after a challenged first down by Jacksonville overturned a James White catch-and-run. The Patriots tacked on a garbage-time TD by Chris Hogan. The heat Brady saw in the first half wasn’t as hard to deal with as the game went on but he still was under semi-regular duress. The Jags sent double-teams on Gronk (2 catches, 15 yards) all game. James White had 7 catches for 73 yards and was a regular bailout option. The Jaguars did a great job limiting YAC for the most part. The Patriots had moments of effectiveness in the running game but weren’t able to nor inclined to stick with it. The Patriots are working very hard to get the matchups they want and scheme things up but there just aren’t any true mismatches they can generate. They can’t yet outperform, they have to outwit. The Patriots went 4-for-12 on third down.
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAD THE BALL
Blake Bortles opened the game hot as a pistol, going 10-for-13 for 123 yards and two touchdowns on the first two drives. He extended the second drive with a nice scramble on third-and-6 when Patrick Chung lost track of him. Bortles hit Keelan Cole twice over Eric Rowe for the score. Stephon Gilmore was in coverage on the first touchdown, a brilliant throw by Bortles. Rowe took a seat on the next Jags drive, replaced by Jason McCourty and the Patriots forced a punt from their own 40 after they held up on a third-and-17. Jacksonville got a big conversion on a third down right after the two-minute warning when New England sent everyone and Bortles found tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins for a conversion in front of Devin McCourty. Coming out in the second half, the Jaguars kept tearing off chunks of yardage with simple pitch-and-catch throws to their wideouts including a completion on third-and-11 in front of Rowe. On their next third down, they ran a simple pick that yielded an 11-yard completion. A Bortles scramble was another third-down conversion and the Jags capped it with a field goal. The Patriots finally had a drive that didn’t enter their territory when Stephon Gilmore forced a fumble that was recovered by Duron Harmon and set up a Chris Hogan touchdown catch. The Patriots forced a three-and-out and came up with a pick on their next two possessions but got just three points out of it. The Patriots were still hanging in midway through the fourth but a simple crossing route run by Dede Westbrook turned into a 61-yard touchdown to make it 31-13 with 7:30 left. The overview? First, Bortles was ridiculously accurate for most of the game (29 for 45 for 377 and four TDs). He got precious little heat put on him as the Patriots seemed content to make him be accurate and drill some throws. He did. The tackling was very poor after the catch on some plays as well. There was a stretch when the defense started to play faster and with a little more aggression after the Jags started to get separation and some turnovers resulted. But the competitiveness in the secondary for the most part was subpar. The Jags were 10-for-14 on third down.
THE KICKING GAME
Stephen Gostkowski missed his 54-yard field goal attempt by a mile. Ryan Allen’s first punt was a bomb – 57 yards and perfectly placed on the sideline. Allen averaged 55.5 yards on his four punts. Jags punter Logan Cooke had a key punt in the second when he pinned the Patriots at their 6. Patrick Chung was back deep to field punts. Gostkowski hit a chip shot later in the first half. After Chung got hurt, the Patriots didn’t have anyone deep to field a plus-50 punt in the second half. The Patriots covered better on kick returns.
GAME WITHIN A GAME
It took three drives to do it, but the Patriots finally started squeezing throws out more quickly. A lot of those were quick ones into the middle of the field to James White or in front of corners giving cushion but it did help to slow down the Jacksonville pass rush.
JAGUARS HAD TO STOP . . . ROB GRONKOWSKI
The Jags took care of Gronkowski, though the ever-vocal Jalen Ramsey didn’t have much to do with it. Gronk caught just two passes for 15 yards and Jacksonville made it their business to take him away. Gronk was targeted just four times.
PATRIOTS HAD TO STOP . . . MYLES JACK
Jack had eight tackles. He didn’t do anything particularly outstanding but the Jags in general didn’t do anything spectacular. They just took care of business.
Trey Flowers left in the first quarter after taking a whack on the back of the head from a teammate. Patrick Chung later got concussed and both were out after their injuries. Deatrich Wise left late with an apparent finger injury.
THAT SUMS IT UP, PATRIOTS STYLE
“I think it raises everybody’s game as long as it doesn’t get to the point where you do something stupid. I mean, I think emotion in football is critical, and I think you have to have the energy and emotion. Because, I mean, it’s a game of poise certainly, but it’s also a game of just cutting it loose, and that’s got to be a lot of confidence, a lot of trust in the people that are next to you so you can go be really free of what you’re doing to go play a very anticipatory sport. So, you just can’t wait for things to happen. If you wait for it to happen, it’s too late. You’ve always got to anticipate, and playing with energy and enthusiasm are all part of the game.” – Tom Brady, when asked last week if he expected an emotionally-charged game.
While Brady might have embraced the idea of feeling some emotion – and showed some during the first half – this felt like a flat, tentative performance from a team that doesn’t know what it is yet. On either side of the ball.
THAT SUMS IT UP, JAGUARS STYLE
“Jalen and I have had conversations. Obviously, those conversations remain between me and the player and I’ve said that before. I know that I have the greatest amount of respect for Rob. I’ve known him a long time, know his dad, family, the whole nine yards, and we’ve played against him quite a bit and we have a ton of respect for him. He’s probably one of the best guys, if not the best, that’s ever played the game at his position, and we know that he’s a challenge in many different ways in what he can do. That’s how I feel and that’s how our team feels.” – Doug Marrone, Jags head coach, when asked before the game about Jalen Ramsey’s dismissive comments about Rob Gronkowski.
Ramsey checked Gronk a couple of times and the ball never went there while he was on him. Ramsey did do some gum-flapping with James White after a tackle on the sidelines. One would hope he could bring down a running back who had his back turned to him when he made a reception. But Ramsey was not visibly consequential.
THE CREW AND THE LINE
Carl Cheffers was the referee. His crew did Bears-Packers on Monday night. There were 13 accepted penalties in that one. The CBS booth had Jim Nantz and Tony Romo for the 4:25 p.m. start. The Patriots were favored by 1.5 and the total was 45.
There was a missed (and obvious) hold on Gronk on the first Patriots possession and there was contact created by Jags wide receiver Dede Westbrook in the end zone that could have been an OPI on the Seferian-Jenkins touchdown. The Jags challenged a spot in the fourth quarter that overturned a first down in the fourth quarter. But the Jags had seven penalties for 71 yards and the Patriots had 2 for 25 so it’s not like the game hinged on what the officials did. The Jags covered and this went over.