Patriots

Patriots

JACKSONVILLE -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Jaguars on Sunday afternoon . . . 

PATRIOTS CAN'T CAPITALIZE LATE

The Patriots had their opportunities to come back. The Jaguars were giving them away. But they just couldn't make the most of them. Chris Hogan and Tom Brady connected for a touchdown off of Stephon Gilmore's forced-fumble and Duron Harmon's recovery in the third quarter, but after that the offense sputtered with short fields. The Patriots had great field position after a short Jags punt in the third but could only muster a field goal. Kyle Van Noy later intercepted a pass deep in Jaguars territory, but the Patriots followed that up by allowing Brady to be strip-sacked. The Patriots forced a Jags punt, didn't return it because they didn't have a returner, subsequently went three-and-out, and the Jags answered with a one-play 61-yard scoring drive -- Blake Bortles to Dede Westbrook -- to effectively put the game away. The Patriots had their chances to come back from 24-3 but couldn't make Jacksonville pay. 

NO ANSWER FOR FIRST-HALF BORTLES . . . AGAIN

Credit the Jaguars for losing their top offensive player -- second-year running back Leonard Fournette, out with a hamstring injury -- and adjusting with their offensive game plan. They trusted Blake Bortles to make plays, and he answered the bell. It was a 30-minute performance reminiscent of what Bortles did in the AFC title game in January. He completed 17 of his first 25 throws for 200 yards and three scores. His fade to Donte Moncrief was well-placed, as was his sideline tear-drop to Keelan Cole. He Found Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a score when the Jags ran a well-designed slant-corner at the goal line. (It was actually a slant-slant-corner, with Patrick Chung getting picked to free up the former Jets tight end.) Bortles averaged eight yards per attempt in the first half, an indication that the Patriots allowed the Jags to move the football at will. 
 

PERSONNEL MOVES ACROSS THE BOARD

Eric Rowe (above) found himself on the bench in favor of corner Jason McCourty after Rowe was beaten twice by Cole in the first quarter. Rowe returned briefly in the second half but was beaten for a gain of 22 on third down and was pulled. Jason McCourty is a jack-of-all-trade defensive back because he was the first one in when Patrick Chung had to miss time briefly at safety. Chung was in as the team's punt-returner with no clear-cut option at that spot. (Newly-acquired return man Kenjon Barner was inactive.) Chung was removed  from the game at halftime with a concussion, kicking Cordarrelle Patterson up the depth chart as the team's top punt returner. On two second-half punts, the Patriots had Patterson (and Chris Hogan) back deep for one. On the second, with 9:37 left, no one aligned deep and the Jags pinned the Patriots at their 9-yard line. Offensively, the Patriots had LaAdrian Waddle in at right tackle, as expected, with Marcus Cannon ruled out. And on snap-to-snap they were mixing and matching frequently. They utilized 11, 12, 21, 22, 31, and 13 personnel to try to take advantage in the first half, but they were only able to muster two field-goal tries. One was missed badly to the right by Stephen Gostkowski.

FLOWERS HEAD INJURY A PROBLEM ON MULTIPLE FRONTS

Not only did the Patriots lose their best defensive lineman when Trey Flowers suffered a head injury in the first quarter. They also lost some depth. Along the defensive line, where the bodies are bigger, and where the heat can wear on players along the line quickly, depth is critical. To lose their best talent -- generally a very well-conditioned player -- early on taxed the rest of Bill Belichick's front for the remainder of the game. The Patriots rolled with Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise and Keionta Davis as their ends, with Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton on the interior. Derek Rivers was a inactive as a healthy scratch. Against Bortles, who can move to extend plays or pick up yardage when he needs to, a fresher defensive line might've made a difference.

 

GRONKOWSKI A NON-FACTOR

It wasn't as though Jalen Ramsey followed Gronkowski all over the field. He did see the Patriots tight end on at least one third-down play -- we'll have more detailed coverage stats in our report card -- but the Jags didn't need to use their top cover man on Gronkowski. With a combination of looks thrown his way, Gronkowski caught just two passes for 15 yards. Hard to win that way. 

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