Sponsored

Perry's Report Card: Pats' offensive line goes hog wild on Jaguars

/ by Phil Perry
Presented By Mass School of Law
Sponsored

At the moment, we can only guess at what had Mac Jones and Bill Belichick so tickled by the end of their dominant victory over the Jaguars. 

Maybe Belichick commented on Kendrick Bourne's sideline dancing? Or maybe it was because they're both just a couple of football guys with a soft spot for complementary football and Sunday's game was their nirvana?

If that second answer is the answer, hard to blame them.

After two weeks of slow starts that helped lead to losses, just look at how the afternoon began. 

The Patriots defense forced a three-and-out.  The offense then scored a touchdown immediately thereafter on an 11-play drive. Following a Jacksonville field goal, Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson returned a bad kickoff 14 yards, which helped set up a nine-play touchdown drive. Then the Patriots picked off Trevor Lawrence ... followed that with a touchdown ... and the floodgates were open. 

Eventually they walloped the Jags, 50-10. Coupled with a Dolphins loss, the Patriots locked themselves into a playoff spot.

NFL playoff picture: Updated scenarios for Patriots after beating Jaguars

"I thought that we played well in all three phases of the game," Belichick said. "It was good. It’s what we needed to do, and hopefully we can build on this and play well next week and going forward. Good solid team win all the way around. 

"Excited to be back in the playoffs but big game coming up this week, take care of that. But feel like we made some progress today, but we’ve still got a long way to go here. Just need to keep grinding it out day by day. Hopefully we’ll do that and see where it takes us."

 

It was the Jaguars, yes. The Patriots should've dominated in every facet. But to this extent? To score 50? To put it in the end zone on all four of their first-half possessions? To go 8-for-10 on third down?

That's a special kind of beatdown that should mean something against a team that beat the Bills for one of its two wins earlier this season. And in a week when Tom Brady's Bucs very nearly lost to the Jets. And one week after the Texans beat the Chargers. And two weeks after the Lions beat the Cardinals.

Sunday's demolition can't tell us if the Patriots are a great team. But weird things tend to happen in the NFL. They did what good teams do to very bad ones. That's not nothing.

Let's get to the grades...

Quarterback: A-

Not much to nitpick here. Nice clean performance from Mac Jones after what was arguably his worst game of the season one week prior. His first two touchdown passes were things of beauty.

The first featured a fake end-around -- after the Patriots had already handed two to Kendrick Bourne for 17 yards -- to get the defense flowing one way. Jones then rolled in the opposite direction, looked to Brandon Bolden near the pylon, looked to Kristian Wilkerson coming from the backside of the formation, then seemingly looked to Jakobi Meyers quickly as a potentially-forgotten man by the Jags defense.

Jones came back to Wilkerson, who was running away from coverage along the back end line for the score. Off-platform isn't necessarily how Jones always wants to throw, but he made two accurate on-the-move connections Sunday -- the other came on third down -- that indicated he has a bit more athleticism than some scouting reports would suggest.

The second touchdown was perfectly-placed to Jakobi Meyers in the back corner of the end zone in the second quarter. Easy read. No pressure. Nice touch. Well-executed. Clean.

Jones was given a gift on his third score when the Jags completely bit on a fake bubble to Bourne, leaving Wilkerson wide open. But he later hit Wilkerson's hands deep down the field in tight coverage but the pass was dropped. That will hurt the wideout grade here, but it helps the quarterback's. Jones also scrambled for a first down on third down to round out what was a pretty complete performance.

Curran: Win over hapless Jags open to interpretation for Pats

"Mac is super consistent," Bill Belichick said after the game. "Every day is really the same day for Mac. He’s always well prepared. He’s in early. He’s ready to go. He knows what we’re going to be doing, and he’s already got a head start on it. He maximizes the information that the coaches give him, maximizes the walk-throughs, the practice reps, and learns from whatever happens in those situations. He’s smart. 

 

"He’s a good learner, but he’s got good instincts and good mechanics. He’s just worked hard to get better every day. A lot of consistency and great work ethic and really pays attention to details and has just improved in every area throughout the course of the year. Continues to improve on a daily basis. He’s just a really great person to coach because he’s so responsive to trying to do everything the way that you want to do it."

The only reason this grade isn't a straight "A" is because after going 7-for-7 to start the game, Jones could've been picked when he hesitated slightly on a throw to the right sideline. Otherwise there was very little not to like here. 

Running back: A

The Jags tried to sell out to stop the run. They loaded the box early against Damien Harris. Then when Harris left to give his injured hamstring a rest, they did the same to Rhamondre Stevenson. In fact, only three backs playing before Sunday night saw a higher percentage of eight-man boxes than Stevenson did, according to Next Gen Stats (57.9 percent).

Didn't matter. As a group, Patriots backs ran for 146 total yards and 5.0 yards per carry.

Stevenson ran for 107 yards on 19 carries, including 20 rush yards deemed "over expected," per NGS. That was sixth-most among backs this week prior to Sunday Night Football. Harris ran for only 35 yards on nine carries, but his two touchdowns were hard-charging scores of two yards and seven yards. On the longer of the two, Harris showed good vision to cut back and use his blockers to plow into the end zone.

Brandon Bolden had a drop in this one. It wasn't a perfect day. But Bolden caught two passes for 21 yards and had an excellent blitz pickup in the third quarter that gave Jones just enough time against the Jacksonville blitz to find Jakobi Meyers for seven yards.

Wide receiver: A-

What's not to like about this group? Kendrick Bourne put away 76 yards receiving, catching five of his six targets. He also ran two end-arounds for 17 yards. He took multiple hard shots in this one -- at one point a trainer appeared to be tending to his teeth -- yet protected the football and continuously bounced back up.

Meyers ended with a productive day himself, reeling in all eight of his targets for 73 yards. He got a step on his defender in the end zone and caught a perfectly-placed bucket throw from Jones for a score. He also was consistently asked to block force players defensively in the running game, motioning back and forth along the line of scrimmage depending on where he was needed, and he seemed to handle himself without issue.

 

Then there's Wilkerson, who was able to record his first NFL catch and his first and second NFL touchdowns in the same game. His first catch floated a little high out of Jones' hands and appeared to be the same type of pass that led to a N'Keal Harry drop last week.

Everyone had the same reaction after Wilkerson's first NFL TD

Wilkerson could still maintain a role even when Nelson Agholor (concussion) returns if Belichick believes he can handle some of the blocking duties Harry maintained earlier this year. Harry was a healthy scratch against the Jags. Wilkerson's drop deep down the field hurt this grade a tad, but it was a nice showing from start to finish for these guys.

Tight end: B

At the end of the first quarter, Hunter Henry got out into space to help lead the way for a long Harris run. At the start of the second, Jonnu Smith helped lead the way on a long Stevenson run. Johnson arrived at the point of attack with violence on Stevenson's first touchdown run. This group put its stamp on the game as blockers.

But it made plays as well. Henry ended up with three catches for 37 yards, showing a good connection with Jones on outward-breaking routes. And Smith had a chance to do some damage with the ball in his hands as well. Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said earlier in the week he had to try to find ways for Smith get contribute more, and he did.

Smith caught a screen and scrambled for 20 yards. He also had one carry and made a good quick move soon after taking the handoff, motoring ahead for five. Not game-breaking moments, but positive momentum for a player who hadn't done much on that side of the ball in recent weeks.

Johnson picked up a holding call that dinged this grade, but it was overall a solid day from this unit.

Offensive line: A

No surprise Jones was yucking it up on the sidelines with some teammates and Belichick at the end of Sunday's win over the Jags. Not only were the Patriots on their way to posting a 50 burger, Jones had barely been touched.

Jones was not sacked in the game. That's the first time that's happened all year outside of his three-pass game in Buffalo. And the only time he was hit, when Shaq Mason was beaten to the outside, a personal-foul penalty was called on Jacksonville that struck the play from the books. The Patriots offensive line easily handled four-man rushes from the Jags and had no problem when they decided to dial-up pressure too.

Jones was not sacked in the game. That's the first time that's happened all year outside of his three-pass game in Buffalo. Massive performance from the big fellas up front.

Phil Perry

“It’s a point of emphasis every week, you don’t like your quarterback getting hit," David Andrews said. "We did a good job. They have a lot of blitzes, the whole blitz package they have, so like I said it takes everyone executing on the same page. Backs, us, the quarterback, receivers if they have to run a hot route, or whatever it may be."

 

In the running game, if you take away quarterback kneels and sneaks, this group helped the Patriots rack up over 5.0 yards per carry. Mason, who has been playing some of his best football down the stretch, was particularly dominant on a pair of short-yardage touchdown runs by Harris and Stevenson.

Massive performance from the big fellas up front in New England.

Special teams: C+

There were a couple of obvious miscues here. Jake Bailey dropped a snap on one of Nick Folk's seven point-after attempts. Folk also had an extra point blocked. Not what you're looking for. That's where this grade is dinged.

But five of Bailey's nine kickoffs saw Jags returners dropped inside their 25-yard line. The other four were touchbacks. And Bailey's lone punt of the day traveled 40 yards and plopped inside the Jacksonville 20.

Justin Bethel, Matthew Slater and Chase Winovich all made key plays to help the coverage units have one of their best days of the year. 

Defensive line: B+

The Jags actually ended up having a decent day on the ground with the Patriots protecting against the pass for the vast majority of the afternoon. They ran for 4.7 yards per carry (17 attempts for 80 yards) and Trevor Lawrence scrambled for 15 yards when Deatrich Wise crashed hard up the field, opening up a running lane for Jacksonville's athletic rookie quarterback.

But this unit helped bother Lawrence at various points throughout the afternoon. Christian Barmore had a sack and a pressure. Wise hit the quarterback once. Lawrence Guy had a couple of run stuffs and Carl Davis contributed to one bottled-up run by anticipating the snap count and re-setting the line of scrimmage.

Linebacker: A-

This position group made itself heard with a sack from Dont'a Hightower on the second play of the game. Getting the assist? Fellow linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, who ran a stunt with Hightower that led to the veteran's open path to the quarterback. 

Hightower later forced a quarterback scramble for no yardage by A) taking away Lawrence's tight end option in the flat and then B) shoving the tight end to the ground and forcing Lawrence out of bounds. Both Bentley and Jamie Collins recorded pass breakups to further snuff out the Jags passing game.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Why the Patriots’ beat down of Jacksonville was very necessary | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

With Matt Judon playing sparingly after dealing with COVID -- he said after the game he now has his wind back -- Chase Winovich saw time defensively and played with some energy. He helped crush a Jags pocket with Barmore and he had a third-quarter pressure that helped lead to an incompletion.

 

Maybe Winovich, who hadn't played in the last three games defensively, can provide this group some athletic juice down the stretch. 

Secondary: A

It wasn't a perfect day for this unit. But they still were able to come away with three picks that helped put this game away. Hard not to give them the highest marks despite the minor glitches.

Did they miss an opportunity to make a play on the football on a deep shot to Laquon Treadwell? Did they seemingly forget to cover Marvin Jones on a second-quarter strike? Did J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills miss chances at picks on consecutive plays near the end of the first half?

They did.

But the good far outweighed the bad on Sunday for this unit. 

Kyle Dugger looked like one of the fastest players on the field at times, whether he was making a powerful tackle on the second play of Jacksonville's second drive or picking off Lawrence by buzzing down to the intermediate area to apparently confuse Lawrence.

Myles Bryant came up with a pick off a deflection early in the second quarter. Mills was credited with a couple of pass breakups. Jackson made a diving interception soon thereafter for his eighth on the season and his 25th in four years, tying the record for most picks in a player's first four seasons.

"We created three turnovers," Jackson said. "That’s good ball on the defensive side of the ball. They couldn’t score so it felt like we did a hell of a job on defense."