Pats Need To Get Back On Track Against Jacksonville

Christine Roy
December 22, 2012 at 12:08am ET

Buckley: On Boston sports stock market — buy Sox, sell Gronk
Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta could fit in with the Patriots
Guregian: Patriots can play draft in many ways if looking for Tom Brady heir
Filling the Patriots' needs: No. 5:
 Defensive back
Agent Don Yee expects Tom Brady to play in 2018

Sunday's game for the Patriots is a chance for the team to get back to the high level of play that is expected of them. After Sunday's disappointing performance against the 49ers, this week during practice the Pats had a lot of mistakes to fix. From fumbles to dropped passes and special team breakdowns it seems like the team could benefit from playing someone like Jacksonville. On Sunday we will see if they got back to basics and are prepared to hold their intensity against lower competition.

Tom Brady took the load last week but this week the Patriots need to restore their balance offensively. (FILE:USPresswire)

Currently the Jaguars at 2-12 are tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the worst record in the league. Their poor performance this season is supported by one of the worst defenses in the NFL, giving up just over 27 points per game. And their offense isn't much better scoring just over 15 points per game. With numbers like that, it's tough for any team to have a winning record.

Running back Maurice Jones-Drew has been ruled out for Sunday and as the leading rusher on the team, that's going to hurt their game plan. They're going to have to put the ball in Chad Henne's hands and hope for the best. He has thrown five interceptions in his starts since Blaine Gabbert went on IR but has found his groove lately. When going up against tougher competition, take the Houston Texans for example, he has held his own. In that game he threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns but they ultimately loss 43-37 in OT. But against lesser teams, take the New York Jets this time, he hasn't fared so well. In the Jaguars' week 14 loss he threw for only 185 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. The key for the Patriots will be to work together defensively to shut him down.

Aqib Talib seems to have avoided a serious hip injury when he went down on Sunday night and is day to day he told reporters this week. His return to the backfield will be critical for the Patriots to truly limit Henne's ability to hit his targets. We've seen how much improved the defense is with him on the field.

Another way the Patriots will find success on Sunday is by reestablishing their game plan. There were a lot of little mistakes last week that are uncharacteristic of the Patriots, especially for this late in the season and in such an environment as Sunday Night Football. This game is an opportunity to correct the little mistakes and get back on track. They need to restore the balance and really can't afford to have Tom Brady throwing the ball 65 times. It was no wonder he missed practice this week with a sore shoulder. With Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley as the main ball carriers I think they won't have a problem putting the ball on the ground. There's no sense in getting ahead of themselves so the Patriots need to keep their focus on correcting the mistakes and getting back on track.

There is potential for a letdown on Sunday but the Patriots are obviously well aware of that. Playing a team that has had as little success as Jacksonville can be a curse as much as it is a blessing. But by getting their balance back and holding strong defensively, there shouldn't be any problems.