With the Eagles ahead 38-7 and a LOT of Saints fans anguished by the result, it's time to get going on another chapter of this season-long trip to yet ANOTHER Superbowl opportunity. (and a chance to get it done by 1 am ) What a freakin' roller coaster ride, and I don't just mean this particular game. From preseason where thoughts of an undefeated season ran amok in the national consciousness, to the 2-2 start with key figures like Hightower Rivers, McClellan, Valentine, Cannon, and Edelman injured and others expected pluses like Ealy, Harris, and Branch, either gone or simply swept aside by others. Expectations of this team have been up and down the entire season. We all can't deny that this team never turned out to be the juggernaut the media hype wanted us to believe we had. For whatever reason, this was a flawed team physically and talent-wise compared to the other elite teams. The offense rarely had their full complement and a defense that in the end, had a front 7 that ended being made up of other people's cast-offs, UDFA's, and other relative no-names who are never going to be featured on anyone's media pregame show. BUT like most (but not all) of BB's teams, this was a very hard working, focused and mentally tough group that epitomized the concept of the "sum being greater than the individual parts". They showed time and time again that "playing the full 6o minutes" and "the next man up" are NOT just random cliches. But rather living concepts that reside in Foxborough MA, more than any other place in the NFL. This is a team that is going to be a favorite to win their 3rd Superbowl in 4 years (again), but NOT because they have more talent on their team, but rather because of who they are and how they play the game. So that in the minds of so many that it doesn't matter that the Eagles might be the more talented team, or that our 2nd best player might not play. All that matters to the perception is that they are the Patriots and they will somehow find the way. How lucky we all are that we get to be fans of this team. But enough of waxing poetic, time to look at this game and try and examine what happened and why. I saw Blake Bortles play the best game he's ever played in a game of significance in his life...and it STILL wasn't enough. He completed 63% of his passes. He was 6 of 9 on 3rd down conversions before going 0-6 in the 4th. Even some of his incomplete passes were on the money and it took great defensive plays to break them up, including that 4th down play that Gilmore broke up. I thought the Jags came into Foxboro with a GREAT offensive game plan and executed it to the letter for 3 quarters. And their defense was as strong as advertised The point I am making here is that the Jags didn't come in here and give the Pats a THING. I thought we saw all the REASONS Bellichick had recommended Dough Marone TWICE for the HC'ing job. It was a good team, well coached, who went on the road into a very hostile environment and took the game directly to the Pats. They exploited weaknesses and ran to their strengths just like a good, well-coached team should. In other words, they didn't come in and throw up on their shoes as so many mediots expected them to do. This reality doesn't lessen the win any. In fact, it makes the win all the more impressive. The Pats beat a really good team, and I don't give a crap what the Felger/Shaughnessy, Volin crowd think. If they watched this game and are even half honest with themselves they should now have a much higher opinion of the Jags than they did going in. 1. Offense - General thoughts a. I expected Josh to come out conservative and he did. They had a nice opening drive, but stalled in the red zone with a couple of questionable calls that got blown up. Worse they just SUCKED on 3rd down only 3 of 12 for the game, and 1 for 9 starting out. It was beginning to look like Josh's swan song was not going to be one of his better efforts. b. And then the 4th quarter came and they seemed to turn on the Jets AFTER Gronk was gone. It was OK. but still not one of his better efforts. I thought Lewis was held out too long after his fumble (jmho). Burkhead played very few snaps (injured?) c. 3-12 on 3rd down will NOT win us a Superbowl THAT will have to improve. 2. QB- I thought Brady AGAIN played a great game. 68% completion rate and 300 yds against the best pass defense in the league and WITHOUT your #1 threat (only 1 catch for 21 yds). That's not only a good job, but a very clutch one. b. Brady didn't hit on may long passes tonight, but I felt that overall he was accurate on many of them. Even the ones that weren't caught were right there, either causing PI's or great defensive coverage. The Pass to Dorsett was a thing of beauty. Bad cut or not, it wasn't a factor in this game, at least not to my eyes. c. As to the whole Brady injury saga this week, as Emily Litela might say, "Nevermind". (nailed it.....finally. 3. Offensive line - a. Out freakin' STANDING. Yes Brady was sacked 3 times, but 2 of those were coverage sacks that he almost got back to the LOS on. And Yes he got hit a few times, but that is going to happen, especially against an elite DL, with fast LB's, and a great secondary. But for the most part, I felt that while the Jacksonville pass rush got some sacks/hits/hurries. their overall impact on the game didn't match their stats. Next time we will face an equally effective pass rush that is just as good as this one, but even deeper. I think it will be a hard challenge, but not harder than the one we faced today...and overcame. b. As far as being effective in the run game....not so much, which was surprising given the fact the Jags rush defense stats weren't outstanding like their pass D. I was surprised that we weren't more successful running the ball. The OL has to take some heat for that. I'll be looking forward to the review thread to try and figure out why we only had 14 rushes. Perhaps being behind or time of possession were factors? c. Never heard Cam Flemming's name mentioned. That must be a good thing. Waddle should be back in 2 weeks. It will be interesting to see who plays. 4. Receivers - a. Ya know, usually when you get 100 receiving yds and help cause 2 long PI's you get a LOT of attention after the game. I don't think Brandon Cooks got a single mention in the post game narrative I was watching. It was probably the quietest 100 yd playoff game in history. Good for Cooks. Maybe this will quiet the haters for a week or so. b. "Playoff Danny" was playoff Danny again. 6 fourth quarter receptions and none more clutch than 3rd and 18. FYI, no one has a 3rd and 18 play in their game plans. Hard to believe they were 1-9 before that play. Maybe the problem was their other 3rd downs were too short. The thing was they made it look easy. In his presser, Danny mentioned that he knew roughly where he was going on that play and that he'd be open, and Brady threw the "laser" right to him. Danny had 2 other noteworthy catches. The 2nd TD in the back of the end zone, and the layout on a short gain that Nance was desperately trying imply was not a catch. It was only after multiple replay angles confirm the catch that he RELUCTANTLY conceded the point. c. Dorsett had one target and one catch, and it was as beautiful as it was important. Hogan had one catch but again was a non-factor in the game. d. Gronk had just one catch. He was getting doubled early had only 1 21 yd catch before he got cracked. (btw- in my view it was a deliberate head shot. Church is claiming otherwise, but not from where I sit.) I would assume that he'll be back for the Superbowl, but you can't predict those things. But by the time he got to the locker room he no longer looked groggy to me. I expected him back in the 2nd half. 5. RB's a. Lewis and White had 10 catches....but only 54 yds for their efforts. That is NOT particularly good. Add the miserly 38 yds on 12 carries between them (with half those yds coming on one run) the run game was even worse.t b. Where was Burkhead. He had the one carry and the one drop and he was never seen again. Hurt? You'd have to think that was it, but while he was mentioned a lot , pregame, his absence was never discussed. c. On the Lewis fumble, I thought he had regained control when his knew was down, and then lost control as he fully hit the ground. If the call had been originally called, Pats possession, I don't think that one gets overturned either. Close call. I was more pissed at the time than I am now d. As I mentioned earlier, I thought Lewis was kept on the bench too long after the fumble. of course, it's just my humble opinion. e. I'm thinking the run game has to improve in Minnesota.