Sunday’s “rematch” against the Jaguars on Sunday didn’t go well but the good news is, while Jacksonville fans don’t seem to realize it, games lost in September are certainly a little easier to deal with than ones lost after December. For now, they get to gloat about their 2-0 start while enjoying the feeling of a little redemption, but Sunday’s loss for New England will simply go down as a tough lesson that will likely make them better in the coming months.
With the team now sitting at 1-1, here are a few things that stood out in this one:
1) September games in Florida never bode well – The Patriots haven’t had much luck in September games in Florida and their trip to Jacksonville on Sunday proved to be another tough one.
Having lost the opener in 2014 when the temperature was 89 degrees and humid in Miami, they faced one of the worst environments again Sunday in North Florida as the heat index reached 107 degrees. It marked the hottest game ever for the Jaguars and proved to be an additional adversary New England had to overcome in addition to a Jacksonville team that put the pressure on early and didn’t let up. The Jaguars put together two straight scoring drives on their opening two possessions, the first of which saw them get the ball at their own 44-yard line after Stephen Gostkowski missed a 54-yard field goal on New England’s opening drive.
They punted just once in the first half, building a 21-3 advantage that was just too big to overcome as the Patriots clearly looked gassed and struggled to keep up with a Jaguars club who kept the pressure on. When the sun began to go down and clouds rolled in during the third quarter, the temperature finally dropped and that was about the time New England’s come back attempt started. Unfortunately, by then the mountain was too big to climb and it proved to be too late.
Tom Brady downplayed the heat after the game, saying he didn’t notice it and credited the Jaguars’ execution as the real reason for the loss.
“You know, I actually don’t think it was that bad—at least I didn’t feel it,” said Brady. “I mean, it was definitely warm—warmer than what we’ve had—but it was a lot like training camp this year. I think it was more the execution. [The Jaguars] executed really well; we didn’t. I think it’s really that simple, and if we want the outcomes to change, we’ve got to do things a lot differently.”
Needless to say, chalk this one up as another early season game where, fortunately, any potential rematch down there weather-wise hopefully won’t be as bad.
2) Early in the season is when the Patriots seem to be at their most vulnerable – This was mentioned heading into the opener, but it seems to be even more relevant after Sunday’s loss, and fortunately, what happens early in the season isn’t necessarily an indication of what the rest of the season holds.
The first four weeks of the season tends to be when teams are able to get the jump on Bill Belichick’s club, as that’s usually when the team hasn’t quite gotten their roster to where it needs to be and they lack film on opposing teams, who have also added their own new personnel.
Since 2014, the Patriots were 2-2 in season openers and 11-5 overall in Weeks 1-4. While that 11-5 record may not seem that bad, they’re actually a total of 40-8 over the remaining twelve weeks over that same span, which shows you how much better they get as the season goes on in three times as many games.
Between the heat, the absence of Julian Edelman and the fact Jaguars coach Doug Marrone put together a terrific game plan, it was the recipe for another one of those frustrating losses that will likely motivate this team in the coming weeks after they get the opportunity to take another look at this one.
Flowers’ loss was a tough one for the Patriots’ defense Sunday. (USA TODAY Images)
3) Losing two key players on defense and seeing another get hurt didn’t help – One of the things that stood out was the fact that Blake Bortles had the freedom to do whatever he wanted and the loss of Trey Flowers early in the game likely played a role in New England’s issues on defense. Flowers, who seemingly suffered a concussion early in the contest after being taken into the blue medical tent and then later to the locker room, is a key part of the Patriots’ pass rush and his absence hurt their ability to disrupt Jacksonville’s passing game. Also injured was Deatrich Wise, who reportedly suffered a hand injury.
Couple the loss of Patrick Chung, who also suffered a concussion, it left the Patriots’ secondary even more of a mess as the communication appeared to suffer even further. That group will have a fair amount of soul-searching to do on Monday after allowing Bortles to put up 377-yards passing along with four touchdowns as they try and rebound from a rough afternoon.
4) Patterson still not clicking with Brady – With Edelman out, the Patriots are still figuring things out offensively and it’s obvious at this point that Cordarelle Patterson is still struggling to get into a rhythm with Brady. Brady targeted him five times Sunday with three completions, two of which came on third down and saw them come up short. But one came during a critical drive where the team could have pulled to within one score and Patterson fell down on a quick throw on a 3rd-and-4 for a 2-yard loss and forced the Patriots to instead settle for a field goal and they trailed 24-13.
It’s obvious at this point that they’re still in need of adding someone who can beat one-on-one coverage to open things up for Gronkowski along with receivers Philip Dorsett and Chris Hogan. While James White lead the team in receptions with 7 catches for 73-yards, they’re still clearly missing a piece. Edelman’s return will help, but until it’s figured out, it remains a giant question mark heading into the rest of the season.
Sony Michel played well in his debut. (USA TODAY Images)
5) Not a bad start for Michel – In his first game action for the Patriots, rookie Sony Michel showed some good moments in his debut in Jacksonville Sunday. He finished the day with 10 carries for 34-yards (3.4 avg) and also caught a seven-yard pass.
The rookie was big on the Patriots’ first scoring drive, picking up a big 15-yard gain from the Jaguars 25-yard line that got them down to the 10. Two plays later, Brady hit Chris Hogan from 15-yards out for the touchdown, pulling them back within two touchdowns at 24-10 toward the end of the third quarter.
Brady said after the game that it was good to see Michel out there.
“Yeah, Sony always works hard, and he had a tough injury during camp and had some opportunities today, and he’ll learn from them. [He] ran hard when he had some chances. He’s got some great mentors in James White and Rex [Burkhead]—those guys to learn from. So, hopefully, he can keep building on what he has done.”
His development over the remainder of the season will be interesting to watch and his next opportunity will come next Sunday night when the Patriots try to get back on track in Detroit against the Lions.