Patriots Lock In Playoff Berth, Maul Jaguars
FOXBOROUGH – The late Dennis Green once famously said in a postgame press conference, “They are who we THOUGHT they were!!”
Same applies here to the Patriots as they faced the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
The woebegone Jags, a few weeks removed from firing head coach Urban Meyer and trying to put their franchise back together, came to Foxborough with everyone expecting a Patriot blowout win. Mired in a two-game losing streak, the Patriots were looking for a “get well win” much like the 54-13 win over the Jets that launched the seven-game win streak.
The blowout win happened. The 50-10 win was totally without suspense, interest or anything positive to speak of. What was supposed to happen happened? The Jaguars put up little resistance, the Patriots scored on most every drive, and the only thing Bill Belichick needs to complain about is his extra point unit which failed twice during the game.
Actually, the day turned out to be very positive, but the positive came from other cities.
With Miami losing to Tennessee, 34-3, the Patriots have officially clinched a playoff berth. With Indianapolis losing to Las Vegas, 23-20, the Patriots have leapfrogged the Colts and now have the five seed in the conference. Atlanta almost delivered an unexpected New Year’s present to the Patriots by playing Buffalo tough in snowy western New York, but the Bills won 29-15 to hold on to the AFC East lead.
Going into the final weekend, the Patriots have to travel to Miami to face the Dolphins, which as history tells us can be problematic for your team. Miami beat the Patriots in the season opener at Gillette, so the Patriots may have an edge in revenge. The big win against Jacksonville puts the Patriots back into a good frame of mind, and they will need it as they will face a coach in Brian Flores who is totally unafraid of his old team and coach.
Meanwhile, the Bills will have the Jets at home, and they will be prohibitive favorites to win that game and clinch the AFC East. If the Patriots and Bills both win next week, then the Patriots would travel to Orchard Park, N.Y. the following week for a Wild Card playoff date against their division rivals. That game would turn out to be a rubber game between the two as each team has won in the other team’s crib.
For now, Belichick is on to Miami, and with good reason. Getting well against Jacksonville was the elixir the Patriots needed after getting spanked by Indianapolis and Buffalo in successive weeks following a bye week. It is imperative that the Patriots come out with guns blazing; even though the Dolphins were eliminated from playoff contention when the Chargers won later in the day over Denver, they will not be cowed by the Patriots. The Patriots also need to bring their “A” game to the table and not use this game as a running back clinic or misjudge a final play of the game by putting in inadequate coverage personnel on a Hail Mary play that turns into a Cal-Stanford play.
There is literally nothing to dissect from this Patriot win over Jacksonville. You name it, the Patriots did it and did it well.
Seriously, the only thing that did not go well was kicking extra points. Nick Folk had one blocked in the third quarter, and Jake Bailey fumbled a snap after a fourth quarter touchdown, but in both cases the Patriots had a comfortable lead.
It’s probably better to play up individual achievements, and let’s begin with Kristian Wilkerson. He had four catches, the first four of his NFL career as he was a late addition when Nelson Agholor was scratched from this game. Two of those catches went for touchdowns, giving him a much shorter wait for his first NFL touchdown catch than his teammate, Jakobi Meyers. Mac Jones hit him on a rollout pass in the back of the end zone in the second quarter, then later found him from 20 yards out in the third quarter after a blown assignment by Tyson Campbell left him completely wide open.
Damien Harris scored two touchdowns today, giving him 14 for the season and tying him with Curtis Martin for the second most rushing touchdowns in a season in Patriots history. Rhamondre Stevenson also had two rushing touchdowns, but he also eclipsed the century mark with 107 yards rushing. The Patriots had 181 team rushing yards and a 5-yard average per carry.
Jones was terrific at quarterback, helping boost his confidence with 22 of 30 passing for 227 yards, three touchdowns and a 128.1 passer rating. Kendrick Bourne had 76 receiving yards, while Meyers led the team with eight catches. Meyers had the other touchdown catch from Jones, a five-yard catch near the end of the first half on a nice lob pass from Jones.
The Patriot offense was so on point that they were 8 of 10 on third down conversions. They possessed the ball for over 36 minutes and were such that Jacksonville could do nothing with them for most of the game. Bailey didn’t punt until halfway through the third quarter, and it was his only punt of the day.
Defensively, the Patriots gave rookie Trevor Lawrence fits all game long. Lawrence finished 17 of 27 for 193 yards, one touchdown pass, three interceptions and a 57.1 rating. Lawrence looked frustrated at times during the game, but did get his first touchdown pass in the last three games with a late screen toss to Dare Ogunbowale for 28 yards. J.C. Jackson, Myles Bryant and Kyle Dugger each had interceptions, Dugger’s pick almost going to the house for a pick six before getting stopped at the one-yard line.
So it comes down to next week. The Patriots need to win at Miami and hope that the Jets can make like Super Bowl III again. Playing at Miami can be problematic, and the fact that Miami is now out of playoff contention won’t cause them to play the Patriots any less tough. Chances are that the Patriots will not come out flat like in the two December losses. But it will still be a tough game for the Patriots.
This continues to be a weird season. Kansas City somehow lost, Cincinnati is now the AFC North champs, and Tennessee is now the one seed in the conference. The Jets almost knocked off Tampa Bay at home. You have to believe that anything can happen, but what has to happen the most is a Patriot win next Sunday at Miami.
Happy New Year? Talk to me next week.
Posted Under: 2021 NFL Season