Woeful Jacksonville Was Just What the Doctor Ordered
The Patriots had been scuffling along for two weeks, playing sloppy, uninspired football, and needed a win and some help to clinch a playoff spot. They needed to clean up their act across the board, cut down on mistakes, force some turnovers, and get back to playing the kind of football they did for seven straight weeks. More than anything else the Patriots needed to get off to a much better start as the previous two first halves were stinkers.
Enter the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags entered 2-13 and are… a really bad football team. Add in more than a dozen players out with COVID-19, including several starters and a good chunk of their offensive line. That’ll cure what ails ‘ya.
The Patriots did start well with the defense notching a sack and a three-and-out with the offense scoring touchdowns on their first five drives in a 50-10 blowout win that was as easy as the score would indicate.
Yes, they were supposed to dismantle the Jaguars. But we’ve seen crazy stuff this season, so nothing is a given in 2021…now 2022. Clean it up? How about 6-6 in the red zone and 8-10 on 3rd down? That is impressive regardless of who you’re playing, even the Jaguars. After the Patriots began 2-4 they put up 54 points on the Jets and it spurred the team on to a seven-game winning streak. After putting up an impressive 50 burger on Jacksonville, the team has some confidence heading into the final week of the regular season and into the playoffs.
So, here are our positional grades this week for the Patriots-Jaguars game. There wasn’t a heck of a lot to be unhappy about on Sunday. And the grades reflect that.
Mac Jones followed up his worst outing of the season with arguably his best. Jones was making quick reads and getting the ball out quickly, accurately, and with precision. His numbers reflect that, completing 22-30 for 227 with 3 TDs and 0 INTs for a passer rating of 128.1. His first two touchdowns were really nice throws, the first was a fake Jet Sweep to Kendrick Bourne and rolling to his right, Jones showed patience and hit Kristian Wilkerson (more about him below), along the back of the end zone for his 1st NFL touchdown.
His second touchdown was a beauty of a pass as the Jaguars came with a blitz, and he laid it out perfectly as Jakobi Meyers ran a fade to the rear of the end zone where Jones dropped it right in the bucket. Perfect execution. His third TD pass was perhaps the easiest he’ll ever get.
The offense ran a fake bubble screen to Bourne on the left side. Wilkerson was split out wide and acted like he was going to block. The cornerback totally bit on the fake screen and Wilkerson had nothing but an empty field in front of him. Easy pitch and catch for six.
He made an even better throw to Wilkerson later, a 45-yard bomb into the end zone that was right in his hands. But Wilkerson dropped it which could have (should have) been his third touchdown of the day. A great bounceback game for Jones, who was replaced by Brian Hoyer with about 11 minutes left in the game.
Running Backs: A
Damien Harris started the game off and Jacksonville, trying to take a page out of Buffalo’s book, stacked the box and tried to take away the run. But Harris was effective early and scored two touchdowns, running with a mix of vision and toughness.
Rhamondre Stevenson came in and took over rushing 19 times for 107 yards with two more touchdowns, showing the toughness and ability to absorb the first hit and keep going that he’s shown all season.
Brandon Bolden and Harris chipped in with 3 receptions for 33 yards in the passing game, but they weren’t a big part of the passing game plan in this one. When Harris and Stevenson are both healthy and available, this running game is tough to stop.
Wide Receivers: A-
Jakobi Meyers caught eight passes on eight targets for 73 yards and a touchdown. Bourne caught five passes for 76 yards on six targets and added 17 more on two runs. With Nelson Agholor still in concussion protocol, and N’Keal Harry a healthy scratch, Kristian Wilkerson got to see his first extended offensive snaps of his career.
He not only recorded his first NFL reception on a nice catch, but he scored the first two TDs of his NFL career, notching 4 catches for 42 yards with 2 TDs. He should have had three, Jones led him perfectly and he needs to hold on to those. But he showed enough that we’ll see more of him next week in Miami, even with Agholor back.
Gunner Olszewski even chipped in with a catch for 9 yards. Overall a very good day for this group. Had Wilkerson been able to hold on to #3, then the grade would have been even higher.
Tight Ends: B
The tight ends had a very solid game and it started with both Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith providing excellent blocking up front in the running game. Josh McDaniels said earlier last week that he needed to get Smith more involved in the offense. And he did a little bit this week, with Smith rushing for a 5-yard gain and then hauling in a 20-yard pass. Hardly earth-shattering stuff there but it is a good start.
Henry was back to providing his solid production in the passing game, hauling in 3 passes for 37 yards. A good bounce-back week for this group as well.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line was excellent on Sunday. Jones wasn’t sacked and was barely touched. The one sack that the Jaguars appeared to get was wiped out by a ticky-tack penalty for roughing the QB.
When the OL gives up zero sacks, zero QB hits, and opens up holes for the running game to run for 181 yards and 5.0 yards per rush, it means they were dominating in the trenches. And they were. It was no surprise therefore when they scored the first five times they had the ball.
Defensive Line: B+
The defensive line got good pressure on Trevor Lawrence and was forcing him to move in the pocket and had a hand in forcing three interceptions on the day. Christian Barmore had a sack just before the half that wiped out any hope for the Jaguars about coming back. He continues to impress. Lawrence Guy had a solid game and had two stuffs on runs.
Playing the pass for the majority of the game, due to the score, the DL didn’t have a great game in rush defense allowing 80 yards on 17 carries (4.7-yard average). Deatrich Wise lost gap control on one rush and Lawrence took off for 15 yards. But they too had a nice game and forced the issue.
The linebackers led by Dont’a Hightower set the tone early in this one. He and Ja’Whaun Bentley ran a stunt on just the second play of the game, with Hightower sacking Lawrence, leading to a three-and-out. After not forcing a punt the week before…it was a great start.
With Matthew Judon barely playing because he missed the week of practice because of COVID, Chase Winovich saw good playing time and provided some nice pressure on the QB. That should parlay into some increased playing time to give the other backers a breather. Jamie Collins had a pass defensed, Bentley dropped a fourth interception of Lawrence, which was followed by a 40-yard pass from Lawrence to Laquon Treadwell.
The secondary play was okay but not great for long stretches but you can’t argue with 3 interceptions and holding the opposing QB to 173 yards net passing. Lawrence completed 17-27 for 193 yards with 1 TD (in garbage time against backup defenders) and 3 INTs for a passer rating of 57.1.
J.C. Jackson had a nice game, providing his solid coverage and a nice play for an interception, diving for the ball. Kyle Dugger was all over the field and made a great play on his pick, nearly turning it into a pick-six. He was in perfect position for another pick, but that was the one that Bentley dropped.
Special Teams: C+
The Patriots’ Special Teams had a mixed day, before we get to the gaffes, the coverage units had their best game in quite a while. Jake Bailey was purposely kicking off short and the Jaguars were not able to generate anything. Bailey’s only punt was a 40-yarder that pinned Jacksonville inside the 20.
Now…the bad news. An extra point was blocked, and another wasn’t attempted when Bailey fumbled the snap from David Andrews. Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel both had good games with the coverage units.
The Patriots’ coaching staff had the team prepared to go right from the start this week and the game plan was simple and executed terrifically. They didn’t do anything fancy on offense. They lined up, pounded the ball against an overmatched defense and took the short, underneath passes that made them darned near impossible to stop.
Defensively, they forced three turnovers and missed a few chances for even more. They should have dominated the Jaguars and did. Enough so that the head coach actually had a chuckle on the sideline with Jones and Bourne late in the 4th quarter.
We’re on the Dolphin and the regular-season finale in Miami.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Damien Harris Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Jacksonville Jaguars Jakobi Meyers Jamie Collins Kendrick Bourne Kristian Wilkerson Laquon Treadwell Mac Jones New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rhamondre Stevenson Trevor Lawrence