Tag Archives: Jacksonville Jaguars

Podcast: Patriots vs. Lions Preview Show

Russ Goldman
September 20, 2018 at 10:55 am ET

In this episode of Patriots Fourth And Two, we previewed the upcoming game for the Patriots against the Lions, as we went through the major match-ups, and also shared the keys to victory. We also gave our predictions for the game.

However, to start the show, we did our “Around The League” segment and the topics this week included , analytics in football, the Super Bowl Half Time Show, and drafting the right players that fit your team.

Patriots Dismantled By the Jaguars 31-20, Three Up Three Down

Steve Balestrieri
September 17, 2018 at 9:39 am ET

Another Ugly Early Season Blowout

Welcome to overreaction Monday, lines for the Tobin are forming to the right…and it looks like they’re handling the overflow to the Zakim. Yes, the Patriots stunk up the joint earlier on Sunday. Yes, the score doesn’t nearly do justice to how soundly they were beaten…And yes, we’ve seen this before.

The Jaguars were by far the better team on Sunday afternoon, the most important thing was they completely dominated the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively. When that happens, you’ll tend to get those lopsided scores.

The team lost two of their best defenders to concussions, Trey Flowers and Pat Chung and Deatrich Wise left with a hand injury that looked serious. We’ll be watching how that plays out this week.

Blake Bortles torched the New England secondary to the point we haven’t seen since Week 1 of last year. He completed 29 of 45 for 377 yards with 4 TDs and one interception. The Jaguars receivers consistently beat man coverage and when the Patriots went to zone coverages, the Jaguar receivers found wide open spots like it was a 7-7 practice session.

We wrote here that the Jaguars would come out throwing and they did. The Patriots were playing to stuff the run and dared them to throw. They dared and won. Handily. The Jaguars played like this one like a perfect storm. The home opener, the heat and a very good game plan along with excellent execution doomed the Patriots.

Containment and setting the edge? After a very good week of doing that against Houston, the Patriots did a terrible job of it this week.

Offensively the Patriots couldn’t run the ball and the wide receivers struggled to get any kind of separation. Pats WRs had just 11 catches for 104 yards with two TDs, both from Chris Hogan. Keelan Cole alone had seven grabs for 116 yards and a score. That’s the kind of day it was all around.

The Patriots won the toss and elected to receive, wanting to start fast in the humid, hot conditions with a heat index of around 107 at kickoff. The actually moved the ball and got into Jacksonville territory.

Brady had Gronkowski on a crossing route with a lot of green in front of him. But the linebacker had a fistful of jersey and the white material stretched far out behind him, blending a perfect contrast to the green grass. Apparently it invisible to the naked (official’s) eye. On third down Brady’s pass was incomplete and he was pile driven to the turf…also with no call. On fourth down Stephen Gostkowski badly shanked a long field goal attempt.

Jacksonville got the ball and promptly moved down the field with ease. Bortles made a beauty of a pass, one of several on the day, to Donte Moncrief in the end zone and although it was only 7-0 at that point, the writing was already on the wall.

A Patriots three and out and another quick score and it was 14-0 and this one was already badly slipping away much like that woeful game in KC four years ago. At the end of the half, the Jags got a gift when they set a pick play and blocked Pat Chung far from the line of scrimmage and Austin Seferian-Jenkins was wide open to make it 21-3.

But as much as the media is playing up the storyline that the Jaguars finished this time unlike the AFC Championship Game, it wasn’t for lack of trying to give it away on their part. Brady in his post-game remarks lamented the loss of chances and Jacksonville tried to give it away but the Patriots just weren’t having any of it.

A fumble recovery off of D.J. Chark could only net three points. On the Jags next possession, Bortles made his only mistake of the day. He tried to force a ball inside with a pair of Patriots defenders in tight coverage the ball was deflected and Kyle Van Noy alertly picked it off.

The Patriots were just 25 yards away from making it a one-score game. But instead Dante Fowler knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand and the Jaguars recovered, ending a big chance to actually make it a game.

On the ensuing drive, James White’s dive for the first down marker was overturned by an official’s call. But Jacksonville tried to give it away again by jumping offside on the fourth down punt. But Brandon King, who is on the team strictly for his Special Teams’ ability stood there dumbfounded as if he were made of stone. If King touches the defender, it is a first down. These are the kind of mistakes the Patriots normally feast on.

On the first play after the punt, Bortles hit Dede Westbrook with a short slant and he cut across the field, leaving a sea of white jerseys in his wake for a 61-yard TD. Thank you for coming, please put your seats and trays in the upright position.

Still, Jacksonville attempted to play with fire. After Brady hit Chris Hogan for his second touchdown of the day to make it 31-20 with Jalen Ramsey in trail, the Jaguars started on their 15-yard line. Nathaniel Hackett who had called a tremendous game foolishly called a backward pass at the 10-yard line. They were fortunate that the play lost only five yards, had it hit the ground, anything could have happened. But didn’t. Regardless of the lost opportunities, this was a game, they had no business even being in at the end, never mind winning.

Three Up, Three Down:

Up:

Sony Michel – The Patriots rookie running back made his first appearance in a Patriots uniform after missing all four preseason games and the season opener. While there was certainly plenty of rust involved, it was good to finally see the rook on the field. He had just 10 rushes for 34 yards and one catch for seven, but he hasn’t played in a meaningful game since college.

He looked good, albeit in a small dose, and should be a very dynamic member of the offense once his feet are under him.

Jacob Hollister – The second-year tight end has missed some significant time with a hamstring issue and was also shaking off the rust as well as Michel. Hollister chipped in with three catches for 35 yards, which, if he can do consistently every week will eventually take a big load off of Rob Gronkowski.

Tom Brady – Considering the pressure that the Jaguars put him under all game, the fact they got only two sacks speaks well of Brady’s ability to move in the pocket and get the ball out quickly.

His numbers were pedestrian by his standards, 25-34, 234 yards with two TDs and O INTs. and he’d definitely like to have a few plays back, the throw-away where he had Patterson across the middle that looked like it could go for a TD was one. But overall, he hung in and somehow kept the team in the game late when they had no business being there.

Down:

Offensive/Defensive Lines – Take your pick, both were awful and were dominated at the point of attack. Plain and simple. After a very good effort on Week 1 on both sides of the ball, the offensive and defensive lines took a huge step back.

No sacks, very little pressure and not setting the edge are recipes for a loss. The Jags OL was getting a great push and the NE DL was consistently on roller skates. The OL couldn’t get anything going in the running game and the pass protection was iffy all game long.

Ja’Whaun Bentley – The rookie linebacker has been so impressive thus far in his short NFL career had a rough afternoon, especially in coverage. He was far from alone in that aspect but after looking so strong initially, this was a step back for the big, rookie LB.

This is a perfect learning experience for the young player and the coaches will point out where the mistakes were, and they were all correctable.

Eric Rowe – No one could have wanted to get on a Southwest Air commercial than Rowe yesterday “Want to Get Away?” Rowe had one of those days that everyone has and tries to put behind him as quick as possible.

The Jaguars picked on Rowe everytime they threw the ball in his direction. Keelan Cole smoked Rowe for a TD that made the score 14-3 and Belichick quickly sat the veteran. That wasn’t a good sign for the rest of the day. Good thing for Rowe was that Bortles and the Jags were equal opportunity abusers, they picked on everybody.

_____________

So, we’re well used to early season stinkers and this was a stinkeroo and the problems that we saw on Sunday are all correctable. As we said at the outset, this is overreaction Monday, the “AFC goes thru Jacksonville” talk in Week 2 is laughably ridiculous.

There are 14 weeks left in the season and as we’ve seen many times, this team will get it straightened out. Watch the tapes, fix the errors and then bury them with the game balls at the back of the practice field.

We’re on to Detroit.

Players To Watch Patriots – Jaguars Week 2

Steve Balestrieri
September 14, 2018 at 7:15 am ET

 

The rematch of the AFCCG  A Big Early Test

The New England Patriots hit the road to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in a big Week 2 matchup. After the two teams met in the conference championship in January, and Tom Brady led the Patriots to a big 4th quarter comeback win, many people believe that Jacksonville is ready to take the next step and challenge the Patriots for supremacy in the AFC.

Sunday’s game, in that respect, will be more important to Jacksonville than to New England, who under Bill Belichick, tend the treat the first quarter of the season as an extended preseason. But the hype is there for both teams and we would expect to see both teams approach this as a big, albeit early season game.

There has quite a bit of chirping from the talented but brash Jalen Ramsey about several members of the Patriots, including Rob Gronkowski. Ramsey doubled down on his comments this week, basically calling him out.

“I might be crazy, I don’t care,” Ramsey said. “He’s good, don’t get it twisted, he’s good. You saying this to me is supposed to bring fear to me or something? I don’t fear no man, period. So he’s going to have to come out there and line up on me.”

Actually, he backtracked a bit on what he said last month when he said Gronkowski is overrated so no, no one is getting it twisted.

“I don’t think Gronk’s good,” Ramsey said in an interview with ESPN Magazine. “Let me say, I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is. . . . Any time Gronk has been matched up with a corner, he’s had a very bad game, and that corner has had a very good game.”

So Ramsey will get what he wants, playing for a small market team, he’ll now be the focus on Sunday’s broadcast regardless of who lines across from him in a Patriots uniform. It won’t be the Jaguars defense but Ramsey that will be the subject of much of the talk this week. It has already begun.

However, the game will feature a number of key matchups that will determine the ultimate winner on Sunday around 8:00 p.m. and bragging rights, for a few weeks anyway. The Jaguars defense plays a very Seahawks-esque Cover 3 and they have tremendous speed all over the field. But they also have the capability to mix in man coverage as well when they want. The front is very hard to run against, they consistently get penetration across the board which interrupts the flow of the offense.

What seems to work against the run defense is some zone runs, misdirection, players in motion. The backs will have to have the vision to see some cutback lanes when they avail themselves.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are our Players to Watch on Sunday:

Tom Brady:

The Patriots QB is coming off a very solid game where he threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns but he knows that the Jaguars secondary is much better than Houston’s, something he witnessed firsthand in the conference championship.

The pass rush is very good and they get excellent pressure from the inside, which takes away from Brady’s ability to step up and slide from the outside edge pressure. Brady can counter that with getting the ball out quickly something he’s done for virtually his entire career.

He’ll look to spread the ball around and get everyone involved in the passing game. James Develin caught four passes last week after catching six all of last season. Brady will use his backs, James White and Rex Burkhead, (if he’s available) much like slot receivers and try to get them in motion.

Rob Gronkowski:

Gronkowski had a huge game last week and with the thin depth at Wide Receiver, his role becomes even more important to the offense. He’s Brady’s most trusted go-to guy on the roster and Jacksonville will try to take him away and force Brady to go elsewhere to beat them.

Last year, the Jaguars did a good job on Gronkowski with safety Barry Church in the first half of the conference championship. It was Church’s borderline head shot that knocked him out of the game with a concussion.

Look for Brady and Josh McDaniels to move Gronkowski around the formation trying to free him up as much as possible, especially right off the line. But McDaniels will also use Gronkowski as he did last week, to open up more field for the other wide receivers.

Chris Hogan/Cordarrelle Patterson

Phillip Dorsett seemed to make great strides last week in his development with the Patriots offense, making seven catches on the day. This week, the team may need similar efforts from Chris Hogan and Cordarrelle Patterson.

The team got Patterson involved early and he had four touches in the first half, but none in the second half. Hogan had a very disappointing game and had just one catch for 11 yards. That won’t be enough this week.

Both will have to step up their games to give Brady other options to work with. Patterson will likely see single coverage outside and other than his usual gadget type package that the team worked on with him this summer, he could be used to stretch the field along the boundaries.

Trey Flowers:

The Patriots best defensive lineman made his first appearance on the field last week and had a very impressive game. He’ll be looking to keep his production up this week as the Jaguars present a more difficult opponent for the Patriots, especially on the road in what promises to be a loud and raucous stadium.

I actually look for Blake Bortles and the Jaguars offense to be more aggressive in the early going and throw early and then use their punishing ground game to wear down the Patriots defense in what promises to be 93-degree heat and keep the offense on the sideline.

Bortles can move and scramble with the ball, Flowers and the other edge players must push the pocket without losing containment and bring pressure on Bortles and try to disrupt their passing game. He’s the guy that sets the tone for the other Patriots edge players and he’s in the spotlight this week.  

Ja’Whaun Bentley:

The Patriots rookie linebacker had a very solid summer followed by an impressive rookie debut against the Texans last week. With the power running game of Jacksonville with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon, the Patriots run defense must be much better than it was last week.

The Texans ran to the left and I expect that the Jaguars will as well. The inside running game will be a key area to watch and the big (6’2, 255) rookie from Purdue will have another big test this week. He played more snaps at linebacker than anyone last week and I would expect him to have a heavy workload again.

With the heat to play a factor late in the game, I’d look for the Patriots to rotate players in and out as often as possible. So Bentley, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and to a lesser extent Elandon Roberts should all see a significant amount of snaps. Third downs will be even more key this week with the heat factor. The team that wins third downs will wear down the other in the fourth quarter.  

James White:

The Patriots running back core was supposed to be one of the deepest areas of the team. But Sony Michel had his knee drained of fluid and has yet to see the field this season either in preseason or the regular season. Jeremy Hill was placed on IR  with an ACL tear and Rex Burkhead is limited in practice with a concussion. That leaves James White and the just signed Kenjon Barner as the only healthy backs on the roster.

Michel and Burkhead’s status this week is pretty murky so the team will lean heavily on the experience of James White. His plate is going to be full this week by default and add in facing a defense with the capability of the Jaguars and his workload will be extra heavy as the offense looks to find some room to maneuver.

While White is usually the Patriots go-to back in the passing game, this week, he may be forced to take on a larger role in the running game as well.

Pat Chung:

The Patriots veteran safety has had an increased role in his second stint with the team and has earned the trust of his fellow players and the coaches as well. With the changes the Jaguars had in their own wide receivers this year, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson left via free agency, Marquis Lee on IR, they’ll lean more on their tight ends.

Which means Chung will draw more of Austin Seferian-Jenkins this week. Jenkins played well against the Patriots a year ago with the Jets and this will be a key matchup to watch. Chung is always good in run support and he’ll be expected to help there as well.

But against the Jaguars this week, we’ll probably see more of the “Big Nickel” with more three-safety looks with Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon to lend more support for the run defense. Chung should factor prominently this week in the Patriots game plan.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news

Patriots – Jaguars Key Matchups, Who Has the Razor’s Edge?

Steve Balestrieri
September 13, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

The New England Patriots head out on the road for their first road tilt of the 2018 season by taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The two teams met in the AFC Championship Game and now will meet again in Week 2.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on, at 4:35 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolfson will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (1-0) took care of business at home and defeated the Houston Texans 27-21 on Sunday in Foxboro. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski had 123 yards receiving and a score.

The Jaguars (1-0) beat the New York Giants 20-15 on Sunday. Blake Bortles completed 18-33 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown in the road win.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2018 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jaguars are meeting for just the 13th time overall in their history. New England holds an 11-1 overall record including last season’s AFC Championship Game win over the Jags. The only game Jacksonville has won was a Divisional Playoff game in 1999. The teams met in the preseason a year ago and conducted joint practices together so they are familiar with one another.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge. First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jaguars Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Jacksonville

The Patriots running game mixed things up with Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, James White and WR Cordarrelle Patterson last week and gained 122 yards against a good Texans front seven. But Hill is out, done for the season with a torn ACL and his big physical presence will be missed.

In typical overreaction Monday after Week 1, many were saying the Jags run defense was suspect after they gave up 137 yards to the Giants and rookie Saquon Barkley on Sunday. Caveat Emptor. The Jaguars front seven is just as solid if not more than Houston’s. With Malik Jackson and Marcel Dareus inside and Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue on the edges, there are no holes or weaknesses here.

Look for New England to mix things up with Burkhead, White, and Patterson again. The status of Sony Michel this week is still up in the air, he’d be a big positive for the team if he is able to suit up this week. Although I wouldn’t bet on it yet. The team signed Kenjon Barner this week. While he does have experience at returning punts, it is a bit of surprise since he is the approximate size of the other backs at 5’9, 190 and not the prototypical “big” back.

Patriots WRs vs Jaguars Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game was just fine against the Texans on Sunday, but although their front seven is outstanding, their secondary continues to struggle. Tom Brady spread the ball around to eight different wide receivers, but the big targets were Rob Gronkowski, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Phillip Dorsett.

The Jaguars have that excellent front seven but they also have an outstanding secondary as well. A.J. Boyue and Jalen Ramsey are arguably the best pair of corners in the NFL right now. They can bring pressure and cover. As we saw last year, they can give elite QBs (Brady, Roethlisberger) fits.

Look for the Patriots to use their RBs as slot receivers again, moving them around and splitting them out wide. Ditto for Gronkowski. The team could use a healthy Michel and Jacob Hollister in the passing game this week. Brady and Josh McDaniels will have to get creative at manufacturing some opportunities this week. But we’ve seen Brady do this for 19 years and he’s up to the task. Patterson may have to be a bigger part of the offense this week and could be the Patriots’ “X-Factor” this week in the passing game.

Next up the Jacksonville offense:

Jaguars RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Jacksonville

The Jaguars had the top-rated running game in the league a year ago, a two-headed attack with Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon. They are a dynamic tandem that helped average 141 yards per game on the ground. Fournette’s status is in doubt right now (Wednesday) because of a hamstring issue he tweaked against the Giants. If he can’t go, it is a big blow to the Jaguars running game.

The Patriots run defense was bad a year ago and they brought in the players to fix it. Danny Shelton is the big, two-gapping run stuffer they need. He and Lawrence Guy inside were solid a week ago. But the combination of Malcom Brown and Adam Butler struggled and the team allowed 167 yards on the ground. While some of it was scheme related, they played a short box and had two deep safeties for much of the second half, the run defense needs to be much, much better.

Look for the Jaguars to run inside this week, regardless of Fournette’s status. This is a problem area for New England who needs better interior play and for the linebackers to step up some more this week. This could be a big problem area for NE this week. But look for them to put a lot more emphasis on stopping the run.

Jaguars WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Jaguars passing game lost a lot of talent (sound familiar?) this offseason. Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns left via free agency and Marquise Lee went on IR with an injury in preseason.  Keelan Cole led the team in receiving yards last year and is now the go-to guy. Dede Westbrook and Donte Moncrief round out the WRs with Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end.

Bortles is the “X-Factor” this year. He was thought to be the difference between Jacksonville being a very solid team and a Super Bowl contender. But the team believes in him and gave him a three-year $54 million dollar extension in the spring.

The Patriots secondary with Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones with Pat Chung and Devin McCourty is more than capable enough of shutting this group down enough to pull out a win, provided that the front seven keeps the mobile Bortles in the pocket. The Patriots did a very good job of bringing pressure and containing Deshaun Watson in the pocket. They need another similar effort.

Look for the Jaguars to use play action to hit some big chunk plays down the field once they get the running game going. The Patriot will try to force Bortles into obvious passing situations and bring pressure and maybe force a turnover or two.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams is normally outstanding at kick coverage and last week, they were gashed a bit and allowed a 31-yard average. Look for a much stronger effort in that realm this week. But no such questions arise from the kicking game with both punter Ryan Allen and Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, both logging in very solid performances. Look for Cordarrelle Patterson to maybe influence the game a bit this week in the return game.

The Jags counter with kicker Josh Lambo and punter Logan Cooke. Lambo took over at midseason in 2017 and solidified things in the kicking game but the Pats get the edge here with the experience factor.

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Well after the close game at home in the AFC Championship Game where Brady led the Patriots to overcome a 10-point 4th quarter deficit when the schedule was released, many immediately chalked this up as a loss.

Everyone circled it and we heard universally, “this one is a loss.” This plays perfectly into Tom Brady’s hands. You can set your clock on and bet the house that the team has seen all those prognostications as well. Brady loves when people doubt him. It is the extra dose of motivation that many times gets them over the hump. The one thing we’ve all should have learned by now is not to count this team and especially this quarterback out.

His numbers may not be pretty, nor will he have one of his patented ridiculous completion percentage days, but he’ll find a way to get it done. We’ve seen this movie too many times before, “hungry young team ready to feast on the Patriots.” But they forget the guy across the field is well-battle tested and ready.  Patriots 21-17

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Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Report Card, Super Bowl Bound (Again) 24-20 Win

Steve Balestrieri
January 24, 2018 at 8:17 am ET

The AFC Championship Game was the seventh in a row that the Patriots played in, the Jaguars were in the playoffs for the first time in several years. Both of those statements were apparent during the critical junctures of the game, especially at the end of the first half and late in the game.

When all was said and done, the Patriots made the plays that they needed to make. Tom Brady showed once again, why he is Tom Brady and was absolutely brilliant in the fourth quarter, passing for almost as many yards at crunch time in the final quarter as Jacksonville allows in an entire game.

The Pats made the big plays at the big times because Bill Belichick is simply the best in the world at preparing his team and being aware of situational football scenarios and handling them like a 7-7 practice and not in a conference championship.

Jacksonville did none of those things. They cracked under the pressure, like so many teams do when playing the Patriots because they simply don’t make many mistakes and will rip your heart out when you do. The idea that the officials “gave this game to New England” is ridiculous. The Jaguars were up 14-3 and lost a key third-down conversion at midfield with a chance to put further distance between New England and themselves at halftime by taking a  delay of the game penalty AFTER calling a timeout.

On the ensuing drive an obvious helmet-to-helmet hit and a needless shoving of a wide receiver out of bounds when the corner had body position. Watch the replay, the flag doesn’t come until the shove. 47 yards in penalties to Tom Brady before the half is a recipe for disaster.

In the second half, their play calling, so sharp in the first half go repetitive and predictable where they followed the same pattern. And the Patriots defense caught on and stuffed them in the fourth quarter. And after playing man in the first half, the defense, the top defense in the league got conservative and laid back in zones trying to stop the big play. Zone coverage against Brady is a recipe for going home early.

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Quarterback: A

All of the hand-wringing over Tom Brady’s hand and his subsequent 12-stitches proved to be much ado about nothing which we said but were ignored in our pregame matchups. He was cool, calm and was at his best with the game on the line.

Brady put those worries to rest on the second play from scrimmage when he uncorked a seed for 31 yards to Brandin Cooks. His third and 18 throw to Danny Amendola was another rocket where the Jaguars were helpless to stop it.

Then down by 10 points with six minutes left, Brady ripped the Jaguars apart. Once he saw them going to those soft zone coverages to protect against the deep ball, the handwriting was on the wall. He found Amendola twice in those six minutes for scores. The game-winning touchdown pass was a beautiful throw, high across the back of the back of the end zone where only Amendola could catch it. Both made great plays to make it work.

Running Backs: C+

Dion Lewis wasn’t nearly the factor in this game that he has been down the stretch gaining only a total of 66 yards, with 34 on the ground and 32 more thru the air. The Jaguars front seven did a great job of not only giving he and the other backs precious little room to run, they wrapped up well too, limiting his yards after contact, an area where he has been outstanding.

Neither James White nor Rex Burkhead had a big day production wise as well. Big credit has to go to the Jaguars defense for shutting them down, especially in the passing game, an area that their defense has struggled in and the Patriots thought they could exploit.

James Develin made a huge block at crunch time, allowing Lewis to run for 18 yards and the first down to run out the clock

Wide Receiver: A-

What more can we say about Danny Amendola? The Patriots wide receiver with the best hands on the team was once again at his best on Sunday, catching both of Tom Brady’s touchdowns in the late game comeback. The game-winner was a beauty as he read the coverage got open in the back of the end zone and had to make a high leap with a great catch and had the awareness to get both feet down.

He also caught the ball that turned the game around, a 21-yard strike from Brady on a third and 18. He knew where the sticks were, and gave himself room to come back to the ball finding the open spot in the zone. He caught a backward pass and launched a 20-yard strike to Dion Lewis but Miles Jack jarred the ball loose for a fumble.

Brandin Cooks had a big day catching six passes for 100 yards and drew two defensive pass interference penalties totaling another 68 yards. But he had a terrible drop that cost the team points, perhaps even a touchdown. Phillip Dorsett played in only 3 snaps but had a huge 31-yard reception on a nicely thrown ball and an equally good catch.

Tight End: C

Rob Gronkowski was double covered early in the game before the coaches began to find ways of getting him open. He caught a really nice 21-yard pass down the seam and when Brady attempted to hit again deep down the field in the final minute and a half in the second quarter, Barry Church leveled him with a helmet to helmet hit while attempting to jar the ball loose.

Was it a dirty, targeted hit? No, but it was a penalty and the conspiracy theorists claiming it wasn’t are crazy. It was a clear helmet to helmet collision and intent has nothing to do with whether it was a penalty or not.

Dwayne Allen came on and was invisible until the Patriots final series. He threw a nice block on Dion Lewis’ game-clinching 18-yard run to seal the game.

Offensive Line: B

The Patriots offensive line had an up and down day but they got better, especially at protecting Tom Brady as the game wore on and kept the Jacksonville pass rush for the most part off of Brady. They allowed three sacks, but one was a coverage sack where Dante Fowler had the time to put a second move on Cam Fleming spinning sway and finally sacking Brady. Shaq Mason gave up a sack from Marcel Dareus, who bulled right past him and nearly another when he whiffed on a Myles Jack A-Gap blitz.

The run blocking on Sunday wasn’t opening any holes for the backs to exploit. The Jaguars front seven stuffed the run all day…until Lewis iced it.

Defensive Line: A-

This group led by DE Trey Flowers keeps getting better and better and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for playing solid football. Flowers just gets better as the game moves along, his conditioning and relentlessness are contagious for the group. He made nine tackles with a sack, a forced fumble and a tipped pass he nearly picked off.

The interior three linemen, Lawrence Guy, Ricky Jean Francois and Malcom Brown were excellent against the run holding Leonard Fournette and the Jags rushing attack to just 3.1 yards per carry. They shut down the run in the second half and ramped up the QB pressure on Blake Bortles.



Linebacker: B-

The unit had both good and bad moments during the game. Kyle Van Noy was solid throughout, notching a sack and a pass defensed but was trucked by Fournette on his touchdown run. James Harrison was solid in the running game and he combined on a sack late on Bortles and jarred the ball loose. But the Jags got the faster Corey Grant isolated on him in the passing game and they got a big chunk play of 20+ yards.

Elandon Roberts was on the field for much of the base looks in run support while Marquis Flowers saw his snaps dwindle this week as the coaches decided to go bigger with Fournette in the mix. The unit had trouble getting their drops in tune with the secondary as the shallow crossers of the Jags gave them fits all day.

Secondary: B-

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had the play of the game and may have saved the season when he launched himself high in the air and knocked away Jacksonville’s final gasp on fourth down that sealed the deal. Dede Westbrook was in perfect position to haul in the pass at about the eight-yard line, He nearly had a pick earlier in the second half, but couldn’t come up with the ball.

The Jaguars consistently gave the corners fits with those shallow crossers that they couldn’t stop. All three corners were beaten on those. Malcolm Butler had good and bad moments, he was battling with Marqise Lee which was a highlight of the joint practices back in August.

Eric Rowe got roasted on a big 20+-yard chunk play from Allen Hurns who had him all discombobulated. He also gave up another big one to Corey Grant. But they tightened up in the second half. Rowe, too, nearly had a pick.

Devin McCourty was his normally solid self and made a few key tackles. Pat Chung was very good in run support but got caught in no man’s land on Marcedes Lewis’ 4-yard touchdown. Bortles had a run-pass option and rolled to his right where Eric Lee charged in. Chung was caught not knowing how to proceed and Bortles flipped the ball easily over to Lewis for the score.

The game plan was to stop the run and force the ball into Bortles’ hands. They accomplished the first part but the second? Allowing nearly 300 yards wasn’t part of the plan.

Special Teams: A-


The Patriots Special Teams were a very underrated reason why they were able to come away with a victory. Lost in all the silly hysteria over the penalty calls, was the stellar day by Ryan Allen. Allen dropped three punts inside the 20-yard line and didn’t have one of his six on the day returned. Because of the STs, the Patriots pinned Jacksonville on their last four drives no further out than the 16-yard line with the other three at either the 10 or 9-yard lines.

After pinning the Jags deep, Danny Amendola, already having a day for himself returned a punt from midfield, 20 yards to the Jacksonville 30. Stephen Gostkowski was good on a field goal and all three PATs but once again it was his kickoffs that pin the opponent’s deep. And teams keep taking the cheese, running out the ball from 1-3 yards deep in the end zone and the coverage units led by Matthew Slater keep making them pay.

Coaches:: A

Bill Belichick showed why he’s the master at clock management and situational football and his opponent was not. No one practices those type of scenarios more than the Patriots. And it shows… time after time, after time.

The adjustments made after halftime was good both offensively and defensively although the Jaguars helped by playing scared. Jacksonville played man coverage and did a great job in the first half. In the second, once Josh McDaniels began to empty the playbook, the Jaguars, afraid of giving up a big play, went to a zone. Brady eats zone coverage like candy….er avocado ice cream. And it wasn’t if it was going to happen (comeback) but when.

The Patriots coaches earned their pay by making the adjustments on offense, defense and special teams and the Jags did not. And decided to sit on a 10-point lead. Bad move.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Podcast: AFC Championship Game Review

Russ Goldman
January 23, 2018 at 10:50 am ET

This is our review of the Patriots victory against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game. We also talked about the NFC Championship Game, and finished the show by discussing the coaching carousel in the NFL that involves two Patriots assistant coaches.

Brady, Amendola Lead Patriots to the Super Bowl in 24-20 Win Over Jax

Steve Balestrieri
January 21, 2018 at 9:42 pm ET

No matter how many times we see this script play out, it never gets old. Down by 10 points in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game against the best defense in the NFL, Tom Brady had a daunting task. And his two best receivers Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski weren’t available. So, Brady did what he always seems to do, he saved his best for last. He was absolutely spot on in the fourth quarter and his favorite target was Danny Amendola.

The diminutive but tough as nails slot receiver always seems to make a big catch at crunch time of big games and he scored both Patriots touchdowns in the fourth quarter but perhaps his biggest catch was on 3rd and 18. Brady, sore hand and all with a dozen stitches in the thumb web of his throwing hand, lasered a dime to Amendola down the middle for a huge first down that saved the Patriots season. Later, with the game on the line with under three minutes to go, Brady tried to find a receiver underneath just over the goal line.

It was covered and he launched a pass to the back of the end zone to Amendola. And the little guy with the best hands on the team made a great catch and got both feet inbounds before tumbling out of the end zone. Touchdown, Patriots take the lead, thank you very much, drive safely heading out on Route 1.

Brady was 26-38 for 290 yards with two touchdowns. Amendola had seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Brandin Cooks had six catches for 100 yards including drawing a couple of big pass interference penalties.

Lost in the late game heroics was the outstanding day by Blake Bortles, the Jaguars much-maligned quarterback. Even after putting up 45 points on the Steelers last week in Pittsburgh, Bortles still heard the talk. He played a cool, calm and collected game today, hitting the shallow crosses underneath all game long and never made a mistake.

Bortles finished 23-36 for 293 yards and a touchdown, a beautifully designed play where he rolled out sucking Eric Lee in. Pat Chung, stuck in no man’s land between Bortles and the receiver was frozen and Bortles lobbed a too easy touchdown to Marcedes Lewis for a 7-3 Jaguars lead.

On their next drive, the Jags mixed the run and pass perfectly and sliced and diced the Patriots defense much too easily for a 77-yard drive in 10 plays with Leonard Fournette powering in from four yards out to make it 14-3 and Foxboro was getting ominously quiet.

But right before the half, Jacksonville was hit with two major penalties and set the Patriots up for a touchdown right before the half. Barry Church tried to break up a pass to Rob Gronkowski and got flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit. It was clearly not a dirty hit, Church attempted to lead with his shoulder but was one of those bang-bang plays.

Gronkowski left with a concussion and didn’t return. His status for the Super Bowl will bear watching when the Patriots play Philadelphia.

The next penalty on A.J. Bouye was also an easy call. Bouye rode Cooks out of bounds while the ball was in the air, but the tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists acted like it was the Brinks heist. Please. James White ran it in and the Patriots were back in the game at 14-10 at the break.

The Jaguars were controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in the first half and if the Patriots were going to win, they needed to do a better job in the trenches.

The Jaguars got two field goals to push the lead to 20-10 but the Patriots defense stiffened down the stretch and they took away the run and began to finally get some pressure on Bortles, forcing him to unload the ball early on a few throws. And one of the key players was James Harrison who pressured Bortles and then knocked the ball out. He and Kyle Van Noy combined for a key sack of Bortles. Then it was Gilmore’s time to shine.

But the play of the game defensively, perhaps of the year was the 4th and 14  pass from Bortles to Dede Westbrook was broken up on just an incredible play by Gilmore. The cornerback from South Carolina has been a whipping boy for the fans since inking a big contract in free agency and struggling the first few weeks of the season. But since Gilmore has been simply excellent and he saved what would have a first and goal from about the six-yard line. The Patriots took over on downs and Dion Lewis iced it with a huge first down to send the team to Minneapolis.

The defense, while far from great, did a very good job of slowing down the Jaguars’ Fournette who had 76 yards rushing on 24 carries, an average of just 3.2 yards per carry. That took away the Jaguars ability to close the deal when they had the 10 point lead and set the stage for Brady’s heroics once again.

But it was Amendola who once again showed how clutch he is in big games, Bill Belichick was practically effusive in his praise for Amendola as well as Brady after the game. “Danny’s such a good football player,” Belichick said. When you look up ‘good football player’ in the dictionary, his picture is right there beside it. It doesn’t matter what it is. Fielding punts, third down, big play, red area, onside kick recovery — whatever we need him to do. He’s just a tremendous player, very instinctive, tough, great concentration. He had some big plays for us

Brady followed suit stating, “He’s got great hands and just a great sense about where he’s at on the field,” Brady said. “I mean, he’s made so many big plays for us, and this was huge, and without that, we don’t win. It was an incredible play.”

So the Patriot haters in the NFL world will all be rooting for the Eagles two weeks from tonight as the two tee off in Super Bowl LII. But the Patriots don’t care. They like it that way. Especially with a 40-year old QB who is always at his best when the biggest games on the biggest stage are at stake.

We’re on to Minneapolis…and the Eagles. Not Done Yet.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots – Jaguars Conference Championship Game, Key MatchUps

Steve Balestrieri
January 19, 2018 at 1:00 pm ET

The New England Patriots remain at home at Gillette Stadium for the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

This week’s game will be broadcast by CBS on Sunday, January 21, at 3:15 p.m. ET and can be seen on WBZ-TV Channel 4. Jim Nantz will handle play-by-play duties with Tony Romo as the color analyst. Tracy Wolffson will work from the sidelines... The game will also be aired on the Patriots flagship radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub with Bob Socci and Scott Zolak on the call, produced by Marc Capello.

The Patriots (14-3) took care of business in easy fashion by easily dispatching the Tennessee Titans 35-14 last Saturday night.

The Jaguars (12-6) jumped out to a huge 21-0 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers and then kept the heat on the Steelers defense by gouging them for 45 points in a 45-42 win in Pittsburgh.

We here at PatsFans.com are continuing our “Razor’s Edge” column in 2017 to give some quick analysis on some of the key matchups of the game and what you can look for in how the game plays out.

Series History:

The Patriots and Jaguars have a limited history against one another since Jacksonville entered the league in 1995. Sunday’s game will only be the 12th time the two teams have met. But the conference championship game will mark the fifth time the teams have met in the playoffs.

New England holds a 10-1 overall record including 7-0 at home over the Jags. The only game Jacksonville has won was a Divisional Playoff game in 1999. The teams last met in Foxboro early in the 2015 season, but not much can be gleaned from that matchup as both rosters have undergone a host of changes since them.

Here is a look at some of the key matchups and who holds the Razor’s Edge.

First up is the Patriots offense:

Patriots RBs vs Jaguars Front Seven – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots running game has been extremely effective since Dion Lewis has taken over as the primary running back. He and Rex Burkhead, who should return from injury this week gives New England a dynamic 1-2 punch that is effective in the passing game as they are in the running game.

The Jaguars have a big, physical front and speedy outside linebackers that flow to the ball really well. But as aggressive as they are on defense at rushing the quarterback, they can be run on if you run the ball right at them. The slow developing stretch runs to the outside won’t work with the speed of the linebackers.

Look for Lewis and Burkhead to run to the weakside this week. Yannick Ngakoue is a slightly undersized but athletic defensive end as they try to keep the Jaguars defense from just teeing off on the quarterback. The key from a New England perspective for the running game is keeping the third downs to manageable distances.

Patriots WRs vs Jaguars Secondary – Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots passing game got some of their weapons back last weekend and it was no surprise that Tom Brady threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns. Now with Burkhead back, the backs in the passing game should be able to be at full strength too with Burkhead, Dion Lewis, and James White. Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Danny Amendola are the outside wide receiver targets and TE Rob Gronkowski remains the big mismatch in the middle.

Jacksonville’s defense allowed just 169.9 yards per game during the regular season by combining an outstanding pass rush that got 55 sacks and great coverage by their cornerbacks on the outside with A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Calais Campbell led the way with 14.5 sacks and Ngakoue was next with 12.

Look for the Patriots to mix their “11-personnel” with 3 WRs and 1 RB with Danny Amendola on the field with their “21 personnel” with 2 WRs, 2 RBs and a TE to keep the Jaguars defense guessing. With their big pass rushers, the key from NE’s perspective is to go hurry up as soon as the team makes a first down. They want to stop the Jaguars from substituting freely on the defensive line and hopefully wear them down.

Gronkowski and the backs are the keys for Brady this week in the passing game. Both of their safeties are dinged up a little bit and look for Brady to get Gronkowski involved early and often. The running backs are the big keys for New England in the passing game. The Jaguars corners should match up well with the wide receivers outside the numbers but another big key will be the quickness of Danny Amendola inside the numbers. Brady will look to get the ball out quickly, think of the game plan against the Seahawks (which is very similar to Jax), or the Falcons defenses.

Next up the Jacksonville offense:

Jaguars RBs vs NE Front Seven – Razor’s Edge Jacksonville

The Jaguars have the top-rated running game in the league with the big man Leonard Fournette providing the bulk of the heavy lifting inside. Fournette smashed the Steelers to the tune of 109 tough yards and three touchdowns on Sunday. Chris Ivory was a healthy scratch and T.J. Yeldon is the change of pace and a good receiver out of the backfield with Fournette.

QB Blake Bortles has been very effective at scrambling out of the backfield and is very good at moving the sticks when there is no one open in the receiving patterns.

The Patriots struggled against the run all season and allowed 114.8 yards per game, which is coincidentally less than Jacksonville did (116.3 ypg). But in the last three games, the run defense has noticeably stiffened allowing a total of 189 yards (63 ypg). With Allen Branch and Kyle Van Noy back and healthy as well as the addition of James Harrison, it is a different unit now.

Look for the Jags to try to pound Fournette as they did all season to make third-down conversions for Bortles easier where they’ll have a run/pass option. Yeldon is a bit of a wildcard here. How well the Patriots do or do not cover the run will go a long way in this one. Their game plan will be to force the ball into Bortles’ hands and make the Jaguars win that way.

Jaguars WRs vs NE Secondary- Razor’s Edge New England

The Jaguars passing game is a microcosm how Bortles’ season has gone. When he has played well, the Jaguars have been very difficult to stop. And when he’s not, he’s looked at times awful. He had a poor playoff game against Buffalo which he turned around and had a very solid game against the Steelers.

With Allen Robinson on IR, the Jags have Marquise Lee, Allen Hurns and rookie Keelan Cole who shined when he was here during the joint practices/preseason game this summer. Tight end Marcedes Lewis is their leading touchdown receiver with five and provides a good weapon in the middle of the field.The aforementioned Fournette and Yeldon give Bortles good but not great weapons in the passing game.

The Patriots secondary has been much much better since the first month of the season. They have a trio of good corners in Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, and Eric Rowe. The pass rush has heated up down the stretch and had a franchise record eight sacks against Tennessee last week.

Look for Bortles to play action pass on first down a lot here, trying to catch the defense selling out to stop the run. That is a key for both teams this week. If the Patriots can force the ball into Bortles’ hands in constantly having to throw on third down, that’s the matchup the Patriots will win. The edge rushers must stay disciplined and not get past him to allow scrambling for first downs.

Special Teams- Razor’s Edge New England

The Patriots’ Special Teams continue to be among the best in the NFL, they excel in punt and kick coverage and continuously turn in big plays. Stephen Gostkowski had a very solid season and his kickoffs consistently put opponents deep in their own end. Ryan Allen is very adept at pinning opponents inside the 20 and the team has perennial Pro-Bowl ST player Matthew Slater on the coverage units.

The Jaguars punter Brad Nortman had a punt blocked against the Steelers last week, something that STs coach Joe Judge may opt to try again. The Jaguars have good return teams and solid coverage teams as well. But at home, the nod goes to NE and Gostkowski who has had a very solid season.

 

Next up, who wins and why…

Prediction:

Well with the hoopla around Tom Brady’s hand/thumb injury the past few days, unless rule him out, I’ll assume he’s playing and will be his usual self. Since his ACL injury in 2008, when the last time that Brady missed a start? Exactly.

This should be a good chess match as both teams will jockey for field position to give their offenses a shorter field.   Brady has faced similar defenses like the Jaguars run against the Seahawks in the past, I look for them to go hurry up as soon as they make a first down. The Jags corners and pass rush are very tough obstacles but as we’ve seen Brady will try to get the ball out in two seconds or less as they slowly work the underneath and middle routes, targeting the linebackers and safeties in coverage with Gronkowski and the trio of running backs. Danny Amendola may be the forgotten man in terms of defensive game planning, but he always rises to the occasion in the playoffs. And this is a battle-tested unit.

The Jaguars are a QB away from being a Super Bowl favorite soon but are they there yet with Bortles? I don’t think so. I equate him similar to Mark Sanchez with the 2010 Jets. They got to the conference championship game with great defense and a game manager QB. I see this one playing out similar to that season. With all the talk of the Jaguars defense (and it is deserved), no one is talking about New England’s defense which has been very stingy in allowing points. Well, they keep it going, Not Done Yet. Patriots 27-17

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Get to Know Jacksonville by Revisiting the Jaguars-Patriots Joint Practices

Steve Balestrieri
January 17, 2018 at 8:17 am ET

The Patriots and Jaguars meet on Sunday afternoon for the AFC Championship Game and the right to move on to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. The teams don’t play each other very much, and going back a couple of seasons to look at games played against one another is difficult since roster and coaching turnover is so great. You can get a much better idea at what they are about by going back to the joint practices this summer.

The two teams conducted a few days of very good, spirited practices (and just to reiterate, it is practice and not a game) but we got to watch plenty of one-on-one matchups as well as full team drills and situational football, (something Jacksonville’s last opponent doesn’t seem to practice). The first two days were the true joint practices, the third day was just a walk-thru before their preseason game.

Thankfully I still had my notes on the sessions and it reinforces what we’ve been seeing from the Jaguars this season. In those practices, the prevailing things to look at and for on Sunday were the following observations:

The Jacksonville Defensive Line is Big, Strong and Physical: One of the more intriguing things about their defense is their size. They are very big and strong and during the goal line work, they were very tough to get a push for the running game on. The Patriots were stuffed on several occasions.

Jax defensive line with pressure. (SBalestrieri photo)

They are very good at getting pressure with just their front four. Because of that they can drop seven into coverage and provide tighter windows to throw in. And unlike Tennessee, the Jaguars will rotate defensive linemen in, using seven players, they are deep and their backups are very good.

The outside linebackers, Miles Jack and Telvin Smith are fast and will contest the short areas of the passing game very well. The  guy that holds it together is Paul Posluszny, the big middle linebacker who is a thumper inside. It is amazing that Posluszny, who is in his 11th season, finally gets a chance to play for a winner.

One area that the Patriots can combat this is to go quick. If they go to the hurry up offense, the Jaguars big men inside could get worn down. Play action passing on first down and in a perfect world, running 65-75 offensive snaps will be something they’ll look to do.

The Corners are Big and Physical: Jacksonville has two excellent corners in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Many Patriots fans will remember Bouye from the Divisional Playoff game last season when he played for the Texans.

Both have good size, speed, and physicality. They’re very good at jamming at the line of scrimmage and disrupting the timing, something the Patriots offense is built on. During the joint workouts, there were some great battles going on where the Jags corners won plenty of one-on-one battles. The smaller Patriots wide receivers have struggled getting separation against tough, physical corners.

Jax corners are big, tough and physical. (SBalestrieri photo)

Unfortunately for New England, the one guy no one could cover was Julian Edelman. No matter who they trotted out there, Edelman’s quickness off the line was nearly impossible to stop and he was seemingly open on every play. But he’s lost for the season on IR, so will they attempt to use Danny Amendola and/or James White, in the same way, this week? But Jacksonville will attempt to flood the underneath zones and force Tom Brady into going to a deeper vertical passing game. The Steelers made them pay for those, but rewatching the tape, several of those catches were the type of highlight reel stuff and all were against extremely tight coverage.

The key from a New England perspective may be against the safeties using Rob Gronkowski. Both of the safeties (Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church) are banged up a bit this week, so we’ll see how that plays out.

Leonard Fournette is A Load in the Running Game: The Jaguars are built in the Tom Coughlin mode and coach Doug Marrone relies heavily on the running game, to wear down the opposition, control the clock and open up play action passing. Fournette was the highly touted prospect from LSU and the joint practices were our first look at him.

He didn’t disappoint. He’s big, physical with good speed and very good vision. He was impressive down on the goal line and at breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage. He will be the primary focus for the Patriots defense this week.

Don’t go to sleep on T.J. Yeldon. He’s a good runner in his own right and a very good pass receiver out of the backfield.

Bortles is the Wildcard This Week: It is hard to judge Bortles on what we saw during those practices because he struggled badly at the beginning of training camp and was particularly awful during the two days of practices that we watched. He had been throwing picks in practice and was gun shy about throwing downfield in 11-on-11. Everything was a check-down.

Bortles play is the wildcard this weekend. (SBalestrieri photo)

One of the Jacksonville beat guys we spoke with told us, that Tony Khan was actively trying to pry Jimmy G. away from the Patriots that week. Obviously, Bortles hasn’t played like that all season or the Jaguars wouldn’t be here now. But his consistency is the issue. Which one shows up? The one in control in Pittsburgh or the one leery to throw the ball downfield, like he did against Buffalo. Play action on first down will be key for his success this week. If he gets in third and long, it will be a long afternoon for the Jaguars offense.

One guy to watch is Marquise Lee. He had some great battles with Malcolm Butler and had his way with the Pats CB on many snaps during both days of workouts. Will the Pats use him or Stephon Gilmore against Lee? We’ll see.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Patriots Fourth And Two Podcast: AFC Championship Game Preview

Russ Goldman
January 16, 2018 at 11:39 am ET

In this episode, we previewed the upcoming AFC Championship Game as the Patriots will face the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium. We also looked back at the Divisional Round victory for the Pats against the Titans.