By: Denny Hackett
In a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game with the Jaguars, the Patriots were not up to the task and were thoroughly beaten on Sunday.
In the scorching Jacksonville heat, the Patriots were thoroughly beaten in all three phases of the game in Sunday’s rematch. The defense struggled throughout the entire game and could do nothing to stop Bortles and the Jaguar’s offense. Brady and the offense could not get into a rhythm all game because of their own miscues and excellent play by the Jaguars defense. The special teams unit also had some miscues of their own, including a missed field goal from kicker Stephen Gostkowski on the Patriot’s first drive of the game.
The Patriots defense took some significant steps backwards against the Jaguars following a sound defensive performance last week against the Texans. A week ago the Pats’ defensive line did a great job of pressuring Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson but Jaguars’ quarterback Blake Bortles faced very little pressure from the Patriots’ defense and had plenty of time in the pocket all game long.
The Patriots did have some injuries on the defensive side, including concussions to both safety Pat Chung and defensive end Trey Flowers that sidelined both players for the entirety of the second half. Chung was beat by Jaguars tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins for a second quarter touchdown before being ruled out with the concussion.
However, the Patriots’ defense was playing just as bad with them as they were without them. It wasn’t until cornerback Eric Rowe was moved to the bench in favor of Jason McCourty that the Patriots were even able to somewhat shore things up defensively but ultimately, the game was already lost by that point.
Taking advantage of a terrible performance from the defense, Bortles played one of the best games of his career on Sunday. He finished the game with 377 passing yards, four touchdowns and just one interception Bortles was also able to use his legs gain 36 rushing and was able to scramble for several first downs over the course of the game.
He faced little pressure from the defensive line all game and had all day to throw on most of his dropbacks. But one of the bigger standouts for the Jaguars was receiver Keelan Cole who caught seven passes for 118 yards and one touchdown. Until Rowe was benched, Cole was torching him, including a highlight reel one handed-grab down the sideline. The Patriots defense was not prepared at all to handle Bortles who played by far one of the most complete games in his entire career.
The Jaguars defense was also outstanding and played to the formula that makes Brady struggle the most which is to keep him under pressure. The Jaguars made it clear that they were going to hit Brady today early on and kept the pressure on by getting in his face and hitting him as much as they possibly could. The defense was able to keep the pressure on Brady throughout the game and as a result the Patriots’ offense struggled to find any sort of rhythm until the game was already out of reach. Even star tight end Rob Gronkowski struggled to make an impact on Sunday, finishing with two catches for just 15 yards.
One thing that was evident from today’s game is that Brady and the offense clearly miss receiver Julian Edelman, who is suspended until week four. None of the receivers were able to create the separation that Edelman can and it showed on the scoreboard today.
The Jaguars were able to blanket the Patriots’ receivers throughout the entire game and nobody could find a way to get open. Edelman excels at separating himself from defenders, even in tight coverage, and because of the way the Jaguars played defensively, the Patriots missed is skill set dearly. The Patriots just need to make it through the next two weeks until Edelman returns which should give the offense the lift it needs to start firing on all cylinders.
The Patriots will have a week to regroup from today’s loss before they take on their former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and his Detroit Lions on Sunday.