Pats 28, Jags 3 Commentary: Cold Shoulder on a Cold Day

Throughout the game, a series of movie clips flashed on the scoreboard after big plays and scoring drives. Among others, following a Patriots touchdown, there was "Mr. No Respect" himself, Rodney Dangerfield, dancing in a clip from Caddyshack.

Toward the end of the game you expected to see Bill Murray from Groundhog Day with a message for the Jaguars, who said the weather conditions wouldn't bother them. "I'll give you a winter prediction: It's going to be cold, it's going to be grey, and it's going to last you for the rest of your life."

Steam rises over Tim Dwight as the below freezing temperatures sucks his sweat into the Gillette Stadium air Saturday night.

Photo Courtesy:  NFL.com

You hear it from the "warm-weather teams" all the time. "The cold won't bother us. Both teams have to play in the same conditions. We've played in the cold before." There's just a couple things they ignore that always lead to their demise.

Number One: Despite Maine's nickname of Vacationland, the world's top vacation destinations are places like Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, the Mediterranean.

Throughout the game, a series of movie clips flashed on the scoreboard after big plays and scoring drives. Among others, following a Patriots touchdown, there was "Mr. No Respect" himself, Rodney Dangerfield, dancing in a clip from Caddyshack.

Toward the end of the game you expected to see Bill Murray from Groundhog Day with a message for the Jaguars, who said the weather conditions wouldn't bother them. "I'll give you a winter prediction: It's going to be cold, it's going to be grey, and it's going to last you for the rest of your life."

You hear it from the "warm-weather teams" all the time. "The cold won't bother us. Both teams have to play in the same conditions. We've played in the cold before." There's just a couple things they ignore that always lead to their demise.

Number One: Despite Maine's nickname of Vacationland, the world's top vacation destinations are places like Florida, Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, the Mediterranean. What do these places have in common? That's right: They're warm-weather destinations. Even people that ski don't consider themselves on vacation until they hit the hot tub after several hours of freezing slopes. So when we cold-weather teams visit you, it's like a vacation. When you visit us, it's just the cold side of hell.

Number Two: You may have gone to Cleveland on one day and played a game on a 31-degree day at 1 p.m. and you may have beaten an inferior team. But this isn't Cleveland, it's not 31 degrees, and you're not playing the Browns. Oh, and this team practices and a plays in this stuff seven days a week.

I wonder if Bill Belichick coached a warn-weather team if he was playing a cold-weather team in the playoffs whether he'd relocate his team to some northern university for a week to practice in horrible conditions in true preparation for such a game.

Jacksonville predictably said the cold wouldn't bother them. From where I was standing to the left of the lighthouse scoreboard, they miscalculated. It was obvious right from the start. Over the last few weeks I've mentioned the importance of field position, and Saturday's weather impacted that part of the game.

Jacksonville punter Chris Hanson, who had a few horrible punts, looked as though he was kicking a cinder block. That made Belichick's call for Adam Vinatieri's early-game pooch punt brilliant. The Pats pinned Jacksonville deep, and Hanson was unable to bail out the Jaguars. That led to the opening score.

The cold affected Jacksonville's other kicker, placekicker Josh Scobee, who barely made a 36-yard field goal that scraped the right upright with 1:08 to go in the first half. Scobee also missed a 41-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter that would have kept Jacksonville within three scores. It looked like Scobee was kicking a football-shaped rock.

It seemed to me that Byron Leftwich's ankle never adjusted to it. Nor did Jimmy Smith, who was wide open when he dropped at least two key passes.

In the preview, I said the New England tight ends would play a significant role if the Pats were to win. Enter Ben "Coates" Watson: a team-leading five catches for a team-leading 91 yards, including a 63-yard future DVD highlight touchdown for which he broke two tackles, half-hurdled a defender on the sideline, and then broke toward the middle and outran the Jaguar secondary. Watson also made a pair of key catches on the drive that made it 14-3, the score that made Jacksonville's task improbable.

No one makes all the right personnel decisions. One that I would have made several years ago would have been to rid the Patriots of Willie McGinest. And New England almost did when the Cleveland Browns reformed. McGinest was on the Patriots expansion draft list.

What a tragedy that would have been. Maybe it was a wake-up call for McGinest, because he has played out of his mind, making some of the biggest defensive plays in Patriots history since then, many of them against the Colts, like a late-game Peyton Manning sack, and the fourth-down goal-line stop of Edgerrin James.

With Tedy Bruschi on the bench still nursing a calf injury, someone had to make the big plays. McGinest responded with a record-breaking performance. Simply outstanding.

McGinest finished with 8 tackles in the game, leaving him second on the team in that category. You know who was first? Again, it was Mike Vrabel, with a very quiet nine. That makes seven times Vrabel has led the team in tackles this season. Rosevelt Colvin was third with five tackles and a sack.

The defensive line was spectacular again, totally dominating the line, leaving Fred Taylor nowhere to run, and that more than anything helped McGinest have his way in the Jacksonville backfield.

With Ellis Hobbs' reputation growing, Leftwich and company tried to pick on Asante Samuel, who has had trouble with some of the taller No. 1 receivers this season. Samuel awakened from dormancy with three passes defended and this 73-yard interception return for a touchdown. He was fourth on the team with four tackles.

There's still no telling if Bruschi will play against the Broncos. You would expect New England would rather have him on the field for this one, which may make his benching this weekend all the more significant.

There were relatively few penalties called or enforced (12), despite the presence of Walt Anderson's flag-happy crew and penalties called on the first two plays of the game. That's the way it should be in the playoffs. Call the big stuff. Let the boys play.

Brady was 7 of 17 in the first half. That means he was 8 of 10 in the second half. His first pass was called back on a penalty. The next hit the umpire and fell incomplete. The next after that was a grounder to Watson. That's a tough start by any quarterback's standards.

Troy Brown, who caught Brady's first touchdown pass of the day, also played defense, recording two tackles, a pass defensed and a special teams tackle.

Once again, there was a great crowd at Gillette Stadium. I don't know that they had the impact they did in the Tampa Bay game, but they didn't have to, and they were as into the game as I've ever seen.

I don't remember and can't find the name of the woman who sang the National Anthem, but she's still undefeated.

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