Prior to the game, I made some predictions seeing what the Patriots needed to accomplish in order to win this game.
1. We needed to contain Maurice Jones-Drew
2. We needed Tom Brady to take advantage of the Jaguar Secondary
3. We needed to keep Brady upright and give him time
4. We needed to Pressure Garrard into making bad passes
5. We needed to perform well in the 2nd half to keep the Jaguars from clawing back
See how we did, after the jump!
What the Patriots Needed to do:
1. Patriots D-line vs Maurice Jones-Drew – Wilfork and Warren are banged up. Green is still recovering from his leg surgery. Pryor is coming off of his chest injury from last week. That means we can expect Brace to see some extra playing time this week. I think we’ll see a couple 4-3 looks, along with our 5-6 Dime Package (Boston Baked Blitz, as a Pulpit Contributor called it). Brace will be called in to take away some of the pressure from Wilfork’s ankle and, in the 3-4, give him some rest and hopefully prevent a worsening of the injury. Maurice Jones-Drew is a top 3 back in the league, not only with the run, but out of the backfield, which means he is the player Belichick will focus on eliminating from the game. If we can contain him (we can’t eliminate him), we have a much greater chance for victory.
2. Tom Brady vs Jaguars Secondary – Tom Brady is still an elite QB, even if some of his stats may be lower than expected. The Jaguars have one of the weakest secondaries in the league, yielding 7.4 yards/attempt. Opposing QBs have an average rating of 93.0, placing them 27th in the league. The only comparable team the Patriots have played are the Falcons and the Titans, both averaging around that mark in opponent QBR. What happened in those games? Very solid performances through the air and solid second half performances. The conditions will be similar to the Titans game, so hopefully we can put up a similar offensive output.
3. Patriots O-Line vs Jaguars Pass Rush – The Jaguars have 14 sacks on the year, putting them dead last in the league. To put that in comparison, our anemic pass rush has twice that amount. Despite Kaczur’s apparent attempts to lose the Colts game (low blow), we still rank 3rd in the NFL in sacks given up with 16. We need to give Brady time to throw and let the plays develop. Hopefully the Jaguars won’t buck the trend and won’t cause any issues in the backfield.
4. Patriots Pass Rush vs Jaguars O-Line – The Jaguars have given up 39 sacks on the year, placing them 7th worse in the league. We have 28 on the year, at 12th worse in the league. Someone will have to break and perform in this game. We NEED to have pressure on Garrard and force bad passes to his receivers. Adding pressure will take away their passing game and force them to hand the ball off to MJD and, according to match up #1, we’ll be trying to contain him. Hopefully we can force some turnovers to win the game.
5. Patriots’ 1st Half Offense vs Patriots’ 2nd Half Offense – This Jaguars team took the Colts to minute 60. We’ll need to perform as well in the 2nd half as we do in the 1st half in order to win this game. This match-up could also be called "Patriots’ 2nd Half Offense vs Jaguars’ Second Half Adjustments". Will we make the necessary changes in order to continue producing in the second half? Hopefully. I’m hoping for some no-huddle offense to catch the Jaguars with bad match-ups.
If we win match-ups…
…1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, we’ll win in a blowout
…1, 2, 3, and 4, we’ll win by around 10 points after allowing the Jaguars to get back in the game
….1, 2, and 3, we’ll win a close game as Mike Sims-Walker of the Jaguards will have a good game
…1 and 2, either team can win (leaning towards the Patriots), depending on how well Brady connects with the short passes and how our running game performs
…1, either team can win (leaning towards the Jaguars), depending on how well we capitalize on turnovers and how well we contain MJD
…none, the Jaguars will win
1. We contained MJD the ENTIRE game. We held him to 18 carries and 63 yards (or 3.5 a carry) and a long of 14. He also caught 3 for 35, meaning we held him to under 100 total yards. Mission accomplished. Mayo was on top of MJD forcing him out of bounds and keeping him away from breaking infield and downfield. We kept him out of the end zone and, despite his numbers being good for any player, effectively eliminated him from being the threat he usually is. In comparison, he ran for 110 against the Colts. Even with Wilfork out of the game, Brace, Wright and Pryor did a GREAT job of stepping up in the middle and preventing gains. They weren't being pushed around and pushed MJD to the outside DIRECTLY into Mayo. Our tackling was superb, except for the first half of the Jaguars' first drive where the Jaguar O-Line dominated the scrimmage. After we got into the swing of things and got into a groove, our defense was perfect.
2. Tom Brady abused the Jaguars secondary all day. Brady has played the top 5 pass defenses in the league recently and hasn't played a pass defense of the Jaguars' caliber since demolishing the Titans. Today seemed like we could do no wrong and the result would be the same as the Titans game. Brady went 23/26 for 267 and 4 TDs. That's a perfect game, regardless of his passer rating. He threw deep to Moss and Aiken, he threw underneath to Welker, he threw to his TEs, he spread the field. While Brady won't be facing any defense like this for the rest of the season, getting into the groove that he did was all good. He threw to 7 different receivers. Nice.
3. Our O-Line did a stellar job. Our only two penalties of the game were false starts by Vollmer which need to be fixed, but he made up for it with some impeccable blocking. Jacksonville had 0 sacks and 0 QB hits in the entire game. Brady had time to let plays develop and he made them happen. Vollmer stepped in where Kaczur normally plays at RT and Neal returned at RG. Everyone is getting healthy at the same time which means a great push in the playoffs is in store. Aside from pass blocking, our run blocking was stellar as well. Jacksonville entered as a top 10 rush defense (7th in yards/attempt, 11th in yards/game) and we ran ALL over them. The return of Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor were noticed. Great job O-Line and Running Back Committee. In the Red Zone, we converted 4/6, with 1 fumble by LoMo that should have been a touchdown and the other was at the end of the game as we ran down the clock. Overall, GREAT job.
4. On the opposite side, our pass rush was AWESOME. They had 7 QB hits on the day and 2 sacks. Apart from the statistics, as viewers, we could see Garrard making bad throws due to not having time to plant himself to make the throw. He threw two interceptions, both of which we converted into touchdowns. We need to capitalize like we did today if we wish to go deep into the playoffs. We won't be facing young O-Lines as we have the past few weeks in the playoffs so we need to translate these performances into good showings against good veteran teams.
5. What else can I say? Springs had a red Zone interception that ended a 9 minute Jaguar drive to open the 2nd half. We countered that drive with a 7 minute drive of our own to a) end the 3rd quarter and b) win the game with another Brady to Moss TD. We allowed the Jaguars to score on their next drive, but they knew the game was over and we ran down the clock with Fred Taylor for a final 12 (yeah. TWELVE) minute drive to end the game. While we didn't score a TD (and didn't have to), it appeared that we could have if it was necessary. Overall, a fantastic showing.
Stats of the Game:
Tom Brady 23/26 267 yards, 4 TDs, 0 Ints
Wes Welker 13 recs (13 targets, 100% catch rate), 138 yards
Randy Moss 4 recs (5 targets), 45 Yards, 3 TDs
Tully Banta-Cain 5 Tackles, 1 Sack, 1 Tackle for Loss, 2 QB Hits
Jerod Mayo 15 Tackles (almost 25% of all the Patriots Tackles), 1 QB hit
Kyle Arrington 3 Special Teams Tackles, Great Punt Pressure
What we Can Improve:
1) Vollmer and the O-Line need to limit false start penalties as a whole. If it's not Vollmer, it's Mankins. False starts kill drives. We're lucky we weren't facing an elite team.
2) Maroney needs to work on ball control. Even though it appeared he had the TD, there's no excuse for fumbling on the 1 yard line TWICE in a season, especially for a player we've been questioning his entire career.
3) Welker was the target of 50% of Brady's passes. That's not good, especially when we face teams that are capable of limiting him in games. We started to use our TEs early on, but abandoned that as the game progressed. We need to consistently spread the ball and spread it where the match-ups are to our advantage.
Overall, a very successful game.
Congratulations to the 2009 AFC East Division Champions, the New England Patriots!