Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports
Notes, musings, and observations from New England's 23-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars
Christmas is the time when we think about giving to others. A time of year when we look beyond our own noses (some more prominent than others) and do our part to spread goodwill, cheer, and charity to those less fortunate. An opportunity to give the little guy his day in the sun and take joy in knowing you did your part to make someone else's day brighter.
At least that's what I hear. I personally do none of those things. But I did drop some change in a Salvation Army bucket on my way to Grand Central Station last night, so that has to count for something.
Since it is in fact the holiday season, and since most people out there aren't selfish jerks like me, I could try and convince myself that yesterday's debacle down in Jacksonville was nothing more than a case of the New England Patriots feeling exceptionally charitable and deciding to give the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars some momentum by helping them finish out their season strong. I could make a case that the Patriots have more or less resigned themselves to the 3 seed and have decided to pretty much mail it in these last two weeks to make sure everyone is as healthy as they can be. I could even make the case that New England played so damn hard last Sunday night against the 49ers that they struggled in practice all week and weren't fully recovered and ready for what was a Jaguars team that was playing like their season still meant something. But any way you look at it, the Patriots absolutely stunk yesterday, and the final score reflects that. Pretty much any other team in the league besides Jacksonville, and that game would likely have been a loss. And on a day that saw the chances of the Patriots locking up a 1st round bye improve with Houston's loss to the Vikings, yesterday was almost a complete and utter disaster. However, as usual, the Patriots did enough to win the game and hung on for the victory.
- I had a pretty hard time getting myself amped up for yesterday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With last week's thriller against the 49ers still resonating and the AFC playoff picture already pretty much set, I wasn't as excited for this one as I usually get.
- I clearly wasn't alone in feeling that way; there were 53 players on the Patriots who were of the exact same opinion that I was.
- How long was Devin McCourty back at cornerback before he gave up an 18 yard play? Six seconds? Can't say I missed that.
- Remember when we finally had our starting secondary and everyone on the defense was starting to gel? How long ago was that? It feels like 1987.
- Bill Belichick was doing a lot of rotating guys in and out on the defensive side of the ball yesterday. I'm guessing at least part of that decision was to ensure that anyone and everyone who may be needed for the postseason was ready to go if necessary.
- I know a lot of it has to do with injuries, but still... come on, guys. It's freaking Jacksonville.
- Didn't even bat an eye at Jacksonville's opening drive. At first I thought it was because this game wasn't really all that meaningful, but to be honest it's probably because I'm just so damn used to it. It's the same reason why I'm no longer disgusted with myself when I eat an entire large pizza in one sitting or stopped feeling shame after getting winded.
- At Jacksonville, Week 16 is just one of those games where only bad things can happen for the Patriots. A 40 point blowout would have been expected and no sort of confidence builder and a loss is enough to just totally crush any momentum the team built during its epic almost-comeback.
- The first two of Tommy B's throws in this game were an incompletion and an interception. That is the football equivalent of having to use a public toilet during a Code Red Intestinal disaster only to find out too little too late that there's no toilet paper.
- You do have to give the Jags a lot of credit for bringing it yesterday. Having the Patriots at home to wrap up the season is pretty much as big a game as it can get for them. Good job getting pumped up for this one.
- And you're welcome, Jacksonville, for all the butts we put in the seats. I imagine the attendance yesterday was a lot of fun for everyone except for the guy who voluntarily looks for seats as close to the tarp as possible.
- Tommy B looked as pissed as I've ever seen him after that failed goal-to-go drive that set up their first points. Usually when you have a mancrush on somebody, you would to anything to ensure their happiness. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't love it when he gets mad. He's just so cute when he's mad.
- You know what isn't cute, though? Sucking on defense.
- Sucking on offense is no fun either. I wonder what New England's win percentage is when Brady throws two picks in the first quarter...
- What is it about the Patriots helping inept teams set records? Why?
- If that defensive performance didn't look exactly like the Patriots of 2011, I don't know what does. A soft under zone that had trouble getting to the quarterback, gave up yards at will, and then stiffened up in the red zone. This game easily could have been 28-3 in the first quarter if this was another team.
- A Jacksonville punt! YES! Cue the duckboats!
- God I hate Wes Welker as a punt returner. He's just so small and he always gets hit so hard.
- How did Deion Branch's hair get so long? Was it that long last week?
- Danny Woodhead is maybe one of two players in the NFL whose running style can be described as "scurrying." The other is Darren Sproles.
- Chug that Gatorade, Belichick. You have some serious yelling to do.
- What was Aqib Talib doing out there hurt? If a man is holding his hip while he runs, I'd feel safe saying you should rest him.
- Even Tracy White made an appearance yesterday. Too bad Sterling Moore was over in Dallas getting torched by Drew Brees, otherwise there really would have been a 2011 feel to this game.
- I don't know why the coaches swapped out Stevan Ridley for Brandon Bolden. Ridley was running well early and then they just up and pulled him for a back that couldn't really get anything going. If I wasn't out of my fantasy playoffs already, I'd be a lot more upset.
- A hot Wes Welker is just flat out uncoverable.
- Thanks for waking up, boys - just in time for the halftime show. Might want to do that a little earlier from now on, ‘kay?
- Oh, Brandon Lloyd! Almost had some actual YACs there to start the 2nd half! Dammit.
- New England simply needs turnovers. They need them like. All defenses try to forces turnovers, but if the Patriots can't force them, they keep teams in games they have no business being in.
- This is the first game I heard Salomon Wilcots call in a while - was he always this incompetent? Did they just tell him to rehash exactly what just happened on the field and pretend it's legit analysis? Here are a few of my favorites:
- "The Patriots want to keep running the ball if they are going to establish a rushing attack."
- "New England has been giving up big plays all season. That 32 yard play counts as another one."
- "If Jacksonville doesn't score a touchdown on this red zone opportunity, they will be forced to go for a field goal."
- Not to mention Wilcots confusion of Aaron Hernandez and Tony Gonzales. I guess the thinking there was to just yell out a Latino and hope nobody notices.
- I had no idea Jacksonville's offensive line was so good - 42 consecutive games without a sack? Really? Did I hear that correctly? Where do they find these people?
- I love how they tried to spin Tommy B reacting to the sack that was flagged for roughing the passer as him ducking his head to draw the foul. There was a very large man barreling down on him. Most human instinct in that situation is to lower the chin and duck away from the pressure. Now if he had only gotten brushed and then fell to the ground clutching his ankle, you could have made a case.
- Of course, if that happened, you'd be watching a soccer game, so it's all kind of moot.
- Of course, getting immediately sacked on the ensuing play makes the penalty slightly less creamy.
- Two very bad games of pass protection from the Patriots. You can excuse the San Francisco game, but I'd like to think that this offensive line could have handled Jacksonville's pass rush.
- To the Jags credit, though, a couple of those sacks were coverage sacks. Receivers just couldn't get any separation and Tommy B had to hold onto the ball for too long.
- Where has Chandler Jones been? He has completely disappeared since he hurt his ankle.
- Jacksonville and New England with the exact same offensive production late in the 3rd quarter. Yuck.
- Screen pass to Brandon Lloyd? Brandon Lloyd making a defender miss? Brandon Bolden diving for one yard? Where the hell am I?
- I'm very excited for Gronk to come back. We have enough weapons without him, but we could really, really use him in the red zone.
- He'd also be nice to keep close to home to help block. Aaron Hernandez simply doesn't have the size.
- Why does Chad Henne always light the Patriots up? He throws for like 600 yards every time (that may be a slight exaggeration).
- What is Marquice Cole doing covering Justin Blackmon?
- Jags down by one score with less than 10 left in the game doesn't exactly scream "gaining playoff momentum."
- Seriously - there was never a point in this game where I felt comfortable with the way the Patriots were playing or felt 100% confident that they were going to win the game. Other than a few nice drives, there was just nothing going on on either side of the ball.
- Atta boy, Dont'a Hightower. Needed that sack in the worst way.
- Hightower is one of those players who quietly does his job all game and then comes up with one or two phenomenal plays when the team needs him most. His development should be one of the more fun things to watch, right alongside the necessary nanobot technology that will allow Tommy B to keep playing football for the next 75 years.
- Jones must have sensed me writing that note about how he has kinda disappeared, because pretty much the moment after I wrote that he turned it on and was forcing Henne to roll out of the pocket on almost every passing play. If I knew that was all it took, I would have written it a lot earlier.
- And while I'm at it - Hernandez sucks, Ridley blows, Welker smells, and Lloyd still wets the bed. Now go out at prove me wrong!
- I can't wait for the "is Wes Welker a Hall of Famer?" debates to start, because for the life of me I have no idea where I stand on that matter.
- Hoo-man has been the man behind a fair number of big plays over the last few weeks. Can't wait to get him, Gronk, and Hernandez lined up in the same formation.
- I wonder when I'll stop being terrified of quarterbacks like Chad Henne late in games.
- I also wonder when I'll stop waiting for a boneheaded defensive penalty to keep opposing drives alive.
- One of the most boneheaded coaching moves of 2012 was the spike to stop the clock after an official review confirmed that the diving catch on 4th and 10 that kept a Jacksonville drive alive. You figure the Jacksonville coaching staff would have used that official review time to maybe call a play in.
- Chung giveth and Chung taketh away. That he had a personal foul and the game-sealing pick on the same drive says much about his career.
- Tommy B was clearly furious in his postgame press conference, saying that the team "played pretty terribly" and "were lucky to win." Wish I could say I disagreed with him.
- Get healthy, everyone. Get healthy now. And play better next week, please
- That goes for you too, Alec. You're about to eat and drink your weight in garbage over the next few days, and we're all going to need you in game shape when the playoffs come around.
Have a great Christmas, everybody. Next week should be an exciting one to say the least. One big plus to take away from this game is that it's rare when the Patriots are playing a meaningful game in Week 17, and so it should be fun to watch.
Of course, I also really, really like it when the last game of the season is meaningless and I don't have to spend the final Sunday of the year a nervous wreck. But what can you do.