clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Postgame, Week 18: Patriots 28 vs. Jaguars 3

The two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots made chilling work of their first Wild Card opponent of the Belichick-Brady era, another unmerciful knee to the groin in a recent string of such performances.

The least merciful Patriots was linebacker Willie McGinest, who broke two postseason records in the game, tallying 4 1/2 quarterback sacks for the game (3.5 by Rich Milot in 1984 and Richard Dent in 1985) and notching the 16th of his career, passing Bruce Smith, and finally making an irrefutable case for the Patriots defense not to be so nameless.

"In the company of guys like Bruce Smith and Reggie White, it's definitely a compliment," he said. "I'm just humbled to be in the same category with those guys."

The two-time defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots made chilling work of their first Wild Card opponent of the Belichick-Brady era, another unmerciful knee to the groin in a recent string of such performances.

The least merciful Patriots was linebacker Willie McGinest, who broke two postseason records in the game, tallying 4 1/2 quarterback sacks for the game (3.5 by Rich Milot in 1984 and Richard Dent in 1985) and notching the 16th of his career, passing Bruce Smith, and finally making an irrefutable case for the Patriots defense not to be so nameless.

"In the company of guys like Bruce Smith and Reggie White, it's definitely a compliment," he said. "I'm just humbled to be in the same category with those guys."

New England (11-6), like a team of firefighters, totally suppressed the Jacksonville offense and doused the Jaguars touted defense, handing the visitors a 28-3 defeat, giving Jacksonville (12-5) the respect the ultimately deserved.

The Patriots set a couple more playoff records: The team won their 10th consecutive playoff game, and Tom Brady won his 10th as a starting quarterback - 10 against 0 losses, also an extension of the record he broke in Super Bowl XXXIX last year. Brady also matched a career best with three touchdown passes. The win also made Bill Belichick 11-1 in the playoffs as a head coach, the best winning percentage in history.

What appeared to many to be a "sluggish" first half was more 30 minutes of imprecise execution, as New England did plenty to keep Jacksonville at bay.

Neither offense made much ground, as defenses dominated early, as Brady was sacked four times in the first half, and not again afterward. Brady also misfired, overthrowing several passes, and several others were dropped, including a sure touchdown that flopped out of the hands of Deion Branch, wide open inside the Jaguars 10 yard line.

New England opened the scoring on their fourth drive of the game, their first of the second quarter. Starting on the Jacksonville 37, the Patriots moved the ball on the ground, Kevin Faulk picking up 18 on a 3rd-and-6, bringing the ball to the Jaguar 15. After a 4-yard Corey Dillon run, the Pats went no-huddle, and Brady connected on an 11-yard touchdown pass to Troy Brown.

At the time, it was only Brady's fifth completion of 11 passes. He finished 15 of 27 for 201 yards and no interceptions. He connected with seven different receivers. Faulk led all rushers with 51 yards on 6 carries (8.5 avg.). Dillon ran 17 times for 40 yards. As a team. The Pats gained 118 yards on the ground.

On Jacksonville's ensuing drive, Patriot safety Eugene Wilson tattooed Jaguar running back Alvin Pearman, who, even though he had the ball covered with both arms, fumbled from the jolt of Wilson's vicious hit. New England was unable to capitalize, on a penalty, short run and two more incompletions. Brady was constantly under pressure.

Jacksonville drove 56 yards on 12 plays to the New England 18, but managed only a field goal. Brady then brought the Patriots out to the 46 before just missing on the connection with Branch on the next to last play of the half, ultimately just delaying the inevitable.

New England made a few halftime adjustments, the most important of which kept Jaguars from stalking Tom Brady from behind. Jacksonville recorded no more sacks, and Brady had significantly more time to pick apart the Jags pass defense.

The Patriots scored immediately in the second half following Jacksonville's opening three-and-out. New England drove 81 yards on 12 plays, burning 6:42 off the clock. It was their longest, most time-consuming drive of the game. The drive was keyed by a 16-yard Brady to Branch connection, followed three plays later with Brady hitting Ben Watson for 15 yards to convert a third down.

The real key play came on a 2nd-and-9 from the Jaguar 20. Brady hit Watson again, who this time fumbled, only for Andre Davis to recover at the Jacksonville 3. The Brady ran a magician-like play action and hit David Givens in the end zone to make it 14-3. That was pretty much all she wrote for Jacksonville, who never seriously threatened after.

Watson drove the first nail into Jacksonville's 2005 coffin following another Jaguar three-and-out. On 3rd-and-13 from the New England 37, Brady hit Watson for a short gain, but Watson broke a pair of tackles, caused another defender to miss near the sideline, and outran everyone 63-yards for the touchdown.

It was the longest passing play in Patriots postseason history, surpassing a Brady-Branch 60-yard score in the 2004 AFC Championship game.

Asante Samuel drove the final nail only six plays later. Jacksonville let the clock expire in the third quarter as they face a 4th-and-5 from the New England 32. On the ensuing play, Byron Leftwich was looking for wide receiver Reggie Williams, but Samuel jumped the route as if he had been waiting for the play all day. There was no one in the 73 yards between Samuel, the end zone, and a date with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

The interception return is the second longest in Patriots postseason history, following Rodney Harrison's 87-yard return in last year's AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh.

David Garrard enter the game in relief of Leftwich with about nine minutes left in the game. He was able to move the ball against a bend-don't-break defense. He drove the Jaguars inside the Patriots 10, but gave up the ball on downs.

Leftwich finished 18 of 31 for 179 yards and an interception. Garrard was 3 of 8 for 68. Leftwich was Jacksonville's leading rusher with 26 yards on 3 carries. Running back Fred Taylor was utterly ineffective, gaining just 24 yards on 8 carries. Jacksonville as a team accumulated 81 yards on the ground.

New England now faces the AFC West division winning Denver Broncos (13-3) in the Mile High City, Saturday at 8 p.m. Denver beat New England, 28-20, earlier this season on Oct. 16 in Denver. The Broncos dominated that game, leading 28-3 before the Pats mounted a too-little, too-late comeback.