The New England Patriots played their first road game of the season agains the Jacksonville Jaguars and delivered an underwhelming performance. While the team had some moments, it failed to string together enough positive plays to come away victoriously against an aggressive Jaguars team that perfectly executed its game plan and ultimately won 31-20.
The Patriots’ pass defense struggled against Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles’ first four years in the NFL were marked by inconsistency. Today, however, the former first-round draft pick played a magnificent and near-perfect game. Bortles, who took little risks and exploited what the defense gave him, completed 29 of his 45 pass attempts for 377 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Furthermore, he carried the football six times for 35 yards against what was an undisciplined New England defense.
New England was atrocious on third down
The Patriots had issues on third down all game long. On offense, the team was able to extend just four drives on its 12 attempts, with one of the failures being a sack and fumble. The defense did not fare any better: Brian Flores’ group failed to get off the field on 10 of the 14 chances it had and thrice allowed Brian Bortles to run for a new set of downs – not a winning recipe.
Rob Gronkowski and Jalen Ramsey had quiet days
Two of the biggest stars in the game – Rob Gronkowski and Jalen Ramsey – both had relatively quiet days. Ramsey was rarely challenged in the passing game, while Gronkowski saw just four balls thrown his way. He caught two of them for 15 yards as Jacksonville’s defense made stopping him a priority: the team often double-covered the 29-year old and Tom Brady did not rarely look his way even when he was playing one-on-one.
Jacksonville did not fold under pressure
During last year’s AFC Championship Game, the Patriots were able to come back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. As the pressure mounted, the Jaguars and their play calling turned ultra-conservative which ultimately allowed Tom Brady and New England to come back and win the game. This time around, Jacksonville did no such thing: the team kept its foot on the gas and even when momentum shifted towards the Patriots made plays to stay in control.
Sony Michel was a bright spot
Sony Michel appeared in his first NFL game today and generally looked solid: the 31st overall pick of this year’s draft was moved all over the formation and finished the game with 11 touches for a combined 41 yards. While the numbers are not overly spectacular, they reflect how New England trusted the rookie to serve as the number one runner: no other back received that many carries. Michel was up to the challenge, which should be good news moving forward.
The AFC playoff picture shifted in Jacksonville’s favor
While the postseason is still far, far away, the Jaguars are positioning themselves well with today’s win: having the head-to-head advantage over a projected top competitor for the AFC’s number one playoff seed certainly does not hurt and could ultimately be the difference between going on the road in the playoffs or staying at home: New England took advantage of the latter last year, maybe Jacksonville can do the same in January 2019.