Happy New Year, everyone!
It still hasn’t sunk in that it’s 2022, to be honest; 1978 is as far away from the year 2000 as 2022 is from 2000. The music I listened to in high school is getting ready to turn 30 years old. People of legal drinking age never grew up without a cell phone. As the song goes, times they are a-changin’.
But in a nice throwback to the times we all know and love, the New England Patriots are once again a lock for the postseason with their 50-10 thumping of the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars. This game was more or less over in the first quarter, which is nice change of pace from the last few weeks. And while it’s tough to take too much away from this one, good teams beat the crap out of bad teams, and that’s exactly what happened here.
- The Patriots started off this game with a remembrance of John Madden, so it’s only fitting that I do the same. I have more early memories of John Madden and Pat Summerall announcing games than I do the games themselves. He just had a way of calling them that we really haven’t seen since, and even when he was saying something patently ridiculous (like ‘now here’s a guy that’s not gonna be denied the end zone, because that’s gonna be a touchdown for his team’), it just kind of made sense. And one of the greatest Christmas gifts I ever received was a Super Nintendo, all the way back in 1990, complete with Street Fighter II and John Madden Football — and while I was way more excited to play the former, I ended up playing a ton more of the latter. John Madden football eventually became way too complex for me — I still can’t believe that there are people who play that game for a living — but that man is as important for instilling my love for this game as the New England Patriots are. Thanks for everything. Mr. Madden. Rest well.
- I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention another legend of the sport who passed away recently, Dan Reeves. Reeves is almost as synonymous with Super Bowls as Vince Lombardi and Bill Belichick, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who has a bad thing to say about the man. His nephew, David Andrews, says it better than I ever could.
- OK, now on to the game.
- This game was exactly what the doctor ordered. A terrible, depleted Jags team coming into Foxboro to give New England a chance to wash off the stink of the last two weeks. New England set the tone from the first Jacksonville three and out and never really looked back. If nobody’s stat line really blows you away, it’s because it wasn’t really necessary to put up stats; pretty much everything the Patriots did worked.
- And it’s not like they even got all that fancy either; Honestly, there wasn’t anything overly complex about this one. The Patriots are just better than the Jaguars at every level (including quarterback, for the record), and so there was no need to get too crazy. Inside power runs, tight splits, and three receiver sets that saw stretch runs to get the D going one way, then play-actions and rollouts in the passing game. On defense, a combination of Guy/Godchaux/Barmore/Wise/Van Noy/Bentley controlled the line of scrimmage while Kyle Dugger patrolled the middle zone and Devini McCourty stayed deeper. That was more or less all she wrote.
- One element I am definitively taking away from this game is how much better Mac Jones’s accuracy was compared to the last few weeks. Leading receivers, putting it where only his guys can get it, making smart decisions. That’s good to see no matter the opponent. Not sure if the cold weather got to him last week, or the intensity of the game the week before, or perhaps his hand injury is better. Whatever it is, it was much more like it.
- Or maybe it was his new offensive powerhouse weapon Kristian Wilkerson, who saw action for the first time all season yesterday. Wilkerson had four catches on eight targets for 42 yards and two scores on the day. The first round healthy scratch he replaced, N’Keal Harry, has 12 receptions on 21 targets for 184 yards and zero scores on the season. So, if my math is correct, in one game, Wilkerson has 33% of Harry’s catches, 66% of Harry’s targets, almost 25% of Harry’s yards, and 200% of Harry’s scores.
- And honestly, it should have been one more catch for another 45 yards and a score, as Mac Jones delivered an absolute dime that hit him in the hands with the game already well out of hand. The defender made contact at the right time, but that’s the kind of throw that you love to see.
- And if it makes Wilkerson feel any better, Harry would 100% have dropped that pass as well.
- And for those of you getting ready to take a break from your latest YouTube video pointing out all the continuity errors in the latest Star Wars movie to point out to everyone that 200% of zero is still zero, thank you very much. Don’t forget to remind the teacher that she forgot to collect last night’s homework while highlighting the calorie content of everyone’s dessert while you’re at it.
- Live look at Jakobi Meyers when Wilkerson caught his first touchdown on his third reception.
- Though Meyers also got his, on a beautifully thrown corner route that left him just enough runway to come down with it in-bounds. He and Wilkerson are now tied for career touchdown catches, which is nice to see.
- I never understood teams who have nothing to play for not going it for it all the time on 4th down inside the red zone. A huge 40 yard Jags pass play ended up with just a field goal because Jax decided not to go for it on 4th and short. Why? Worried you get fired even harder once the season is over?
- On the flip side... When you’re up 41-3 late in the game, do you really need to kick the field goal there?
- I have officially lost track of the number of times I’ve watched Rhamondre Stevenson disappear at the line of scrimmage into a massive pile of bodies only to emerge six or seven yards later to set up 2nd and short. And 2nd and short seemed to be the theme of the day for New England; honestly, I feel like New England gained nine yards on almost every first down in the first half. The one time I can recall they got stuffed, Mac Jones connected with Hunter Henry for 17 to set up 1st and goal and Damien Harris’s 2nd touchdown of the day.
- It was good to see Chase Winovich out there getting some reps. If you had completely forgotten that he was even on the team, I can’t say I blame you. But New England utilized him on the edge in clear passing situations in order to collapse the pocket and force chip blocks from the guards.
- Paralleling that... this was the first game all season in which Matthew Judon, fresh off the Covid-19 list, didn’t make much of an impact as he saw limited snaps and was used sparingly. Only took 17 weeks and a disease to get the guy back down to earth.
- J.C. Jackson, however, broke his embarrassing three game interception drought by snagging one one-handed just before halftime. With that pick, Jackson has 25 on his career, good enough for ninth all-time in Patriots history (Ty Law and Raymond Clayborn are tied for first with 36). He is also now tied with Lester Hayes and Everson Walls for the most interceptions in the first five seasons of a player’s career, and can sit alone with that distinction should he register an INT next week. Belichick better slap that franchise tag on him so he can extend him faster than Kramer slapped that money on the table after losing The Contest.
- Gotta love Jacksonville calling timeouts to close out the first half. They had five plays in New England territory all game up to that point. That they thought they’d get the ball back and score in less than a minute is just adorable.
- The only time I was ever worried at any point during this game was when New England went into the locker room up 28-3 at halftime. And since the Falcons didn’t get the job done against the Bills yesterday despite forcing three interceptions, the 28-3 jokes are back on in perpetuity.
- Luckily for me, the Patriots made it 34-3 less than four minutes into the 2nd half, at which point I started to wonder how long until we saw the Human Victory Cigar that sometimes goes by Brian Hoyer. Jones ended up playing into the fourth, which is fine for additional reps, I suppose, and maybe to help his Rookie of the Year campaign
- Of course the second they show that stat that Trevor Lawrence hadn’t thrown a TD pass since Thanksgiving he gets in the end zone the next play for a garbage time score. I actually think that, despite the season he’s having, Trevor Lawrence is going to have a decent career. It’s going to be an important offseason in terms of getting him a decent coaching staff and team cohesiveness, but he’s got a good arm and all the tangibles you’d look for.
- I don’t really want to admit it... but there’s a definite resemblance between Hunter Henry and Buzz from Home Alone. Maybe if Buzz and Matt Leinart had a kid, Henry would be the result.
- Given how often I’ve seen it happen this season, I couldn’t help but think: if I was an NFL referee, I’d have my own signature style of flag throwing. No standard pulling it out and tossing it for me; think I’d always go with the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar skyhook.
- I originally had a note written about how you’re never going to hear me write a bad thing about Brandon Bolden ever again... but the way he approached cancer, keeping it completely to himself and kicking the crap out of it on his out with no fanfare or spotlight, leads me to believe that he’s the kind of badass who would never want any kind of special treatment whatsoever. So the next time he gets stuffed on 3rd and short, you’ll be sure to hear about it from me.
- The Patriots are back in the playoffs. They still have a chance to secure the AFC East next week should they win and the Jets somehow find a way to beat the Bills. They are also still in the running for the #1 overall seed in the AFC somehow, should a few more games go their way. They have their QB for the future, a number of key players locked up long-term, have been better on the road than at home this season, and could make some noise this tourney. They also have a chance to head down to Miami on Sunday and reverse that Dolphins curse and make up for that damn goal line fumble in Week 1 that could legit end up being the deciding factor between playing on the road Wild Card Weekend and relaxing at home as the One Seed. Cue the music!