Page Nav


Grid Blog



Weather Location


Articles On Tap:


Note to Patriots Nation: RELAX

The worst part about the NFL regular season is that each team plays only 16 games, and once a week. That means when a team loses, you have to listen to that team's fan base irrationally overreact for an entire week. That's what I've been forced to endure this week. I feel like the lead singer of Third Eye Blind pleading with people "step back from that ledge my friend". Yes, the New England Patriots got manhandled by the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday. The good news is that it's September, and not December. They have 14 more opportunities to get this thing right before the games start to count.
With that being said, Sunday's game was disappointing to say the least. The momentum of the game swung early. New England was able to get into field goal range on its opening drive, presenting Stephen Gostkowski with a 54-yard field goal opportunity. Gostkowski proceeded to kick the ball nowhere near the uprights. The uprights could have shifted 10 feet to the left, and I'm not sure that would've helped. Jacksonville took over at just about midfield, drove right down the field, put the ball in the endzone and they were off and running.
After a strong performance in week 1, the defense took a major step back this week. Blake Bortles lit them up. The few times that the coverage was there, he made some difficult throws. For the most part though, Bortles simply had to drop it in the hands of a wide open receiver. With Trey Flowers knocked out of the game early, the Patriots struggled to generate any type of pass rush. Bortles sat comfortably in the pocket and picked the defense apart all day long.
Flowers' absence shouldn't just be dismissed. He's their best individual defensive player and best pass rusher. He played just seven snaps on Sunday, but in that short stint he forced a fumble on one play and pressured Bortles on another. Flowers may be the best player that nobody talks about. Now, that is not the only reason the Patriots got gashed on Sunday. Jacksonville was moving the ball even when Flowers was on the field, but the pass rush was non-existent with him out. 
The coverage wasn't any better. The Patriots got burned all day long on crossing routes, pick plays, rub routes, whatever you want to call them. To me, that stems from poor communication. Those types of routes are designed to confuse defenses that are in man coverage. It forces defenders to communicate with each other presnap. Those plays challenge a defense's ability to diagnose the play ahead of time and react accordingly. That's less about talent than it is recognition; which is something that can be coached, studied and improved over the course of the season.
There were a lot of short throws that turned into big gains because of poor tackling. The Jaguar receivers were catching the ball with a lot of open space around them. Those types of plays are extremely frustrating to watch. As a fan, you just sit there and wonder how the heck he was left so wide open.
While the tackling, coverage and pass rush was subpar, the most disappointing part of the defensive effort was its performance on third down. They simply could not get off of the field. It didn't matter the distance, Jacksonville was converting third downs all day long -- 10 of 14 to be exact -- extending drives and keeping Tom Brady off of the field. That has always been the recipe to beat New England. If you keep Brady off the field, it not only limits his scoring opportunities, but it puts a little more pressure on every possession.
Offensively, you knew going in that it was going to be difficult for the Patriots offense to move the ball against Jacksonville. Against this defense, the Pats didn't have the necessary personnel to move the ball downfield quickly. They were going to have to nickel and dime their way down the field with long, sustained drives. While they were able to do that on occasion on Sunday, they failed to fully capitalize on the opportunities they had. 
Nothing encapsulates this better than New England's 16-play, 83-yard drive that lasted over 8 minutes, and resulted in only 3 points. This might have been the biggest sequence in the game. The Patriots started this drive inside their own 10, facing a 14-point deficit, but still over 11 minutes remaining in the first half. The offense scratched and clawed its way down to Jacksonville's 11 yard line. That's where the drive stalled, and the Patriots settled for 3 points.
That had to crush the team's spirit. Knowing how difficult it had been on the previous few drives, the offense was finally to move the ball downfield, only to get so close and settle for a field goal. If that didn't crush them, then watching the Jaguars march downfield on the ensuing possession and score a touchdown before halftime certainly did. 
This game left a sour taste in fans' mouths because it was very reminiscent of the Super Bowl. Poor tackling, wide open receivers, long drives and few stops. However, it's week 2 people, so just relax. The Patriots lost to a very talented, highly motivated team on the road on Sunday. If and when the two teams meet again, the Patriots will be a different team.

1 comment