Patriots Defeat Jaguars In Close Game: 5 Things Learned From The Victory
Every time the Patriots play a “Gimme Game”, they almost always seem to struggle, and Sunday in Jacksonville was no different as the Patriots escaped with a slim 23-16 victory over the Jaguars. The game came down to the final play when Patriots Safety, Patrick Chung, made an interception with no time left in the end zone. Had Jaguars Quarterback Chad Henne found a Receiver, the game would have gone to overtime. Here are five things we learned about the Patriots from this victory:
1.) The 2012 Patriots Defense looks a lot like the 2011 Defense: Last year the biggest concern the Patriots had was on defense. They couldn’t stop teams and the team relied solely on the offense to win games. Last week against the 49ers they gave up a season high 41 points, and although this week they only gave up 16 points, they allowed a lot of yardage to Jacksonville.
The Patriots defense is making mediocre Quarterbacks look like Joe Montana. Last week after allowing 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick 221 yards and 4 touchdowns, they allowed Chad Henne, backup to Blaine Gabbert, 348 yards. Luckily for the Patriots, Henne only threw for one touchdown, and the Patriots were able to pick him off 3 times. Two of the three interceptions came from Patrick Chung, including the game clinching interception with no time remaining.
2.) Tom Brady is in a slump: After only throwing four interceptions in the first 13 games, Tom Brady has now thrown 4 interceptions in the last two games. Despite throwing for 443 yards last week, the two interceptions were huge in the loss to San Francisco. Luckily for Brady both interceptions, which were thrown in the first quarter, only led to two Jacksonville field goals. The interceptions could have been much more costly for the Patriots.
The first Brady interception was puzzling, as it was a long pass intended for Running Back, Stevan Ridley. The ball bounced off a defender and Ridley before it was caught by Chris Prosinski. The pass seemed to be high floater, that was able to be tipped by the defense, but the real question is why did they try to throw a deep pass to Ridley? Although the Patriots were still without Tight End, Rob Gronkowski, there seems to be many other options Brady could’ve thrown to.
3.) Penalties can be very costly for the Patriots: In the final drive of the game for the Jaguars, Chad Henne threw an incomplete pass intended for Cecil Shorts. Shorts was not going to make the catch, but a split second after the play, Patrick Chung had a helmet to helmet hit on Shorts which resulted in a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Instead of a 2nd and 10 at the Jacksonville 38, they were given a first down and given the ball at the Patriots 47. This eventually helped the Jaguars get into the red zone, and gave them a chance to tie the game at the end of regulation. Chung, and the Patriots defense were very fortunate that the penalty didn’t cost them the game, as Chung made up for his penalty by making the interception as time expired. The lesson learned with that play is that committing dumb penalties can be really costly, and should be avoided at all costs during the playoffs.
4.) In week 16, the Patriots STILL don’t have a reliable second running back: Stevan Ridley had a decent game against Jacksonville with 84 yards rushing in 18 carries, but besides Ridley, there was no help on the ground game. Wide Receiver, Wes Welker had 9 yards on one rush attempt and Running Backs Danny Woodhead had just 7 yards as Brandon Bolden only helped the team with 3 rush yards. Ridley isn’t the most dominant Running Back, and having a good, reliable backup Running Back is critical to be able to win games, especially when trying to run the clock down. Woodhead and Bolden need to help the team in bigger ways for the Patriots to be successful.
5.) The Patriots do NOT seem ready for the Playoffs: After a big loss last week to the 49ers which lost the Patriots a first round bye, unless the Patriots get help from the Chiefs or Colts next week, the Patriots didn’t show much fire at all against a team that’s won just two games all season. Brady is struggling, as well as the defense, and the team is not playing like a playoff contender at all. If the team doesn’t turn it up, they could be in trouble in two weeks, when they will most likely play their first playoff game. In the final game of the 2009 season the team played a lackluster game against the Houston Texans, and that seemed to carry over as they got destroyed by the Baltimore Ravens in the wild card round of the playoffs at Gillette Stadium.
Next week the Patriots face off against the Miami Dolphins on the final regular season game at 4:25, a game that was flexed by the NFL due to playoff seeding possibilities. Tight End, Rob Gronkowski is expected to be back after missing five weeks with a broken forearm. Who, and when the Patriots play will depend on what other AFC teams do next week.