After a relatively impressive season opener, the Patriots were a disappointment in week two as they fell flat on their faces in Jacksonville. They played poorly in all facets of the game on their way to a 31-20 loss at the hands of the Jaguars. A slow defense and an inefficient offense were critical factors in the team's defeat. Here are the highlights from Sunday's game:
- The weather in Jacksonville was not ideal, hovering above 95 degrees with high humidity. However, the Patriots fans arguing that this was a factor in the loss are mistaken. The Jaguars had to deal with the heat just like the Patriots did, yet their defense looked fast and unbothered. While the conditions were not easy to deal with, they are not an excuse for the Patriots miserable performance.
- The Patriots defensive line followed up a fantastic performance in week one with a wretched showing on Sunday against the Jaguars. They could not manage to sack Blake Bortles even once, and they produced very little pressure on the Jaguars QB all game. Adam Butler, Malcolm Brown, and Danny Shelton were essentially invisible. Deatrich Wise was ineffective, and Trey Flowers played average before leaving the game with an injury. Keionta Davis was absolutely brutal all night, getting no pressure in the pass rush, and getting utterly manhandled by the Jacksonville offensive line during running plays. Despite all that, Adrian Clayborn may be the biggest culprit of all. The Patriots were successful against Deshaun Watson because they kept a contained pocket, and didn't allow him to find lanes in which to slip out and gain yards on the ground. On multiple third-down plays, Clayborn tried to speed rush around the Jaguars left tackle, breaking containment and allowing Bortles to escape for a first down. The Patriots defensive line as a whole looked as bad on Sunday as it did at any point last season.
- The Patriots performance by the Patriots defensive backs was just as pitiful. Before going out with an injury, Patrick Chung gave up a number of key conversions to Jacksonville running backs and tight ends. He even gave up the touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Although Stephon Gilmore made some key plays in the second half, his game should really only be described as average because of his performance in coverage against Donte Moncrief. Gilmore was fantastic in week one against one of the most dominant wide receivers in the game in DeAndre Hopkins, but he had trouble against Moncrief, including a touchdown that Gilmore should have blocked. Eric Rowe was a complete disappointment after getting torched by Keelan Cole for two drives before getting benched in favor of Jason McCourty. Duron Harmon's man coverage was shockingly bad, as he allowed at least one crucial third-down conversion. Jonathan Jones made a nice play to help force an interception by Bortles but then followed it up by giving up Dede Westbrook's back-breaking 61-yard touchdown reception through a mix of bad coverage and miserable effort. The Jaguars do not have any overly impressive receivers, yet they made the Patriots secondary look like a second rate unit.
- The Patriots linebackers do not get off easily in this scathing review either. They looked extremely slow all night, both in coverage and in run stopping. Dont'a Hightower did not make any noticeable plays. Ja'Whaun Bentley took a step back, with his most memorable play being a missed sack on a perfectly executed linebacker blitz. Kyle Van Noy did come down with an interception but seemed relatively ineffective when rushing the passer. Elandon Roberts main contributions included a block in the back on special teams and a missed tackle on defense. The Patriots linebackers are the weakest unit on the defense, but Sunday's performance was below even their relatively low standards.
- The Patriots defense most glaring issue was their inability to force the Jaguars into three-and-outs. Jacksonville was 10/14 on third down, which is never a recipe for success in the NFL.
- The Patriots offensive line had a miserable showing on Sunday in both run and pass blocking. Brady was sacked twice for 14 yards and was under pressure nearly all afternoon. The Patriots interior linemen, Joe Thuney and David Andrews in particular, were no match for the Jaguars defensive line; they were blown up on a number of run plays, preventing Sony Michel and James White from finding much momentum. LaAdrian Waddle was miserable as a replacement for Marcus Cannon. Dante Fowler dominated the backup right tackle for much of the evening with his speed. Waddle was responsible for Tom Brady's fumble in the fourth quarter after getting torched around the outside by Fowler. The Patriots were poised to move within striking distance of a win before this play. Tom Brady needed time to be able to dissect the Jaguars impressive linebackers and secondary, but to his chagrin, he did not receive any.
- The Patriots wide receivers did not play particularly well, but it is hard to place significant blame on them because expectations for them were low heading into the game. With AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsay, New England's receivers were unlikely to have an overly successful game. Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett combined for a respectable eight catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns.
- New England's running backs were not a complete sore spot. James White led the team with seven catches for 73 yards. He also added 11 yards on the ground. Rex Burkhead ran the ball six times for 22 yards. Patriots rookie Sony Michel saw his first action, rushing the ball 10 times for 34 yards, and making one catch for seven yards. The Patriots first-round pick had a solid outing, especially when you consider that this is his first actual NFL game experience, as his knee injury prevented him from seeing time in any of the team's preseason games. He had a few solid runs, including one where he made defenders miss before trucking his way through someone at the end. He did have an unfortunate drop, but he was never a pure pass catcher in college and will still need to develop that part of his game.
- Tom Brady had an average day, finishing 24/35 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. His accuracy is better than those numbers though. Many of his incompletions were on throwaway passes that he made due to a heavy Jacksonville pass rush. He did the best he could given the poor protection he was provided with.
- The Patriots offense lacked imagination on Sunday. There were not many favorable matchups for them against the Jaguars. However, it felt like they did not do enough to create those matchups. Rob Gronkowski was only able to make two receptions for 15 yards, and while some of this is due to stellar coverage by the Jaguars defense, some is also due to the Patriots not using the right formations and play to get him into favorable situations. The same can be said for the receivers, as Phillip Dorsett was covered by Jalen Ramsay on multiple occasions, which was a matchup that he could not win. Josh McDaniels could have done a much better job of using a variety of formations, as well as crossing routes, to formulate openings for his players.
- The injuries to Patrick Chung and Trey Flowers certainly did not help the team; both players left in the first half due to head injuries. However, neither had been playing particularly well prior to their injuries and losing them dd not make or break the game.
The Patriots simply did not play well. Giving up 377 yards and four touchdowns to Blake Bortles is always inexcusable and is indicative of how bad their play and their schematics were. The fast, aggressive Patriots defense from week one needs to reemerge if the team wants to regain its spot atop the AFC. The offense also needs to be more efficient and effective. However, it is still extremely early in the season, and this loss will be a good way for them to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses going forward.
Until next time - B$