The New England Patriots didn’t play their best game on Sunday, but it was enough to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by a touchdown in a 23-16 game at EverBank Field. The Patriots were down 13-3 at one point before tying it up 13-13 at the half after a long field goal from Stephen Gostkowski anda clutch TD catch from Danny Woodhead.
New England Patriots Pass Offense D+
This grade doesn’t reflect my thoughts on how Tom Brady played, because I think he was actually about par for the course overall despite being poor by his lofty standards. You can only blame him for one of the two picks he threw, and he didn’t get much help from Aaron Hernandez in this game (one reception in the worst game I’ve seen him play in a long time).
The reason why the Patriots get a “D+” against the Jaguars is because, well, they underperformed as a passing offense against the Jags subpar pass defense. There are actually two reasons for the low grade, and the other is the terrible performance that the offensive line put in. Nate Solder played his second straight subpar game, and Jason Babin and Jeremy Mincey combined for five hits on Tom Brady. The Jaguars hit Brady a total of nine times, and the Pats star QB was sacked in three of those instances.
I hope Sebastian Vollmer gets healthy before the playoffs role around, because he has put together a few games in which he has looked way off the pace for health reasons. It hurts even more, because Vollmer was the best right tackle in the league before missing the Thanksgiving Day game. I’ve become more convinced that he suffered a setback or something after the win against the Indianapolis Colts.
Patriots Run Offense B
The Patriots pretty much only gave the rock to Stevan Ridley, which was a big vote of confidence for the feature back after his awful performance against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15. Ridley rewarded the Pats confidence in him by rushing for 84 yards on 18 carries to average 4.7 yards per attempt against a Jags run defense that usually allows about a half-a-yard less than that per carry.
Ridley also didn’t fumble and took full advantage of some more great blocking from Ryan Wendell, who has quickly become one of the most proficient run blocking centers in the NFL as a first-year starter.
Pats Pass Defense C
I was tempted to give the Patriots a lower grade here, but it would be unfair to given the fact that starting outside corners Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard were out due to injuries. Kyle Arrington struggled mightily on the outside, and he showed us why there is a huge drop-off in his quality of play when he is forced to move outside. In the slot, Arrington is above-average. As a traditional CB, he gets burned often. One of the reasons why the Talib deal was such a great one for the Patriots is because it allows Arrington to play in the slot in addition to giving the Pats a good coverage corner.
Patrick Chung picked up two of the Patriots three interceptions on Chad Henne, who had an uneven game. Despite the miscues, he tossed 348 yards on the Pats secondary in a truly mixed day for the Jags signal-caller. Part of the reason for his struggles was a good pass rush from the Patriots, as Chandler Jones looks healthy and effective again.
Run Defense B+
The Patriots get a solid “B+” for their work against the Jaguars running game, because the run defense was solid overall. They could have been better if they had Brandon Spikes, but that just goes to show you that the rest of the linebackers are also stout against the run. Montell Owens (ten carries, 42 yards) was the only running back who had any success running it on the Patriots, but he is also the only legitimate running back on the Jaguars due to injuries to Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings. I was between and “B” and a “B+”, and I almost gave the lower grade due to the lack of quality of players that the Patriots faced at running back. However, I decided that you can only take what the offense gives you, and the Pats also managed to play stout despite missing their star MLB.
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