The New England Patriots barely eked out a 23-16 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it was an extremely sloppy game for the Patriots. For the Jaguars, it was the perfect game because the Jags were able to nearly beat a ten-win (now 11-win) team whilst also keeping their draft pick in one of the top slots.
1. Tom Brady not getting enough help
I’m not going to full-out defend Tom Brady’s two-pick performance, because he didn’t exactly play a good game. That was probably his second-worst performance behind the loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but he was actually a little bit above average. Even though he tossed a meager 6.5 yards per attempt, he couldn’t do much due to a lack of help. The only pass-catchers who even did anything to help Brady were Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, with the former putting in an excellent ten-catch performance. Lloyd was more “decent” than “good”, and Aaron Hernandez was just downright awful in a one-catch performance (he negated a second catch with a penalty).
Probably the worst part about this game for Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack was the blocking up front, because the pass protection couldn’t have been more problematic. Jeremy Mincey and Jason Babin harassed Brady and the OTs all day to the tune of five quarterback hits, and the Jaguars as a whole put in nine hits on Brady and managed to sack him twice. Those sacks represent a drop of about a half-a-yard in the Patriots net average of yards per passing attempt.
2. We need those three
Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Brandon Spikes were three key defensive players ruled out of the Patriots-Jaguars game due to ailing injuries and the perceived lack of need to play everyone for this game. One of the reasons why it became a trap game is because of the drop-off in quality that happened with those three out. The run defense wasn’t bad without Spikes, but they could have played much better against a usually floundering rushing attack that was able to out-gain the Patriots per yard. Talib’s and Dennard’s absences were even worse, because the Jaguars wide receivers (even Jordan Shipley) were able to gain big chunks of yardage against the Pats secondary.
3. Kyle Arrington should not be on the outside
The man at the center of these issues was Kyle Arrington, who was a glaring weakness in the Patriots defense at outside corner. Arrington has shown that he is a solid nickel corner, but he has no business playing outside. He’s just not fast enough and gets burned quite easily out there.
4. Patrick Chung stakes his claim
Chad Henne managed to air it out on the Patriots pass defense to the tune of 348 yards, but the reason why he had a sub 60.0-QB Rating and a below-average day overall is the fact that he threw three interceptions. One of those picks was thrown to solid backup CB Marquice Cole, while the other two were picked off by Patrick Chung. After that performance as the lone standout in the Patriots secondary, Chung has shown that he could be getting some more playing time back there. He also had a nasty hit in this game that doesn’t deserve discipline.
5. Michael Hoomanawanui rising
After posting a big catch last week against the San Francisco 49ers, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui’s stock just keeps rising. He’s always at the potential to make an impact as a receiver in addition to his usual blocking prowess, and he is putting it all together for the Patriots this year. Big Mike has been a huge beneficiary of the release of disappointing tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, and he added two receptions for 46 yards in this one. He has affirmed himself as the No. 3 TE when Rob Gronkowski comes back, and both of his catches were crucial ones for the Patriots.
The first reception that Big Mike had was a big 32-yarder, while the second one came on a crucial third down in which his 14-yard reception was the key to keeping the drive alive. Wes Welker may have picked up the two-yard touchdown catch, but Hoomanawanui’s ability to stay in-bounds and make the play was the most notable even of the final TD-drive. He also had an excellent day as a blocker, and it’s been a treat to watch him play.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.