Here’s what I liked and disliked from the Patriots/Jaguars game this past Sunday. It was hard to find much wrong with such a complete performance but I gave it the college try.
What I Liked
- Tom Brady looking like Tom Brady. It’s been an up and down year for Tom, but Sunday’s performance was among his best of the season. Brady finished 23 of 26 for 267 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Patriots need Brady playing like his old self if they want to make a Super Bowl run, and they can do it with performances like this.
- Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk. After Laurence Maroney fumbled on the opening drive, Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk combined to make a formidable duo in the backfield, combining for 136 yards on 18 carries. Sammy Morris finished the game the most impressive, rushing 12 times for 96 yards (7.6 average) and 1 TD, including a run of 55 yards. Morris is kinda reminding me of Antowain Smith from the 2001 – 2003 teams, 2 of which won Super Bowls. He’s not an elite back, but he runs hard and can eat up the clock when necessary, and can rattle off a big play every once in a while. Kevin Faulk finished the game with 41 yards on 6 carries (6.8 avg), including a long run of 18 yards.
- Overall Performance of the Offensive Line. The offensive line played very well, getting good pushes for the running game and providing Brady a good pocket to throw from. Brady wasn’t sacked once.
- Defensive Pressure. The defense, without Vince Wilfork and with a very limited Ty Warren, was in David Garrard’s face all game, and left with 2 sacks. They again played some 56 defense (5 linebackers, 6 defensive backs), confusing Garrard and the offensive line, and threw in some wrinkles. At times, 1 or more players would drop into a 3-point stance, sometimes remain down, sometimes stand back up. I really love the creativity and confusion with this defense.
- The Safety Play. Ever since James Sanders returned to the starting line-up, the secondary seems to have settled down with his leadership and improved communication. Meriweather has begun to recapture some of his big play abilities that we witnessed earlier this season and made big hits and a big interception against Jacksonville. On the Jags first drive, Meriweather flew up to the line on 3rd and 1 and stopped Mike Thomas on a reverse for no gain. On the following play, with Jacksonville going for it on 4th down on their own 35 yard line, Sanders stopped Maurice Jones-Drew for no gain and the Pats never looked back.
What I Didn’t Like
- Laurence Maroney Fumbles on the Goal Line (again). On the Pats’ first drive of the game, they worked the ball down the field with ease to the 1 yard line. On first-and-1 from the 1, Maroney fumbled the ball and Jacksonville recovered. Now, in Maroney’s defense, it is highly possible that he was robbed of a TD because the ball looked like it was fumbled after he had crossed the plain, but nevertheless, you’ve got to hold onto the ball, especially on the goal line. This brought back horrible memories of his goal line fumble against Indy that would have sealed the game and never would have brought the 4th-and-2 situation up. Maroney didn’t play a single snap in the game after that fumble.
- Two False Start Penalties on Sebastian Vollmer. I’m kind of nitpicking here, but rookie Sebastian Vollmer had 2 false start penalties on the Patriots’ last drive of the 3rd quarter. They overcame those penalties to score their 5th and final TD of the game, but those can be drive-killers.
Again, not too much to dislike after the Patriots put forth their most complete game of the season, but there are always things to work on (as Belichick likes to say). Wednesday brings a look at where the Patriots and their final regular season opponent, the Houston Texans, rank statistically in the NFL.