Monday, September 28, 2015

Patriots Trounce Jaguars, 51-17

Some things are as predictable as a harvest-moon lunar eclipse; like the Patriots dominating the Jacksonville Jaguars. After yesterday's 51-17 drubbing the Patriots have won seven in a row against the Jags and haven't lost a game to them this century. The victory puts the 3-0 Patriots atop the AFC East all alone. Next week is a bye, so smoke 'em if you got 'em!

I won't go into much detail about this game. It was a laugher from before the half, and the easy answer to why the Pats won is they scored on every single drive they had (save for the kneel downs to end the game). Their nine other possessions ended with six touchdowns and three field goals. Tough to win when you can't stop the other team.

Quarterback Tom Brady was incredible again yesterday, continuing a career streak against Jax where he has 17 touchdowns and 2 interceptions -- oh, and he got to 400 TDs on his career! He was barely touched (two sacks, four QB hits), and ended up with 33 for 42 (78.5%), 358 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a 118.1 QB rating. His 2015 rating of 119.6 is third among QBs with enough attempts to qualify (Trivia question: name the other two... Answer below.)

On the offensive line, rookies David Andrews and Shaq Mason are getting multiple blocks on running plays, both at the line and down field. Nate Solder had one bad play yesterday and crushed it on about ten others. The unit is coming together much more quickly than last year's group, and when injured center Bryan Stork returns, it could be dominant.

Among the receivers, Gronkowski and Edelman were their usual impressive selves. But two unexpected contributors were Danny Amendola (5 catches, 39 yards, and 1 touchdown), and Keshawn Martin (3 catches, 33 yards, 1 touchdown). Until Brandon LaFell returns, the team needs contributions from receivers other than Gronk and JE11, and for the time being it appears they have found some players to do that.

Running backs LeGarrette Blount (18 rushes, 78 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Dion Lewis (8-37, 1 TD) carried the load. But the interesting development was the number of snaps James White got. He ended up with 2 carries for 8 yards, but also caught 4 passes for 26 yards. It appears they are grooming him to share third-down responsibilities with Lewis.

This plan makes sense. There are some teams where Blount just isn't the right back to attack that specific defense, where they need more of a scatback. And in those games, being able to split time between Lewis and White is better than overworking Lewis.

On defense, there should be a petition for linebacker Jamie Collins as defensive player of the year. It wasn't the numbers this week; just 5 tackles, 1 sack, and a forced fumble ::yawn::. It was that Collins helped stifle the Jags offense, with good coverage on tight ends and forcing runs where they weren't designed to go. He's having a great year, and I hope he is recognized.

The defensive line was instrumental in stuffing the supposedly stout Jags running game, holding them to just 57 yards on 20 carries (2.9 ypc). Alan Branch played an excellent game, and the outside rushers did a great job forcing runners to make cuts before they wanted to.

Don't get too excited about the secondary; Jaguar receivers dropped at least five catchable passes. Corner Malcolm Butler broke up three passes but gave up the completion that became a 59-yard touchdown when safety Duron Harmon whiffed on the tackle. And corner Logan Ryan was so bad he got picked on in both man- and zone-coverage. No easy trick, and he continues to struggle out there.

On special teams, punter Ryan Allen had the easiest job of the day: not punting. He didn't punt once, the first time in his career that happened. And kicker Stephen Gostkowski remained perfect on the year. He also successfully booted his 425th consecutive extra point, an NFL record that might never be broken now that the PAT is a 33-yarder.

So where does that leave us? 3-0 and in first place is a good start to the season. The bye is this week, and I'll have an update with details on how things look so far.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: It isn't often a team has 20 more first downs than their opponent, but the Patriots had 35 yesterday to Jacksonville's 15.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "Too bad Jacksonville won't make the playoffs. They'd make an easy first-round patsy."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 3-0!

PPS. Trivia answer: Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (128.4) and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton (121.0) lead Tom  Brady in QB rating.

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