Jacksonville, Florida --
Last week's headlines about an improved Pats defense look like they need to be revised.
The Pass rush was non-existant and the coverage might have been just as bad. The Pats paid Adrian Clayborn to be a pass rusher and his performance was hardly noticed. The Pats defense that was supposed to be improved looked sloppy on Sunday. Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns. He was never sacked. The Pats gave a total of 481 yards. By comparison, the Pats gave up 538 yards to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. So much for offseason of prognostication about how the pass rush was supposed to be better. It didn’t help that they lost their best defensive lineman Trey Flowers early in the game to a concussion. The Pats later lost Patrick Chung at the end of the first half to a concussion as well.
"It's tough. Two great guys, two of our leaders," CB Stephon Gilmore said. "It happens so somebody else gotta step up and make plays."
The Pats struggled with crossing routes as Jacksonville threw a lot of passes over the middle in the first half that led to as 21-3 halftime lead. The Pats defense improved for a short time in the second half, but the speed of the Jaguars receivers overmatched the Pats defenisve backs. The Pats were impressed with the decision making of QB Blake Bortles.
“He is a good quarterback we knew that going in,” Gilmore said after the game. "They did a good job of spreading the ball around to the backs and receivers. They played better than we did."
It also didn’t help that the Pats never sacked Bortles.
"We just need more execution. We had some chances out there. I know we got the guys to do it. We just need to execute," DE Keionta Davis said after the game. "We have to execute better on the critical third downs. We just need to have a full team effort - play team defense."
Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook 61 yard catch and touchdown run sealed the game as it made the score 31-13. The Pats added a late touchdown to make the final score 31-20. The Jaguars did a nice job of spreading the ball around to nine different receivers. Most damaging to the Pats, was WR Keelan Cole who had seven catches for 116 yards and one touchdown. The Pats benched their No. 2 corner Eric Rowe in favor of Jason McCourty. Chung also looked lost when he gave up the touchdown just before the half to Eagles wide receiver Austin Sefarian-Jenkins.
The one positive, like in the Super Bowl, was Gilmore who held the Jaguars top receiver Donte Moncrief to four catches for 34 yards. Monciref made a great 4-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter over Gilmore who couldn't get turned around in time and Bortles put the ball the only place it could get caught. Ultimately, Jacksonville's superior play came down to the fact that they had more depth at wide receiver than the Pats had at defenisve back.
When Jacksonville lost WR Marqise Lee in training camp because of injury many thought that the Jaguars had a limited passing attack. That proved incorrect on Sunday. Blake Bortles showed that when given time he can find the open receiver when given time. There was rarely a pass rush, which is understandable given that the game-time temperature was 97 degrees and a heat index of 107 degrees.The Pats defense gave up 31 points to an offense that scored only 13 points a week ago. The question is whether it was a resurgent Jacksonville Jaguars offense or a bad Pats defense. Like most things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Some fans might ask why the Pats did not blitz more. The reason is likely that Bortles did a nice job early of avoiding linebacker blitzes by sidestepping the rushers and making plays. Pats players will not question the play calling of their defensive coaches.
"That's above my pay grade. My job is to rush off the right side," Adrian Clayborn said.
The defensive coaches will earn their pay this week trying to fix a pass rush that New England fans only hope is fixable.