Jacksonville vs New England

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2008 by Travis Cody in

Honestly, I really do think that Jacksonville has better than just a chance to win tonight. I'm not just picking them because I want New England to lose. The Jaguars have all of the elements necessary. They just have to execute a 60 minute game plan without any mistakes.

The first big decision is a 4th and 1 for Jacksonville from the NE 44 yard line. And the Jaguars get a big pass play down inside the NE 10 yard line.

On 3rd and goal, QB David Garrard makes a big TD throw as he's going to the ground. On replay it looked like Garrard's knee might have been down just as he released the ball, which would have made the play dead at that spot. But NE doesn't get the challenge flag out before the extra point, and the Jaguars lead 7-0.

That's big for a couple of reasons. Teams don't generally score on opening drives against NE. In fact, this is the first time it has happened in the playoffs under Bellichik. And Jacksonville gains tremendous confidence by getting the TD instead of settling for a field goal, which is always key to putting pressure on the Patriots.

New England generally isn't phased by much. QB Tom Brady is cool under pressure and I don't expect him to be bothered by being down 7-0 to start the game.

Jacksonville sacks Brady on the first play from scrimmage. But the next play is a 33 yard gain on a screen pass. Then Jacksonville stiffens to force NE to go for it on 4th and 5, which the Patriots convert.

And a few plays later the game is tied at 7-7. That's why it was important for Jacksonville to get a TD on that opening drive. Because now they know they can score touchdowns against the Patriots. Sometimes you can tell yourself you can compete, but you still need to see the success to really believe it.

Jacksonville starts the next possession in a bit of a hole after a penalty on the kick off. If they aren't able to drive for a score, the critical thing will be to change the field position.

Garrard looks confident in the pocket. Ooops. Maybe a little too confident as he gets bumped by one of his blockers and drops the football. New England recovers in tremendous field position, and then drives for the TD to make it 14-7.

It's going to be hard enough to beat this team without making those kinds of mistakes. Jacksonville must respond with points to re-establish confidence, but Maurice Jones-Drew mis-handles the kick off and the Jaguars will be pinned deep in their own territory to start this drive.

Jacksonville marches 95 yards in 12 plays to tie the game at 14-14.

The Patriots are using screen passes and the inside running game to try and loosen up Jacksonville's deep coverage on the wide receivers. So far the Jaguars haven't been able to stop either type of play with the front 7. Of course you don't want to get beat deep, but at some point you have to stop the short stuff otherwise the Patriots just take more plays to score on you.

Although, that could be a reasonable defensive strategy to couple with your offensive game plan to shorten the game. If both teams are taking lots of plays and time off the clock, then perhaps it's easier to keep the score close and give yourself a chance to win. That only works if you can match the Patriots score for score, and keep them from scoring when the game is on the line.

Or hope they make a major mistake, like a chop block in the last 2 minutes of the first half. The Patriots settle for a field goal try that misses!

Jacksonville plays it conservative to avoid a turnover and punts. New England takes the knee and the game is tied at the half. That was an excellent first half. The Jaguars have shortened the game and taken away the big play strikes from the Patriots.

New England opens the second half with a methodical drive, just taking the short stuff and busting off some good runs, finally punching it into the endzone to go up 21-14.

I'm so impressed with how calm Garrard is in the pocket. The Jaguars are answering New England's drive with a similar one. But a false start penalty and back to back blitzes by the Patriots threaten to stall the drive.

The timing on that NE blitz is the thing that is missing from Jacksonville's defensive strategy so far. GAH! Jacksonville drops a pass that might have scored and would have at least set them up first and goal inside the five. Instead they settle for a field goal. You've got to get touchdowns if you hope to stay in the game.

Now NE is starting to take advantage of the passive defense and some poor tackling from Jacksonville. That looked way too easy and now Jacksonville is down 2 scores at 28-17.

Jacksonville is putting together a tough drive. The offensive line has protected Garrard well, and Garrard has made the right throws. His receivers are making big catches. The running game is keeping the NE rushers off balance just enough.

Garrard almost threw a pick in the endzone. Then the 3rd down pass was incomplete. So the Jaguars settle for the field goal to get back within one score at 28-20.

Now I'm wondering whether Jacksonville has something else in mind on defense. What they've done so far hasn't kept NE out of the endzone, and the Jaguars really can't afford to give up another TD.

Yup. Jacksonville put some excellent pressure on Brady. But Brady made a great throw on the move and the Patriots get the big play.

Jacksonville blitzed again on 3rd down and was fortunate that Wes Welker dropped the pass. NE only gets another field goal to make the score 31-20.

If New England goes on to win, plenty will question Jacksonville's strategy of not being aggressive sooner on defense. But I think it was a legitimate way to play and it was working. I think the issue goes more to the mistakes that Jacksonville has made. NE takes advantage of them, and doesn't make them. Plus, NE seemed to be ready for most of what the Jaguars wanted to do tonight.

I said earlier that you have to play 60 minutes of mistake-free football. Jacksonville hasn't done it. And now they have to get 2 scores quickly and not give up any more points to New England.

Jacksonville gets a big 4th down conversion and a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit out of bounds. But this leads to another 4th down play, and this time Garrard throws an interception. With only 4 minutes to play, that's going to put an end to Jacksonville's chances.

I'm thinking the strategy for the Jaguars was to keep the game close, try to match NE score for score, and then see if they could get a key mistake or turnover. The Jaguars haven't been able to force that key turnover. The strategy was sound, but the execution was not. You just can't count on NE to make a mistake...you have to force them into it.

New England wins and that brings me to 4-2 for my playoff picks.


  1. Jeff B says:

    I'm sure like you eluded to, everone is going to say JAX should have played more agressive defense; More pass rushes and gone after Brady harder. I was kind of thinking that throughout the game, but as the history of this year has shown, with the exception of the first half against Baltimore, teams that try to do that get burned deep.

    I hate to admit it but New England is a really good team. Ouch...there I said it.

  1. Linda says:

    I love the fact that instead of having to sit through the game I can just read your blog and have it all right there with all the important plays minus the commercials! You should have been a play-by-play announcer!

  1. Matt-Man says:

    Jax was robbed, robbed I tells ya. Okay, not really. Cheers Trav!!

  1. I once smelled snow in New England. Does that count?

    That's all I have to offer at this point. I know. Pitiful.

  1. Bond says:

    Thought JAX had the might to keep up with NE...but mistakes hurt and the D just looked tired in the 4th qtr...