…Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, New England started the game by doing something it normally is loathe to do. After winning the coin toss, the Patriots chose to receive the opening kick, rather than defer to the second half, like they normally do.
The tactic looked like it was going to succeed, as the Patriots marched into Jaguar territory, only to fail on a 3rd-down attempt when DE Yannick Ngakoue rushed QB Tom Brady on a well-executed stunt from the left side of the Patriots' o-line.
At the snap, Ngakoue was lined up on the outside of LT Trent Brown, with DE Calais Campbell to Ngakoue's left. Brown and LG Joe Thuney both chose to focus on blocking Campbell, which allowed Ngakoue to swing underneath them and shoot up the open middle of the line.
Thuney could have released from Campbell, as Brown looked to have things under control, but chose to stay with the double-team. Center/co-captain David Andrews also had a chance to slow down Ngakoue, but it appeared he didn't see the defender stunting to his left. Andrews instead went to assist RG Shaq Mason with a double-team block. Brady was forced to unload the football awkwardly as Ngakoue bore down on him.
…As a result of that play, New England attempted a 54-yard field goal attempt. Although the snap and hold were both precise, kicker Stephen Gostkowski didn't strike the ball cleanly and the ball sailed very wide ride.
…The Patriots blitzed a little more this week than they did against the Texans in Week 1 when they hardly did at all. On the Jags' first possession, that aggressiveness nearly resulted in a sack of QB Blake Bortles by rookie LB Ja'Whaun Bentley, who had Bortles dead to rights as he shot into the backfield untouched. Bortles deftly sidestepped the oncoming defender, though, and delivered a pass for a first down that would extend an eventual scoring drive for the Jaguars.
…That drive nearly stalled when DE Trey Flowers used textbook technique to punch out the football from the grasp of WR Dede Westbrook. Even though several Patriots were in the vicinity of the loose ball, it bounced directly and fortuitously to another Jags receiver.
…For the second consecutive week, a Patriot was injured as a result of "friendly fire" from a teammate. Last week, RB Jeremy Hill was lost for the season after colliding with FB James Develin. Against the Jaguars, Flowers sustained a concussion when he was inadvertently hit in the back of the head by fellow DE Keionta Davis as the two were converging on Bortles for a near-sack.
Flowers couldn't finish the game and his status will be closely monitored this coming week during practice.
…That first Jaguar drive culminated in a Bortles-to-Donte Moncrief TD pass over CB Stephon Gilmore. Pre-snap, Jacksonville stacked three receivers in a bunch to the left of their formation, leaving Moncreif alone on the right against Gilmore. As the teams got set, Gilmore was playing tight at the line of scrimmage, but then backed off as he seemed to sense that Moncreif was going to run a fade.
Gilmore wanted to be in good position to defend the play, and he was right about the pattern. However, he never looked back at the ball and Bortles made a great throw to Moncreif, who high-pointed the ball without any real challenge from Gilmore. Had Gilmore been looking back, he might have been able to get an arm up to deflect the ball.
…The Patriots blitzed Bortles once during the second series, when they brought six rushers on 1st-and-10 from the NE 24. WR Keelan Cole ran a go-route against CB Eric Rowe and beat Rowe by a step or two to haul in another perfectly placed pass by Bortles to help put Jacksonville up 14-0.
…WR Cordarrelle Patterson has some skills that OC Josh McDaniels tried to utilize last week with several end-around handoffs that produced varying degrees of success. This week, McDaniels put Patterson in the backfield for one play as a running back and Brady handed off to him for a 5-yard gain.
Patterson's future isn't as a full-time ball carrier, of course, but the possibilities of what he can do from time to time in areas other than receiver are intriguing.
…New England's best offensive showing of the game might have been the 8:20 drive it put together in the second quarter – its only possession of the quarter, in fact. Even though it only resulted in three points, the drive showed a good mix of play-calling, mixing runs and passes and perhaps showing the best way to attack this very talented Jaguar defense. File this drive away for later in the season if these two teams meet again.
…Jacksonville got a third TD right before the half thanks to a successful pick play by Westbrook on safety Patrick Chung, who was covering TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the slot.
Westbrook and Cole were split wide of Seferian-Jenkins on the left side. Westbrook cut inside at the snap, while Seferian-Jenkins went up and to the outside. As the two Jags were crossing each other, Westbrook bumped into Chung, perhaps by accident. This knocked Chung off-balance for just a moment, but enough to allow Seferian-Jenkins to race unmolested to the back left corner of the end zone. Bortles dropped an easy pass to him as Chung trailed helplessly.
Chung, incidentally, never returned to the game after this play. He was announced by the team as having suffered a concussion. His health, like that of Flowers, will also be a talking point this coming week.
3rd& 4th Quarters
…Gilmore used the same great punch technique that Flowers employed earlier to knock the ball loose from the grasp of WR D.J. Chark. Safety Duron Harmon was nearby in the right position, as he often is, to scoop up the loose ball and give New England new life in the game.
…WR Chris Hogan scored the first of his two touchdowns against Jacksonville on the ensuing Patriots drive. It came on a simple shallow post route against man coverage in the red zone.
But it helped that the Jags were focusing their attention more on the other side of the formation, where New England's most productive player yesterday, RB James White (84 combined rushing/receiving yards), was being double covered along with TE Rob Gronkowski.
With the Jaguars having committed four defenders to account for Gronk and White, Hogan was left to beat just one man to the open space in the middle of the end zone. He did so with a nice head-fake to the outside before planting and darting to the inside, giving him sufficient space for Brady to fire the ball to him.
…For the most part, right tackle LaAdrian Waddle did a decent job filling in for injured starter Marcus Cannon (left calf). However, it was Waddle who surrendered the strip-sack of Brady by DE Dante Fowler shortly after LB Kyle Van Noy got the ball back for New England with a diving interception on Bortles outside the Jags' red zone.
Fowler simply beat Waddle with a speed rush and by ducking underneath Waddle's outstretched arms. That play, perhaps more than any other, changed the outcome of this game.
…Patriots defenders were beaten frequently by Jaguar crossing patterns Sunday. The most egregious of these was the final Jags touchdown toss by Bortles to Westbrook, who should have been tackled only yards from the line of scrimmage, but wound up taking it 61 yards for a score, thanks to missed tackles and poor positioning by the Patriots D.
…Again, Hogan got some help from teammates on his second touchdown. The play design was similar to one that McDaniels called a play earlier, involving Patterson motioning into the backfield to receive a pass.
The play unfolded that way again, which fooled the Jags' defense into committing up to the line of scrimmage while Hogan ran his in-pattern. Brady looked to Patterson to draw the defense there, then fired over the middle to Hogan, who then outraced the remaining defender to the goal line.
…Defensively, New England's 4-man pass rush wasn't as effective as last week at getting pressure on Bortles. The blitz packages had mixed results as well. Safe to say this defense is still trying to find its way in these early games.
…Rookie RB Sony Michel debuted against Jacksonville after sitting out last week's opener. He looked strong running the ball. If he can stay healthy, he'll see more and more touches as the season wears on.