…New England should have had an interception on the first play of the game. The Jags decided to target their best receiver, Allen Robinson, on a stop-and-go route up the right sideline. CB Malcolm Butler initially lost a step on the stop move, but recovered nicely and was in position to make the pick when the ball came down, but safety Devin McCourty read the play, too, and came into the area at the same time. The two defenders knocked each other and the ball down, and they were lucky that Robinson didn't comei down with it or it might have been a big play for Jacksonville.
…TE Rob Gronkowski's 43-yard catch-and-run on the first Patriots possession was yet another case – we've seen many already this season – of defenses just plain not covering the big guy. Gronk was untouched and unguarded as he ran down the seam. Too easy.
…Two plays later, Gronkowski was instrumental on RB Dion Lewis's touchdown run. With 2nd-and-goal from the Jags' 8, Brady was under center with two wideouts to the right, one to the left, and Lewis in the backfield. Gronk was in a three-point stance to the right of RT Sebastian Vollmer. Lewis ran a counter, taking the handoff from Brady, and looked to take it inside between the hole created by Vollmer and Gronkowski. However, LB Telvin Smith was racing into that same hole. Lewis noticed this and jump-stepped to his right, around Gronkowski, who was blocking LB Paul Posluszny. Gronk felt Lewis behind him and spun Posluszny counterclockwise into the oncoming Smith, knocking both defenders out of the play. But Lewis still had a problem, as safety Sergio Brown was flying in from the left in front of the play, and safety Josh Evans was closing in from the right. WR Julian Edelman gave Brown a shove in the back, which made Brown face-plant into the turf right at the feet of Evans. Lewis nearly was tackled by the shoestrings as Evans swiped at Lewis as the Jag fell to the ground, but Lewis was able to maintain his balance and walk into the end zone untouched. So, credit both Gronk and Edelman for taking out two defenders each with their blocks to help Lewis score.
…DE Rob Ninkovich nearly had a sack on the second Jags possession when he bull-rushed the right tackle and made a nice rip move to get leverage from underneath him. Ninko got into the backfield and actually got a hand on QB Blake Bortles, but the passer tossed the ball forward at the last moment to escape the sack.
…The sack of Bortles that came a few plays later was a direct result of Bortles mishandling the shotgun snap. The ball bounced off his hands and when he leaned forward to retrieve the ball out of the air, he ran right into DE Jabaal Sheard, who had stunted into the backfield from the right side. Sheard might have gotten the sack anyway, even if Bortles held onto the ball, because the move he made to get pressure worked perfectly.
…Brady was nearly sacked on the next series when he was threatened by DT Abry Jones. Brady was in the shotgun, and at the snap, Jones drove rookie left guard Shaq Mason straight backward into Brady, who managed to step out of harm's way and backpedal away from Jones before throwing the ball to the ground intentionally.
…Gronk was flagged for offensive pass interference on that same drive, and it looked like the right call. Gronk ran a 10-yard curl route, but before he turned back toward Brady, he shoved the Jaguar defender who was guarding him.
…Logan Ryan started the game at right cornerback, a spot occupied by Tarell Brown the first two games. Ryan soon moved to the slot corner position on sub packages, with rookie Justin Coleman coming on to man the right corner spot. Ryan was flagged for illegal contact late in the first quarter (a legitimate penalty based on what I saw on the film), Coleman, meanwhile a healthy scratch the first two games, didn't look overwhelmed or out of place in his first game action as a Patriot.
…While Jerod Mayo started the game at inside linebacker, Jonathan Freeny came on in relief of him on the second series. Mayo didn't see much action thereafter. He didn't appear injured, just not part of the overall game plan versus Jacksonville. The Patriots were playing a lot of nickel (5 defensive backs) and Mayo was the odd man out of the front seven most times.
…I continue to be impressed with rookie center David Andrews. He's filling in for the short-term IR starter Bryan Stork, and both his pass and run blocking have been excellent, as has his ability to make the blocking calls for the o-line. He's showing me that what he was able to do over the summer as an undrafted rookie was more than just a fluke. The Patriots are fortunate to have not one, but two talented young players at the center position now with Stork and Andrews.
…DL Dominique Easley looked good returning for the first time from his left hip injury suffered two games earlier against Pittsburgh. Easley was flying off the line of scrimmage at almost every snap. He looked quick, the quickest guy on the line, in fact, and was getting good penetration as a result.
…A weird play that resulted in a first down for Jacksonville was actually a great call by Walt Coleman's officiating crew. On 3rd-and-7 from the NE 25, Bortles was in the shotgun and stepped up in the pocket when he felt it collapsing. LB Jamie Collins blew past the left guard and reached from behind Bortles to get a hand on the football as Bortles cocked his arm back to throw. Collins actually knocked the ball loose before Bortles' arm came forward. So, it looked like Bortles had thrown an incomplete pass downfield, but it was actually a fumble that went forward a considerable distance. Coleman's crew correctly ruled it a fumble on the field, which Jacksonville recovered beyond the first-down marker, giving them a fresh set of downs. Bill Belichick was right to challenge the play, because it was that close, but ultimately, Coleman and his fellow refs made the right call.
…Credit both Brown and CB Davon House for making great defensive plays to knock down Brady passes to Edelman and Gronkowski, respectively, in the end zone on back-to-back plays. Either would easily have been touchdowns for New England.
…Nice job by McCourty to read the eyes of Bortles on his interception intended for TE Marcedes Lewis. However, McCourty was clearly the beneficiary of a horrendous throw by Bortles, who had his tight end open down the right seam for a moment. The ball sailed high over Lewis' and McCourty was in the right position to run up and make the pick from deep in the secondary. Were the throw on target, McCourty would not have been able to get there in time to help fellow safety Patrick Chung, who was covering Lewis and beaten to the inside.
…Brady's milestone 400th TD pass to WR Danny Amendola was a great example of a play-action fake freezing the defense. From 2nd-and-goal from the 1, OC Josh McDaniels called for the same personnel grouping that we saw on Lewis' touchdown scamper in the 1st quarter. Everyone was in their same spots and Brady ran the counter handoff, only this time he didn't give the ball to Lewis. The Jags defense, thinking they recognized the play, run up toward the line of scrimmage to stop the expected run, but Brady wheeled around, ball still in hand. Amendola, who was run-blocking last time this formation was used, ran a crossing route across the end line in the back of the end zone. CB Aaron Colvin was originally covering Amendola, but didn't follow Amedola through the route. Colvin stopped in his tracks and gestured slightly with his right arm, as if to warn his teammates that Amendola should be picked up by one of them, but no one did. Amendola was wide open and Brady tossed an easy short pass to him. We see this a lot from McDaniels, running different plays out of similar, almost identical personnel packages. It's very effective because it causes the defense to react to one thing when the Patriots are actually doing something else. This time, it was so effective it resulted in six points.
…Rookie LG Shaq Mason has had an alternate role the past couple games: fullback. He comes in frequently in short-yardage situations to lead-block for LeGarrette Blount. On a 3rd-and-1 from the Jag 27, Jacksonville sent nine men in the box, preparing for a Brady QB sneak, which he'd done twice before in the game. Instead, Brady handed off to Blount and the big back took it to the right side behind Mason. New England's o-line did a great job of swallowing up most of the defenders in the box, so, the first player Mason encountered was CB Peyton Thompson seven yards down field. He drove Thompson back a few more yards, allowing Blount to gain nine yards and pick up the first down with ease.
…Brady was sacked twice against Jacksonville, the first coming early in this quarter. Facing 3rd-and-13 from the Jags'21, Brady was in the shotgun with two receivers on either side of the formation and Lewis in the backfield to his right. Lewis motioned out of the backfield prior to the snap. The Jags sent just four rushers – two at either end of the o-line, so that there was a gaping hole in the defense in front of Andrews at center. At the snap, Solder and Mason took on their two defenders, who were driving the o-linemen toward the middle of the field. Solder's man, OLB Dan Skuta, essentially ran a pick against Mason. He ran headed straight toward Mason's left side, and Solder inadvertently helped drive Skuta that way while Mason's man, DE Ryan Davis, stunted around them. Solder saw this unfold, but elected to stay engaged with Skuta instead of sliding over to pick up Davis. The decision led to an unprotected Brady being brought down for a 7-yard loss.
…Gronk again was penalized for offensive pass interference when he basically drove his defender down field with both hands, almost like he were run-blocking, before Brady unloaded a pass to Lewis to the left side, just behind Gronk. It was the proper call.
…Mason was at fullback again for the first of Blount's touchdown plunges. With a 1st-and-goal from the 1, the Patriots had their jumbo package in the game. At the snap, Andrews slanted to his left along with LG Josh Kline, Solder, and Gronk. Meanwhile, RG Tre' Jackson and Vollmer down-blocked to the right, with help on the end from TE Michael Williams. This left a gaping hole in the middle of the line, which Mason ran into to take on Posluszny. Vollmer got a nice push on his man and Blount ran right behind him and over the goal line for the score.
…Butler and safety Duron Harmon were beaten by WR Allen Hurns for a 59-yard touchdown. Butler was playing Hurns tight at the line of scrimmage, but the receiver made a great feint as if he was going to take his route to Butler's outside shoulder. Butler bought the fake and Hurns cut inside to streak down the seam. Butler recovered and jumped in front of Hurns as the ball arrived, but Butler wasn't close enough to reach the ball and knock it down with his diving effort. Hurns made the catch, then sidestepped Harmon as the safety came flying in for support. Hurns had nothing but open field for the next 30 yards. Had Butler been able to get a jam on Hurns at the line, this play might have turned out differently.
…Brady threw his next touchdown to his newest receiver, Keshawn Martin. From the gun, Brady had three receivers to the left, with Martin the flanker. Brady was initially looking to his right, but felt his pocket collapsing and ducked out to scramble to his left. Martin, meanwhile, was running a 5-yard in-pattern. When he saw Brady scrambling the other way, Martin cut his pattern short and reversed course. The two defenders following Martin were not quick enough to react and Martin got open. Brady hit him on the run with a nice pass, Martin made the catch, turned upfield, and waltzed into the end zone. Nice adjustment by the receiver after recognizing that the play had broken down at first.
…Mason was again the fullback for Blount on the back's second touchdown. This time, tough, there wasn't much of a hole. In fact, there wasn't any hole for Blount. He just leapt over Mason and the rest of the o-line, which fought to a stalemate with the Jags' front at the goal line. Blount just took the handoff and was able to stretch the ball over the goal line for the score.
…I was impressed with the play of rookie safety Jordan Richards on Sunday. He was involved quite a bit on defense and made a number of nice plays. If he continues at this pace, he'll be seeing more and more playing time as the season wears on.
…Brady was sacked the second and final time from an under-center play. He had two receivers on either side and Blount in his backfield. At the snap, Jackson pulled from his right guard spot and occupied a Jag on the left side. Vollmer and Andrews were engaged with a defender each, and this was a rare instance of Andrews getting overpowered. He was driven into the backfield, while Vollmer's man shed the right tackle's block. Brady was under siege from both Jags on his right side, and he saw it coming, though there was little he could do but curl up and absorb the hit.
…Andrews flinched slightly before the snap later in the drive to draw his second false start penalty of the season.
…Mason came back in as the fullback for Blount's third TD. Charging to the right, he got in the way of House, who was coming in from the right, and knocked down another Jags defender in the end zone, giving Blount just enough space to lunge over the goal line as the Jaguars wrapped him up by the legs. Nice job by Mason Sunday in his dual role.