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Matchup Winners: Bortles delivers for Jags


When the Patriots ran:

Edge: Jaguars

For the second straight week the Patriots were unable to get much of anything going on the ground. As they did in the opener against Houston, the Patriots tried to establish the running game early but simply could not consistently open any holes. New England ran the ball 23 times (not including a Tom Brady scramble) and just seven of those were efficient, picking up 4 yards or more or a first/touchdown. The Patriots managed only 82 rushing yards and that included Brady's aforementioned 10-yard scramble to pick up a first down. Rex Burkhead and rookie Sony Michel shared lead back duties and neither was effective. Burkhead opened the game and finished with just 22 yards on six carries (3.7-yard average) while Michel had only 35 yards on 10 attempts (3.5-yard average). James White couldn't get anything going on his four rushes out of spread formations, managing only 11 yards (2.8). Overall the Jags quick front manhandled the Patriots offensive line and forced New England into plenty of long-yardage situations thanks to the solid work on early downs.

When the Patriots passed:

Edge: Jaguars

Given the circumstances we discussed above, the passing game had a tough time executing. Jacksonville has as talented a defense as there is in the league and the combination of a tough front, fast linebackers and quality corners limited Brady to just 234 yards through the air. He completed a decent percentage (24 of 35) but everything was underneath the coverage due to a fierce pass rush and excellent coverage downfield. Rob Gronkowski was taken out of the game by double teams and finished with only two catches for 15 yards. Phillip Dorsett built on his solid opener and made five grabs but for only 44 yards. Brady's checkdowns went mostly to White, who led the team with seven catches for 73 yards, 27 coming on one of the rare occasions when the Jags linebackers allowed significant yards after the catch. Chris Hogan had a pair of touchdowns late, but managed only three catches on the day. Brady was hurried early and Jacksonville made sure the short throws weren't consistently moving the stick. That resulted in the Patriots converting only 4 of 12 third downs on the day.

When the Jaguars ran:

Edge: Jaguars

Jacksonville was without Leonard Fournette but that may actually benefited the home team. Rather than ram the bruising back into the Patriots front all day, coach Doug Marrone chose to spread the Patriots out and T.J. Yeldon (10 carries, 58 yards, 5.8-yard average) effectively took what he was given. Blake Bortles also hurt the Patriots with his legs, wisely pulling the ball down to rush for first downs. He had six scrambles for 35 yards (5.8-yard average) and moved the chains with all but one of his runs. Overall Jacksonville's numbers on the ground weren't gaudy (24 carries, 104 yards, 4.3-yard average) but without Fournette the ground game provided just enough of a distraction to keep the Patriots honest. And late in the game when the Jags were running out the clock Corey Grant hit the Patriots with a 7-yard run that set up a Bortles scramble for another first down to close it out.

When the Jaguars passed:

Edge: Jaguars

This was both the most surprising element of the game and the most important. Bortles was outstanding from start to finish, aggressively attacking the Patriots secondary all afternoon. He completed 29 of 45 passes for 377 yards and four touchdowns for a passer rating of 111.1. He directed touchdown drives on his first two possessions, spreading the ball effectively to his wideouts Keelan Cole (seven catches, 116 yards, 1 TD), Dede Westbrook (four catches, 83 yards, 1 TD) and Donte' Moncrief (four catches, 34 yards, 1 TD) as well as tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (three catches, 23 yards, 1 TD). Without one star to focus on, the Patriots secondary struggled to cover anyone. Eric Rowe was victimized by a tremendous one-handed grab by Cole, but then allowed the wideout to run past him for a 24-yard touchdown later in the drive. He was eventually replaced by Jason McCourty. Westbrook's 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown midway through the fourth quarter ended the game and had several defensive backs flailing to stop him along the way. The group did not get any help from the pass rush, which did not record a sack and failed to generate much pressure. It didn't help that Trey Flowers (concussion) was lost early in the game but the front could not build off a promising performance against the Texans.

Special Teams

Edge: Jaguars

Not a lot of difference-making plays in the kicking game but the few that did occur were made went Jacksonville's direction. First, Stephen Gostkowski pushed a 54-yard field goal to the right on the opening possession of the game. That prevented the Patriots from taking an early lead and they never recovered. Gostkowski also had two kickoffs from midfield thanks to Jags penalties and failed to pin the hosts inside the 10 on either attempt. Bill Belichick seemed annoyed after the first kickoff resulted in a touchback. Ryan Allen averaged 55.5 yards on his four punts but one resulted in a touchback and his 59-yarder was returned 16 yards by Jaydon Mickens in the fourth quarter as the Patriots were playing field position while trying to mount a comeback. Jags punter Logan Cooke only averaged 35.3 yards on his three kicks but two were effectively downed inside the 10. Aside from Mickens' 16-yarder, neither side did much in the game.

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