]()After going to the locker room with a 7-3 lead, New England broke this one wide open in the second half with a huge 63-yard Benjamin Watson catch and run followed almost immediately by a 73-yard Asante Samuel interception return. The two plays made the score 28-3 and guaranteed the Patriots playoff life for at least another week.
Tom Brady was 15 of 27 for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. Watson led his gang of receivers with 5 catches and 91 yards. Kevin Faulk lent a hand with six carries for 51 yards and 4 catches for 45 yards.
On defense, Willie McGinest was the player of the game with a monster effort -- 4.5 sacks and 8 tackles.
The Patriots played field position football after trading punts with the Jaguars to start the game. On their second series, Brady had moved the offense down to the Jacksonville 27 after a 20-yard catch by Deion Branch and a 19-yard run by Faulk. But faced with a fourth and 12, Vinatieri came out for what would have been a 46-yard field goal attempt. Instead, he pooch punted the ball to the 4-yard line where it was downed.
]()The ploy paid off as New England's defense held the Jaguars to three and out. A bad punt by Chris Hanson (30 yards) gave the Patriots first and 10 at the Jaguars 43 to start the drive.
After an 8-yard catch by Watson for a first down at the 30, New England found itself in virtually the same situation as the one it pooch punted out of -- fourth and 10. This time New England elected to go for it but Brady mishandled the shotgun snap and recovered the ball only to get off an incomplete pass.
Jacksonville took over on downs but fared no better. Center Dennis Norman rolled the snap past Leftwich resulting in an 8-yard loss on first down. A delay penalty pushed the Jags back another 5 yards to the 17. Matt Jones picked up some positive yards with an 8-yard catch but on third and 15, Willie McGinest buried Leftwich in the pocket as the Jags quarterback had time but nowhere to throw.
Once again the Patriots had excellent starting field position after Tim Dwight returned the ensuing punt 27 yards to the Jags 37. On third down, Faulk popped a nice 18-yard run to the 15. After a 4-yard run by Dillon, Brady found Troy Brown creeping across the middle. Brown made the catch for the 11-yard score with 12:09 left in the first half.
Down 7-0, the Jags offense began to show signs of life. Leftwich hit Ernest Wilford for 14 yards and then Jimmy Smith for 19 to the Patriots 44. Those plays were wiped off the board when Alvin Pearman fumbled on the next play as he ran around the left end. Eugene Wilson knocked the ball loose and Richard Seymour recovered.
New England did nothing with the turnover. Brady's third down bomb to David Givens was long and New England punted for the third time.
]()Leftwich picked up where he left off, completing passes to Smith for 11 and Wilford for 17. On second and 8 from the Patriots 45, rookie Jones had the third catch of the drive for 9 yards and a first down.
At the two minute warning, the Jaguars were first and 10 at the 24 after an 11-yard catch by Wilford over the middle with Troy Brown in coverage. After Khalif Barnes was called for his second false start penalty of the game, Leftwich connected with Reggie Williams for 11 yards. That brought up third and 4 from the 18. This time Leftwich tried to use Wilford's height advantage with Ellis Hobbs in coverage by throwing a little fade pass in the end zone but the ball sailed out of bounds and Josh Scobee came on for a 36-yard field goal which he made.
New England had a shot to add to its 7-3 lead before the first half ended. With under 20 seconds left, Brady had a silly amount of time as he surveryed the field on second and 14. Suddenly, Branch came open streaking down the middle. Brady let loose but the ball fell incomplete between Branch's hands. With 11 seconds left, Brady was sacked to end the first half.
New England had an eventful scoring drive on their second possession of the second half. The Jaguars were doing a good job limiting Dillon runs but Brady was able to make up for it through the air. Branch started things out with a 16-yard catch and Watson followed up with a 15-yarder of his own into Jaguar territory. Faulk provided a change of pace with two runs of 6 and 5 yards. Next, the Patriots dipped into their bag of tricks on second and 10 from the 34 with a direct snap to Faulk who headed left. He then handed off to Andre Davis on the reverse and Davis took it around the right for 12 yards and a first down. Two plays later, Brady connected with Watson again but after the catch, Watson had the ball knocked loose. Fortunately for New England, Davis recovered the ball on the 3-yard line. From there it was Brady to Givens for the touchdown.
Leftwich and his offense was off just enough to keep them form moving the ball on their next try. Smith had a drop on third down and Jacksonville punted.
It was on New England's next drive that Watson provided the play of the game.
On third and 13 from the Patriots 37, Brady completed to Watson for what should have been short of the first down. First, Watson broke free from Mike Peterson. Then Deon Grant. Finally, Gerald Sensabaugh bounced off the big tight end and it was off to the races. Watson went 63 yards for the score to put his team up 21-3.
Not quite as amazing a play but equally effective was Asante Samuel's interception at the start of the fourth quarter. Leftwich needed to somehow get his team back in the game and looked to Williams in the right flat. Samuel read the play, made his break and had clear sailing -- 73 yards to the end zone. It was the second longest interception return in Patriots playoff history (Rodney Harrison has the longest with 87 yards).
With just about all of the fourth quarter left, Jacksonville had to abandon the run and Leftwich did well to get his team down to the Patriots 8-yard line. That was when McGinest got hold of Leftwich for his third sack of the game, a 15-yard loss. The sack was number 14.5 for McGinest in the postseason, tieing him with Bruce Smith for the most NFL career postseason sacks. McGinest would later break the record, splitting a sack with Seymour and tacking on another on his own to give him 16. Relevant to this game, it forced Jacksonville to attempt a 41-yard field goal which Scobee missed, keeping the score 28-3.
With the game out of hand, Jacksonville inserted David Garrard at quarterback and the Jags second-stringer managed to put his team within striking distance at the Patriots 6-yard line. A 41-yard strike to Jones did much of the damage along with Garrard running for 14 yards on his own. The Patriots defense kept them out of the end zone despite the Jaguars getting that close. Garrard's fourth and and 5 pass to Jones was dropped at the goal line.
Prior to the game the Patriots placed defensive lineman Mike Wright on the injured reserve list and activated Santonio Thomas from the practice squad. ... Monty Beisel started in place of Tedy Bruschi at inside linebacker. ... Kevin Faulk started in place of Corey Dillon. ... McGinest's 4.5 sacks in the game is a new NFL postseason record.
Patriots inactives: Bam Childress; Heath Evans; Ross Tucker; Billy Yates; Bethel Johnson; Dan Klecko; Santonio Thomas; Matt Cassel (3rd QB).
Jaguars inactives: LaBrandon Toefield; Chris Roberson; Brett Romberg; Mike Pearson; Ephriam Salaam; Cortez Hankton; Jim Davis; Quin Gray (3rd QB).