Always the innovator, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has added yet another novel strategy to his name. It's the foolproof way to protect your starters from injury in the preseason – don't play them.
You just never know what the New England Patriots will do next when it comes to in-game moves. The surprise came in this one when New England gave the Jaguars a preseason fourth quarter look on both sides of the ball in the first quarter. For the exhibition uninitiated that means it was the bottom 22 of the roster getting the starting nod.
Despite the Jaguars ones going against the Patriots hopefuls, neither team was able to sustain any offense in the first half. Rohan Davey got the start after not playing at all last week against the Carolina Panthers. Aside from a couple nice completions to Bethel Johnson for 24 and 16 yards and 44 yards on the ground by Mike Cloud, New England could not string together enough positive plays to get close enough to score.
Davey's best chance came during hurry-up time at the end of the half. Starting at his 13, Davey hit Chas Gessner for 15 yards to begin the drive and then followed up with another 15-yarder to Benjamin Watson. But down on the Jags 34, Davey looked to Johnson in the end zone. The jump ball was won by Jacksonville's Juran Bolden who made the interception.
His counterpart, Byron Leftwich, fared no better. The Jags starter finished his night after one quarter of play 4 of 8 for 24 yards and a sack. He was replaced by David Garrard who had 85 second quarter yards on 5 of 13 passing.
While the Patriots subs stayed competitive in the first half, when it came time for back-ups vs. back-ups, it was a different story altogether.
Garrard opened up the second half for the Jags and on his second possession, got his team close enough for a Josh Scobee 31-yard field goal to break the scoreless tie. The big plays were a Gerrard to Ernest Wilford completion good for 18 yards and a David Allen 27-yard run up the middle.
He added to that when he lofted a nice looking rainbow to Troy Edwards who took the pass over his shoulder in the end zone with Je'Rod Cherry in coverage. It was a 25-yard touchdown pass that ended a 12-play, 13:25 long drive that went 80 yards.
The extended drive by Jacksonville took matters into the fourth quarter with Davey still at quarterback. With four straight Cloud runs, New England pounded the ball down to the Jags 29 but on the fifth run by Cloud, he had the ball punched loose and Jacksonville recovered, ending yet another fruitless drive.
Garrard's night had ended at 16 of 26 passing for 190 yards and a touchdown. He was replaced by Quinn Gray who wasted no time with a 68-yard bomb to Wilford down to the Patriots 2-yard line. Gray sealed the deal with a scoring pass to Jermaine Lewis from 4 yards out a few plays later.
Michael Jennings fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Jacksonville recovered and those fans that hadn't already headed for the gates, did so now. What they missed was a 12-yard touchdown pass from Gray to Wilford to make the score 24-0.
Wilford had a huge game for the Jags with 6 catches for 122 yards and a touchdown.
It was pretty much a guarantee that New England would end up scoreless when Lionel Barnes sacked Davey and forced a fumble that Jacksonville once again recovered on the Patriots next series.
This time, Gray hooked up with Cortez Hankton for a 17-yard score and a 31-0 lead for Jacksonville.
With around two minutes left to play, Kliff Kingsbury replaced Davey who finished 13 of 25 for 104 yards and 2 interceptions.
Notes: New England ended the preseason with a 1-3 record. … On the bright side, the Patriots had no penalties in the game. … Justin Kurpeikis had an active game with 11 tackles. … Mike Cloud had 93 yards rushing on 19 carries.