Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that New England will travel to Denver this Saturday night for a divisional playoff game, and might have to win two road games to advance to the Super Bowl. If Pittsburgh beats Indianapolis and the Patriots beat the Broncos, New England would host the AFC Championship game. The Patriots were the only home team to win on wild-card weekend, as they won for the eighth straight time at Gillette Stadium in the playoffs with a 28-3 whipping of the Jaguars.
Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe writes that Patriots wide receiver Andre' Davis saw considerable time on special teams in the Patriots 28-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He finished with a team-high three special teams tackles (two on punts, one on a kickoff), recovered a fumble on offense that kept a scoring drive alive, ran 13 yards on a reverse for a first down, and added one catch for 3 yards. It wasn't necessarily an eye-catching effort, but it was the type of underrated performance that helps win playoff games.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe takes a look at Denver Broncos quarterbacker Jake Plummer. The last time Plummer squared off against the Patriots, the Broncos won the battle, 28-20, at Invesco Field at Mile High on Oct. 16 when New England was in disarray after several key injuries. Plummer sparked the Broncos to a 28-3 lead, but Denver's defense let off the throttle and the Patriots scored 17 unanswered points to make it a closer game than it actually was. The Patriots can only hope Plummer reverts to his old days in Arizona when he faced numerous back-against-the-wall scenarios and either directed a miraculous comeback or threw a game-ending interception. But defensive coordinators who have tried to game-plan against Denver this season say Plummer's a changed man.
Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe writes that the Broncos and Colts are the home-team favorites in the AFC next weekend (though only one of four home teams won this weekend, and that was the Kraft AC), but that doesn't change the fact that the Patriots are the team nobody wants to play today, tomorrow, or Feb. 5 in Detroit. These Patriots have 36 players with championship rings (30 with two or more rings) and they are hitting their stride at the optimum time. This will be only the second time that the Patriots will play the Denver Broncos in the postseason.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said that Denver will be the Patriots toughest challenge yet. "The Denver Broncos will be our toughest challenge this season," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement last night. "To have any chance, it will take our best game and certainly a lot better performance than the last time we played them." The Pats travel to Denver on Saturday to face the Broncos in the divisional round of the playoffs. The first time these teams met (a 28-20 loss on Oct. 16), the Patriots were without defensive lineman Richard Seymour, linebacker Tedy Bruschi and running back Corey Dillon.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald offers his weekly Patriots report card. It's not often you win a playoff game, 28-3, and afterwards the concern is the defense, not the offense. But that's the feeling you get as the Patriots prepare to travel to Denver following their demolition of the Jaguars Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald writes that twelve weeks ago, the Pats were completely overmatched in the Mile High air. The score may have read 28-20, but don't let that fool you. At one point, the Broncos led, 28-3. The Pats secondary? That featured Duane Starks at one corner, as opposed to Ellis Hobbs. No need for further explanation. Come Saturday night, Seymour will be present, Vrabel will be well-adjusted inside and Bruschi, who was afforded another week to rest his injured calf, presumably will be in the lineup. In other words, what Plummer will be seeing is a completely different unit. That's not to say the Pats secondary still isn't flawed, but as we've witnessed the past month and change, the play of the front seven has proven a worthy disguise. On the other side of the ball, Brady, who threw for 299 yards against the Broncos in that Oct. 16 matchup, didn't have Kevin Faulk, Troy Brown or Corey Dillon. Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also offers a similar report.
Tom Pedulla of USA Today writes that the New England Patriots, dismissed as also-rans when they alternated victories and defeats through their first eight games, set out forcefully in their postseason quest for an unprecedented fourth NFL title in five years. The two-time defending Super Bowl champions showed what a tough out they will be in manhandling the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-3 Saturday night for their record 10th consecutive playoff triumph. Despite the loss of offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, despite the need to use 45 different starters at various stages of a rocky regular season, the 11-6 Patriots still possess an inner confidence that helps to sustain them. "If we play our best football, we can play with anybody," says defensive end Richard Seymour. "But we definitely have to play our best football. That's just where we are, and we're definitely going to have to play better than we did (Saturday night)."
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the Patriots get a second crack at Denver this Saturday with a secondary that's playing far better than it was when they first played the Broncos back in October. But does that mean it's a group to be fearful of? The Jaguars didn't think so. "Their weakness is their secondary and we understood that," said Jags running back Fred Taylor after his team failed to exploit New England in a 28-3 loss. "You want to put pressure on their weaknesses, and we did that, but it's no double-elimination. You make mistakes and they're magnified, and that team didn't make mistakes. That's why they're the three-time champs." Even though the Jags are normally a power-running team, Taylor only had eight carries Saturday night. Meanwhile, the decision to start strong-armed but rusty and immobile Byron Leftwich at quarterback made sense given the Jags intentions of throwing as often as possible.
Jim McCabe of the Boston Globe reports that Robert Kraft officially accepted the NCAA's highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award during Saturday night's Patriots - Jaguars playoff game. "It's overwhelming," said Kraft. "It's kind of hard to feel worthy of something like this." Award recipients have included former presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald R. Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan; General Omar Bradley; collegiate football star and US Supreme Court Justice Byron ''Whizzer" White; NFL stars Jack Kemp, Roger Staubach, and Alan Page; Leverett Saltonstall, the former US Senator and governor of Massachusetts; Olympic heroes Rafer Johnson, Jesse Owens, and Donna de Varona; entertainer Bill Cosby; golfing legend Arnold Palmer; Eunice Kennedy Shriver; and John Wooden, the 95-year-old legendary UCLA basketball coach who was the presenter on Saturday.
Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that When Willie McGinest threw Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard to the ground late last night in what would become a dominating, 28-3 AFC wild-card victory for the Patriots, it made him the all-time leading sacker in NFL playoff history. He passed Reggie White and Bruce Smith on the same night, which was one reason the Jaguars could not pass all night. McGinest finished the night with 4 1/2 sacks. "It's an honor to be in the same company with those guys," McGinest said later when asked about passing White, who is a Hall of Famer, and Smith, who will be one in four years or so. "I knew about it before the game but it didn't cross my mind. I was just trying to give our team the best chance to win."
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that Linebacker Tedy Bruschi was in uniform, though he did not play in New England's 28-3 romp over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium last night. Bruschi, who strained his calf against the Jets two weeks ago, warmed up, but stood on the sideline for much of the contest. In the second half, he wore a pressure wrap on his left calf as he sat on the team's heated bench. Bruschi declined an interview after the game, saying that teammates who played deserved the attention.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his analysis of the Patriots 28-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.