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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu May 23 - 02:00 PM | Tue May 28 - 11:55 AM

Patriots with wintry win over Jags, 27-13

The Patriots advanced to a franchise-best 12-2 mark with a wintry win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was Tyrone Poole’s two interceptions that led the way to the 27-13 victory.

The Patriots advanced to a franchise-best 12-2 mark with a wintry win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was Tyrone Poole's two interceptions that led the way to the 27-13 victory.

With snow on the way, scoring early was most likely on both teams' minds. It was the Patriots to do so first, on their first possession.

Tom Brady hit Daniel Graham from 27 yards out for the early touchdown. Along the way, New England converted a fourth and 1 play from the Jaguars 30 with a quick pass to David Givens immediately preceding the scoring play to Graham.

It was the first time since November of last season that New England scored a touchdown on its initial drive of a game.

"It's just a stat that you guys have been bringing up forever," guard Damien Woody said. "'They haven't scored an opening touchdown in forever.' We needed to get that monkey off of our back, which we did. So we are not going to talk about that for a while until we get into another streak. But that was good to get off early. You want to get off early against a team like that because the more you let them hang around…which we did throughout the game…but just to get that opening touchdown was big, especially against a good defense like they have."

"We haven't scored all year on the opening drive and that was mentioned in practice," Graham said. "That was one of our goals, going down on the first drive and scoring this week. We had a play action and when I was running the route I saw the safety run up hard on the draw and ran a little out route and was wide open. Right when I caught it I knew I was that open. I saw the safety run up biting on the play action."

Deion Branch left the game after a pass deflected off one of his hands with a reported arm injury.

Jacksonville came right back, attacking the Patriots secondary with a 67-yard Leftwich to Jimmy Smith bomb down to the Patriots 9-yard line. The Patriots defense held the Jaguars to 3 points from there, a 24-yard Seth Marler field goal.

While the Patriots were happy to hold the Jaguars to just the field goal, the unit wasn't thrilled to have to dig its heels in in the red zone.

"It's a matter of looking back and seeing you are running out of room so you have to do something," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said red zone defense. "So I think the urgency sort of picks up a little bit when we get down there. Like I said, I think they got down there too much. They got down there too much, too early, but that is a credit to them and I think that's a credit to Leftwich. Some of the throws he made were key throws."

Back in action after a four-games missed with injury, Troy Brown helped out on the Patriots next drive with a huge 23-yard catch on third and 20 from the Jaguars 45. Brady had been sacked by Jacksonville's John Henderson two plays prior for a 10-yard loss and a pass to Graham went for no gain. It was then that Brown got a step over the middle on his defender and Brady hit him with a perfect pass.

"It's a big help," Graham said of Brown's return to the receiving corps. "The defense, they put a lot of focus on him and it opens a lot of other guys. His first game back he came back and played real well today."

That brought the ball down to the Jags 22. Faulk ran for 4 yards and then Graham caught another for 6. Faulk ran again, down to the 5, but the Patriots could not punch it in against the tough Jaguars defense as the second quarter began and Vinatieri was good on a 22-yard field goal to make the score 10-3, Patriots.

While New England could not convert the touchdown, the offense held on to the ball for 8:06.

Jacksonville moved right down the field on its next try and came a Taylor drop 5 yards away from the end zone from getting six. Leftwich had his way with the Patriots coverage on the drive, hitting Kevin Johnson for 15 and 9. Taylor did the rest of the work on the ground aside from a Chris Luzar reception for 21 early in the drive.

The drop by Taylor was costly, coming on third and goal and once again, the Jaguars had to settle for three, a 23-yard field goal by Marler.

New England's first successful defensive stand came via a 6-yard sack by Richard Seymour, who for some reason, did not play for most of the first quarter. The sack came on first down and knocked the Jags back to their own 13. Jacksonville wound up punting two plays later and the Patriots began with good field position on the Jags 44.

Apparently Seymour missed two days of practice late last week to attend his grandfather's funeral in South Carolina and was told upon his return on Friday that he would not start the game. An obviously upset Seymour addressed a large media contingent in front of his locker following the game as to his reserve role.

"I am going to be a professional about it," Seymour said. "I am going to go and continue to do the things that I have been doing. I think mentally as a player I have grown and I have matured a lot. I have seen a lot. I have been through a lot and I am just maturing as a player. That's as far as it goes. I am not going to look at [Coach Belichick] any differently. I am just going to go and do what I do. Like I said, Coaches coach, players play and that's the way I look at it.

"I am not going to say this, that and the other, but like I said when I am in there I am going to do what I can and try to make plays and try to help our defense out and as you could see we needed help. I came in and did what I could."

After an Antowain Smith run for a yard, Brady threw downfield to David Givens who was tightly covered and Givens made a fantastic, turnaround diving catch for 32 yards. But Larry Centers returned the favor of the earlier Taylor drop. Brady had him wide open for a would-be 11-yard touchdown but the usually reliable receiver dropped the ball and New England could only get three, a 31-yarder by Vinatieri.

Jacksonville had a chance to tack on three points at the end of the first half but Marler was wide right on a 34-yard attempt. Still, the fact that Leftwich was able to pass his way downfield on the Patriots defense had to be troubling. The rookie quarterback was 9 for 13 for 163 yards in two quarters of play.

The half ended at 13-6, Patriots.

Snow began falling as the second half began and likewise, both offenses came up empty on their tries as the third quarter approached the three minute mark. It was then, on its third possession, that the New England offense got rolling.

Brady hit Graham down the middle for 30 yards on a nice play-action. Smith then ran up the middle for 16 yards and it looked like the Patriots might add to their lead. Brady passed to Smith for 11 more but the ball popped loose and Paul Spicer came up with it for the game's first turnover.

It wasn't long, five plays, before Leftwich gave it back to New England with a throw seemingly intended for Tyrone Poole. It was the first play of the fourth quarter and Poole took the easy pick to the Jags 35.

New England began the short field drive with a completion to Dedric Ward for 9 and a Smith 4-yard run. A catch by Centers gave New England another first down at the Jags12. On third and 8, Brady led Brown perfectly as Brown ran towards the left side of the end zone and the Patriots opened things up at 20-6 as the snow continued.

Down by two touchdowns, Jacksonville needed a quick score, but Poole essentially put an end to the game with his second interception. It was a second and 10 play from the Jacksonville 43 when Leftwich threw the errant pass. Only a diving tackle by LaBrandon Toefield saved the touchdown as Poole returned the ball down the left sideline to the 3-yard line, perhaps beginning his celebration a tad early. On third down from the 1, Smith banged it in.

"Tyrone is playing great football, probably the best football of his career right now," fellow corner Ty Law said after the game. "He gives us the ability to go out there and play a lot of man to man coverage. He gives the safeties the ability to roam free. Now I am not always the one chasing the guys all over the field. He just gives us that flexibility."

And the turnovers created by guys like Law and Poole have been a key factor in New England's defensive success this season.

"Any time that you have takeaways on your defense and you can get the offense back the ball your chances of winning are a lot better," Law said. "I mean if you look at it statistically through the NFL the team with the most takeaways usually wins. It's very seldom that the team doesn't win. We just like to keep it going. We take a lot of pride in it and we have a little race going on to see who is going to end up with the most interceptions. It's pretty tight right now. Tyrone, with his two today, passed me up. We are all just looking to outdo one anther, but it's a healthy competition."

After a brief skirmish between the two teams in which Seymour was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct, Vinatieri made the extra point and New England had an insurmountable 27-6 lead with just over four minutes left to play.

Jacksonville did manage to get in the end zone, something no team had been able to do for 15 straight quarters leading up to the 27-yard Leftwich to Kevin Johnson score. The drive went 53 yards on five plays.

That made the score 27-13 and that's how it ended as the both teams streamed out onto the snow-covered field to shake hands.

Leftwich finished 21 of 40 for 288 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. His main target was Kevin Johnson who had 5 catches for 87 yards and a score.

Fred Taylor was held to 57 yards.

Brady had a solid game with 22 of 34 passing, 228 yards and two touchdowns. Both Graham (69 yards, touchdown) and Givens (65 yards) had 5 catches while Brown had 4 for 43 yards and a score.

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