New England returned home Sunday afternoon as a heavy favorite over the supposedly young, hungry Jaguars. And from pretty much the first snap the Patriots (3-0) asserted their power over a Jacksonville (1-2) squad that took its lumps as Gus Bradley's team tries to turn a developmental corner.
Despite not even playing anything near perfect football, Bill Belichick's team pulled out to a 20-3 halftime advantage and then away in the second half for the 51-17 victory.
In hanging 50-plus points on the Jaguars, just the second time in team history Jacksonville allowed 50 points, the Patriots rolled into their Week 4 buy with plenty of momentum to go with plenty of points on the scoreboard.
Tom Brady got his 400th career touchdown pass, becoming just the fourth player (Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and Dan Marino) to do so. Rob Gronkowksi topped 100 yards. Dion Lewis kept things rolling as the dual-threat playmaker out of the backfield.
In other words, New England's offense rolled against a banged up and overmatched Jaguars defense. Heck, the Patriots scored on their first nine possessions of the day and Ryan Allen never got a chance to punt!
On the flipside, the Patriots defense put forth easily its best performance through the first three games against Blake Bortles and his ill-equipped attack. A New England front that had allowed 5.7 yards per carry on the season held T.J. Yeldon and Co. to just 2. per attempt. And aside from a hiccup in the back end that allowed a 59-yard Bortles-to-Allen Hurns touchdown, the Patriots made the second-year passer look very much like a young, inconsistent passer.
Instead of allowing a team to get back into the game – as was the case in Week's 1 and 2 with the Steeler and Bills – New England got the big lead and put the game away. LeGarrette Blount churned out 18 carries, 16 of which came in the second half, for 78 yards and three touchdowns.
Sometimes you're just the better team, at home expected to blow out a questionable visitor.
And despite the "any given Sunday" theory that Jacksonville tight end Marcedes Lewis tweeted about Sunday morning, the unlikely upset never happened. In fact an unexpected competitive game never happened.
Belichick's team did its job. It took care of business.
"It was a good win," Belichick said. "We got a lot of plays from each unit. It was a good complementary game."
Belichick seemed happy not only with the way his team started fast, but also "playing 60 minutes and finishing the game."
And now Brady, Gronkowski and Co. get a week off to prepare for consecutive Week 5 and 6 trips to Dallas and Indianapolis.
Before moving on, though, here's a look at some of the individual highs and lows against the Jags:
Rob Gronkowski – Another week, another team that somehow found a way to let the Patriots All-Pro tight end rumble wide open down the middle the field. Gronkowski topped 100 yards for the second straight week, tallying 101 yards on just four catches, 80 yards coming in the first half. Gronk played a limited role in the second half as the Patriots pulled away. The one downside to his game was a pair of offensive pass interference calls, one for blocking early downfield and the other pushing off a defender.
Dion Lewis – A year ago Lewis was out of football. Sunday, celebrating his 25th birthday in style, the passing back was the playmaker in the middle of the offensive attack. Lewis had eight rushes for 37 yards and a touchdown to go along with five catches for 30 yards, hauling in all five passes thrown his way. Lewis did not play in the second half, giving way in the blowout to James White, hopefully as a result of the score and nothing more. Lewis was again electric making Jags defenders miss, and notched his first game in a Patriots uniform without a fumble.
Stephen Gostkowski – New England's offense struggled to score touchdowns in the early going and that gave the All-Pro kicker to show off again with field goals from 46, 20 and 46 yards. Gostkowski also nailed all six of his PATs, the fourth of which pushed him past Matt Stover (422) for the most consecutive extra points in NFL history. Gostkowski also continued to boom his kickoffs, putting nine of his 10 in the end zone resulting in seven touchbacks.
Keshawn Martin – The fourth-year veteran made his Patriots debut less than two weeks after arriving in a trade from the Texans. Though many thought the Martin trade was to add depth in the return team, the receiver seemed at home in the Brady-led offense catching three passes for 33 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown.
Matthew Slater – The veteran special teams captain did his usual solid work in coverage throughout the day. But he also came up big on a Jaguars fake punt in the third quarter, holding Corey Grant to a 2-yard gain on a fourth-and-8 from the Jacksonville 22. Slater just doing what he does in the kicking game, which is make plays and hold it all together.
Jerod Mayo – The veteran linebacker and team captain just isn't a part of the Patriots defensive picture right now in the first three games. He seems to be pigeonholed as more of run stuffer, often running on the field with personnel groups like Alan Branch and Patrick Chung. Or, coming on in goal line, short-yardage sets. He got a bit more action in garbage time late, but Mayo's role is a curious one right now having gone from an every-down player to a situational option in the front, even seeing less early playing time behind not only young starters Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, but also veteran newcomer Jonathan Freeny early on against the Jags.
Bradley Fletcher – The veteran cornerback allowed a big touchdown and big pass interference call last week in Buffalo. This week he found himself as a healthy scratch, replaced by youngster Justin Coleman. By all accounts Fletcher was terrible last year in Philly. He might be going down the same road this fall in New England. The good news is that Coleman looked like a feisty, competitive young player in significant action opposite Malcolm Butler against the Jaguars. Fletcher's loss could be Coleman's gain.
Aaron Dobson – The third-year receiver was looking to build off an impressive week in Buffalo. Unfortunately that didn't happen against Jacksonville. Dobson did draw a 52-yard pass interference call in the third quarter, but should have actually caught the ball on the play. He also dropped a slant on the goal line later that, though behind him, was a very catchable ball. Dobson finished with just one catch for 5 yards. That's two less catches than the newcomer Martin. Dobson's role will change when Brandon LaFell comes off PUP. It could lessen if Martin passes him on the depth chart. The former second-round pick continues to fail to really latch on to opportunities that come his way.
Duron Harmon – When you are the last line of defense you just can't miss. That was the spot the safety found himself in when Allen Hurns beat Malcolm Butler for what would end up a 59-yard catch-and-run TD in the third quarter. It's only one play and came in a blowout win, but that's the reality of a one-deep safety on an NFL defense. You can't miss.
What do you think of our lists coming out of the blowout of the Jaguars? Let us know with a comment below!