Much like last January's AFC title game, the Jaguars controlled the first three quarters of Sunday's rematch with the Patriots in Jacksonville.
This time, though, the home squad turned the 21-3 halftime advantage into victory, the Doug Marrone's team pulling away for the 31-20 win. Though not nearly as important as the meeting with the trip to the Super Bowl on the line, it does give the vocal Jacksonville squad some early-season AFC bragging rights.
With Leonard Fournette inactive due to a hamstring injury, the Jaguars took a more aggressive, aerial approach and Blake Bortles put in a performance that CBS analyst Tony Romo said was, "the best I've ever seen him play."
As hard as it is for Patriot Nation to swallow, the Jaguars talked the talk and then walked the walk.
Bortles finished completing an amazing 29 of 45 passes for 377 yards with four touchdowns and one tipped/dropped interception for a 111.1 passer rating. He led an offense that piled up 27 first downs and 481 yards while converting 10 of 14 (71 percent) of third down chances. He also ran six times for 35 yards.
Though Tom Brady's numbers – he completed 24 of 35 passes for 234 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 106.1 passer rating – don't look bad, the New England offense never really got going consistently. He also turned the ball over on a strip sack fumble forced and recovered by Dante Fowler in the fourth quarter.
"We just got behind. They are a good team, good defense. We have to play a lot better than we played today," Brady said. "When you have a bad day against a good team it's a recipe for losing."
With game-time temperatures at 97 degrees and a heat index well over 100, the heat was the least of the Patriots problems. It was the Jaguars that caused the Patriots to wilt in the afternoon affair.
"We just didn't do anything close to well enough," Bill Belichick said. "We'll live with it, own it and move on."
Before moving on to next Sunday night's trip to Detroit to take on Matt Patricia's Lions, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the loss in Jacksonville.
Sony Michel/Jacob Hollister – The two young players returned from injury to make their season debuts, for Michel his NFL debut. Clearly it wasn't enough to inject life into the offense to beat the Jaguars, but the two could add options to the offense down the road. Michel had 10 carries for just 34 yards, including a 15-yard long. He caught just one pass for 7 yards, but had a nice cut block to pick up Calais Campbell in pass protection. Hollister hauled in all three passes thrown his way for 35 yards. In a game missing many positives, getting the two youngsters involved is a small victory that could pay dividends later.
Phillip Dorsett/Chris Hogan — Dorsett picked up where he left off against Houston, building his trust and rapport with Tom Brady. He finished catching five of the seven passes thrown his way for 44 yards with a 19-yard long. His best catch may have been on a short gain on the right side that Brady threw when Dorsett actually wasn't even looking yet. Hogan gets credit for a pair of touchdowns on his three receptions for 42 yards following a tough opener.
James White – New England's passing back was at his usual productive best against the Jaguars, something few Patriots could claim. White caught seven of the eight passes thrown his way against Jacksonville's speedy linebackers, tallying 73 yards. That included a pretty 27-yard catch-and-run misdirection screen that set up a fourth-quarter field goal. White did his job as well as any visitor in the extreme heat.
Pass rush – Adding injury to insult, New England lost Trey Flowers to a concussion in the first half. Without its best pass rusher, the new-look Patriots front never sacked Bortles and hit him just four times on nearly four-dozen attempts. A week ago the front was given much credit for its works against Houston, but the front never really made things difficult on Bortles.
Eric Rowe/pass coverage – Rowe was by far the worst of the coverage players, but he was far from alone in his struggles. He gave up a number of plays to Keelan Cole, including a too-easy 24-yard touchdown. Stephon Gilmore gave up a touchdown to Donte Moncrief in the corner of the end zone. Patrick Chung got knocked off stride to allow tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins to notch an easy score. Pretty much every member of the back end and linebackers gave up plays to Bortles as the Jags passing game.
Third down D – As a result of the pass rush and coverage struggles, the third down defense was pretty putrid. Bortles completed each of his first seven passes on third down. Jacksonville converted at an incredibly high rate. Worse yet, so many of the throws and conversions came pretty easily with Patriots defenders chasing. Third down is the money down in the NFL. New England was borderline non-competitive on third down in the heat of Jacksonville, leaving with Brian Flores and the unit with a lot to work on.
What do you think of our lists? Alterations or additions? Let us know with a comment below!