JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After 15 minutes of play Sunday, the Jaguars were on pace to score 40 points and accumulate 808 yards of total offense against the Patriots.
No one figured that Jacksonville would be able to keep up that pace. The Jaguars didn’t, and while they were able to run up 436 yards on the Patriots’ defense, they only managed two field goals over the final three quarters in a 23-16 loss.
It was Jacksonville’s 13th loss of the season against just two wins, the team setting a franchise record for losses in a season. The previous worst was the 4-12 record posted in the Jaguars’ first season in 1995.
Even though it entered with 10 losses in its last 11 games, Jacksonville started Sunday’s game like it was still in contention for a playoff spot. Quarterback Chad Henne guided the team on a nine-play, 78-yard march in just over five minutes, capped by a 3-yard scoring toss to rookie Justin Blackmon.
Following an interception of Tom Brady, the Jaguars marched to the Patriots’ 23, and Josh Scobee came on to convert the first of three field goals in the game, this one from 41 yards. At that point, Jacksonville had outgained the Patriots, 108-3.
On the first play following Brady’s second interception of the quarter, Henne teamed with running back Montell Owens for a 53-yard catch-and-run into Patriots territory as the first quarter came to an end.
But once again, the Jaguars’ drive stalled and Scobee had to come in for another field goal for a 13-3 lead.
“We knew before the game that we had to score touchdowns,” Jacksonville coach Mike Mularkey said. “We wanted points. Kicking those field goals allowed us to have a chance to tie it on the last play of the game.”
Had Jacksonville reached the end zone on any of three other trips deep into Patriot territory, the teams might have been playing an extra period. But three field goals, one missed field goal, and two interceptions in or near the end zone hurt the Jaguars’ chances for a monumental upset.
The Jaguars’ offense bogged down in the second and third quarters, gaining just 83 yards. Still, with the Patriots’ offense also struggling, it was 16-13 in favor of the AFC East champs entering the final 15 minutes.
“We went with our no-huddle offense and we kind of mixed it in and out,” said Henne, who finished with 348 yards passing but just a 59.9 quarterback rating because of 22 incompletions (in 51 attempts) and three interceptions. “I think I run no-huddle well. We had a game plan against what they were going to do on no-huddle. I just needed to convert some of those plays.”
Particularly on the Jaguars’ last two possessions. With 7:37 left in the game and the Patriots holding a 7-point lead, Henne guided the Jaguars from their 34 to the Patriots’ 1.
A second-down run was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, leading to what would be a significant penalty. Tight end Zach Potter lurched forward and was called for illegal motion, sending the Jaguars back 5 yards.
Henne then was sacked for a 5-yard loss, and on fourth down he was hit by Chandler Jones, causing a wobbly throw that was picked off by Patrick Chung.
Mularkey was upset with the penalty call — not only with Potter, but with the officials.
“It’s disappointing, because that was brought up to the officials before the game that [the Patriots] were going to do that,” Mularkey said. “They were going to shift illegally, not illegally, but line up and shift with the intent to draw the offense offsides and blurt out a cadence as they’re doing it.
“[The officials] were informed it was coming. Obviously, they didn’t call it and we jumped.”
When Mularkey was asked if it was illegal, he said, “It’s only illegal if they throw a flag. It’s illegal in the book if they blurt out a cadence.”
Even with Chung’s drive-killing interception, the Jaguars had one more opportunity. After the Patriots were forced to punt after gaining one first down, Jacksonville had the ball at its 38 with 54 seconds left in the game.
A personal foul on Chung, a 17-yard completion to Toney Clemons, and an 18-yard pass to Jordan Shipley gave the Jaguars the ball at the Patriots’ 12 with eight seconds left.
But a spike to kill the clock, an incompletion, and a desperation toss into the end zone that Chung picked off secured the Patriots’ win.