Only one word can describe Sunday’s game: humbling
FOXBOROUGH — After a 51-17 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions, which was a total disaster in nearly every way imaginable, Gus Bradley kept coming back to the same buzzword to explain one of the more embarrassing losses in Jaguars history.
That word was precision, meaning what the Patriots had in surplus and what his team was completely lacking.
“[The Patriots] played with precision in all three phases,” said Bradley. “When you play against a really good team, you really see the importance of precision. We didn’t play with that. I think it starts with me.”
Well, yeah, Gus. Who else would it start with to explain an epic game-day failure, one that resulted in the Jaguars giving up the most points in the franchise’s 323 regular-season games? That’s why you’re the HEAD coach.
Though Bradley certainly will make the attempt, there’s nothing the Jaguars can legitimately feel good about after what transpired Sunday. If you wish to make an exception for Blake Bortles’s 59-yard TD pass to Allen Hurns in the third quarter, please remember it only cut deficit to 30-10.
Sorry, the Jaguars can’t offer up the disclaimer that because it happened against the Patriots and Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium — where almost nobody wins — and because the Jaguars’ secondary is hurting, this is somehow worthy of a free pass. No can do.
Bradley, a defense-first coach, was forced to watch his team give up six touchdowns and three field goals on nine New England possessions. It marked the eighth time in quarterback Tom Brady’s 16-year career that he put a 50-spot on an opponent.
“It’s frustrating,” said defensive tackle Roy Miller. “Nobody likes to go out and get blown out like that, if you care about what you do. Nobody likes to have bad days. That was a bad day.”
Especially for Bradley, who looked horribly overmatched against the NFL’s best coach, Bill Belichick. Not only did the New England offense toy with the Jaguars in every manner possible, but what is regarded as an average defense by Patriots standards seemed to anticipate almost everything the Jaguars and Bortles tried to throw at them.
“I told the team there’s some things that, decisions I made that we could look at and I’ll learn from that didn’t help us. That put us in a couple tough positions,” Bradley said.
None more so than a head-scratching fake punt call in the third quarter when, on fourth and 8 at the Jacksonville 20, Corey Grant was ridden out of bounds by Matthew Slater for a 2-yard gain. Bradley acknowledged he tried to call an audible and ditch the fake because the Patriots didn’t show the look he expected.
“We ran [the fake punt] when it was a check to go off,” said Bradley.
But why even think about a fake punt, which will be on tape for the Indianapolis Colts this week and anybody else to see in the future, when your team is trailing, 37-10? That makes no sense.
“The defense at that time had a lot of plays on the field,” Bradley explained. “We had some injuries back there and we wanted to try to regroup a little bit and give them some time [to rest].”
Sorry, even coming from one of the NFL’s better salesmen, that’s a tough sell. It doesn’t matter that Bradley tried to call it off. The fake punt never should have been an option in that situation to begin with.
If Bradley wanted to be so bold, how about trying to get Brady off his rhythm a little bit by throwing in an occasional blitz. The Jaguars were gun-shy about rushing extra defenders because, as Bradley put it, “his completion percentage went up and the big plays went up” in that scenario.
So what? All Brady did with the Jaguars’ conservative defense was complete 33 of 42 passes for 358 yards and two TDs. What’s the harm in changing up the strategy, maybe after the Patriots’ fifth or sixth scoring drive, when a quarterback is methodically carving up your defense?
I’m sure the Patriots’ Ryan Allen, who had zero punts for the first time in 40 career games (playoffs included), appreciated the rest. He will collect a $36,562.50 game check for doing nothing, thanks to a Jaguars defense that never gave him a reason to come on the field.
In running an uncomplicated zone defense and trying to keep receivers in front of them, the Jaguars were humiliated anyway. And once again, when Bortles made a big mistake, Bradley’s team went into a shell and never recovered.
Remember how Bortles’s pick-6 two weeks ago against the Panthers took the air out of the Jaguars in a 20-9 loss? Well, Sunday’s only turnover on an interception by Devin McCourty late in the second quarter did the same thing.
Just like that, instead of cutting the Patriots lead to 13-6 or 13-10 at halftime, the change of possession led to a Brady TD pass near the end of intermission. Another Patriots scoring drive to begin the second half set the rout in motion.
“They get two [scores] without us ever touching the ball,” said Jaguars guard Zane Beadles. “That’s always a tough thing.”
You know what else is tough? Thinking the Jaguars had turned some kind of corner last week by grinding out a 23-20 win against the Dolphins, only to leave New England wondering if this team will be competitive in what’s shaping up to be the NFL’s weakest division.
All four AFC South teams are now 1-2, with the favored Colts looking a lot more vulnerable than anybody thought when the season began. A Jaguars win at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday would certainly wipe away the football abomination that was their first road trip of 2015.
Now the Jaguars can keep telling themselves everything will be fine once they get a lot of important core players (Julius Thomas, Sen’Derrick Marks, Johnathan Cyprien, Andre Branch, and Luke Joeckel) healthy. And maybe that’ll turn out to be the case.
But right now, with Bradley admitting he was “discouraged” by how this Patriots game unfolded, the Jaguars look like a team a bit unsure of itself. And after what Brady did to them, it’s a little harder to believe the head coach can fix it.