After romp over Jaguars, Patriots still have room to improve
FOXBOROUGH – Look, we know the Patriots are superior to the Jaguars in every way, and one of the best teams in the league.
We knew Sunday’s game was going to be a blowout, and the Patriots’ 51-17 victory felt like a varsity-JV scrimmage. Rob Gronkowski came out of the game in the third quarter, as did Dion Lewis. This was essentially a preseason game.
So instead of just heaping praise on the Patriots, let’s take a look at the fact that the Patriots still have some room to improve as they head into the bye week. There was plenty to correct from Sunday’s win, especially in the first half:
■ For the second week in a row, they struggled to punch the ball into the end zone from the 2-yard line after going pass-happy. They missed on two straight passes against Buffalo, and again missed on two straight passes against Jacksonville. It seems like the Patriots might be trying to pad Tom Brady’s passing touchdown numbers instead of just scoring the touchdown.
■ Brady held the ball a little too long at times on Sunday, taking two sacks. It wasn’t an issue against Buffalo, but Jacksonville was able to take away Brady’s first read with its zone defense, causing him to pat the ball a little too long at times in the pocket. Brady and the offense need to get that cleaned up during the bye.
■ The Patriots keep using rookie guard Shaq Mason at fullback with James Develin out for the year with a broken leg, and he keeps whiffing on blocks, week after week. This experiment might have to come to an end soon.
■ Malcolm Butler really needs to work on his ball skills. He whiffed on yet another easy interception Sunday, which is especially ironic given his incredible interception in the Super Bowl. He blew another sure pick in the opener against Pittsburgh, and has mis-timed his jump to miss a pass break-up in each of the last two weeks. Against the Jaguars, Butler gambled and lost while trying to swat the ball away, allowing Allen Hurns to scamper free for a 59-yard touchdown. Butler is incredibly athletic and recovers better than most cornerbacks, but he really needs to work on his hand-eye coordination.
There were, of course, things to like about Sunday’s win:
■ Brady was still surgical, completing 33 of 42 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns. He ripped the Jaguars’ zone defense apart down the middle with Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
■ The Patriots were able to get playing time for several backups: RB James White, CB Justin Coleman, S Jordan Richards, WR Keshawn Martin, and rookie offensive linemen David Andrews, Tre Jackson, and Mason. This essentially was a preseason game for the Patriots.
■ LeGarrette Blount got on the scoreboard for the first time this year with 78 yards and three touchdowns, and showing good yards-after-contact ability. The Patriots need to get the power run game going this year.
■ Danny Amendola got more involved, with five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. He’s more productive when he’s more involved in the flow of the game.
■ Dion Lewis continued to show impressive moves in the open field and the ability to break tackles. The kid has been a great find.
■ The defense held Blake Bortles to 17 of 33 passing for 242 yards, and didn’t have to blitz much. The two-deep safety look kept the Jaguars in check all day.