Pick Six:  Observations from Game Two

The Jaguars defeated the Patriots 31-20 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida on a hot Sunday afternoon. The home team jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the 1st quarter with a dominating early game performance. In hindsight the contest ended midway in the 4th quarter when Jacksonville Coach Doug Marrone successfully challenged a James White third down spot, bringing up fourth-and-inches and a New England punt. One play later, receiver Dede Westbrook took a Blake Bortles pass and ran untouched for 61 yards through the zone defense for a game sealing touchdown.

Six Observations from Game Two

1. New England’s defense struggled to get off the field, allowing Jacksonville to convert 10 of 14 third down tries. On his first drive, Blake Bortles smartly side stepped unblocked linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, buying enough time to find tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for the completion. Twice on third down Bortles waited until defensive end Adrian Clayborn penetrated too far up field and then the quarterback took off on scrambles for the conversion. Much like the first half of last year’s AFC Championship game, Jacksonville successfully deployed running back Corey Grant as a receiver on early downs.

2. Jaguars’ second year receiver Keelan Cole made the 2018 NFL highlight reel with his one handed catch over corner Eric Rowe up the left sideline for 22 yards in the 1st quarter. Three plays later Cole had beaten Rowe badly on a 24 yard touchdown on another go route. Rowe lost track of Cole again in the 3rd quarter on a double move, out pattern completion on third-and-11. When Jason McCourty was covering Cole, he fared no better: McCourty gave up a crossing pattern completion on a six-man blitz call in the 2nd and got picked off on a rub route for a catch in the 3rd. To make Keelan Cole’s game complete, he was down field setting the key block to allow Dede Westbrook to score late in the 4th quarter.

3. Patriots corner Stephon Gilmore was in position, but reacted to the ball late, on Donte Moncrief’s touchdown reception in the right corner of the end zone on Jacksonville’s first drive. Gilmore punched the ball out of DJ Chark Jr.’s grasp for a New England fumble recovery in the 3rd quarter. In a situation that was reminiscent of his first holding call last week, Gilmore ran with Moncrief’s third-and-five crossing route and then peeled back to tackle quarterback Blake Bortles’s scramble just short of the first down marker in the 4th.

4. The Patriots’ offensive line struggled greatly in the 1st quarter. On third-and-seven, defensive lineman Calais Campbell collapsed tackle Trent Brown and guard Joe Thuney, allowing end Yannick Ngakoue a free rush to the inside and quarterback hurry to end a drive. On a running play, fullback James Develin couldn’t contain defensive tackle Marcell Dareus on a trap play and Joe Thuney couldn’t cut off lineback Myles Jack, blowing up a Rex Burkhead run attempt. On a third-and-one in same quarter, defensive tackle Abry Jones pushed center David Andrews two yards into the backfield to tackle running back Sony Michel for a loss.

5. Although it wasn’t enough to come back for a victory, the offense started to rally in the 2nd quarter. Midway through the 2nd quarter, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called a play action with guard Joe Thuney pulling around two tightends aligned to the right. Trent Brown and David Andrews held their blocks and allowed Tom Brady to find Phillip Dorsett for a 14 yard completion. In the 3rd, rookie running back Sony Michel picked up 15 yards behind terrific blocking by his guards and center. In the 1st quarter, Michel effectively blocked free rusher Calais Campbell on a third-and-five play, giving Brady an extra second to try and locate Chris Hogan.

6. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was limited to two catches and he was well covered whenever the ball went his way. In the 1st quarter linebacker Telvin Smith Sr. was aggressive on Gronkowski’s crossing route incompletion and early in the 4th safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. had excellent coverage on deep incompletion down near the goal line. Second year tight end Jacob Hollister picked up 23 yards on a pass play in the 1st in which he aligned in the backfield and released into the left flat for the catch. In the 3rd, Hollister absorbed a big hit and held on for the first down.

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