Week 18 Game Recap: Jacksonville Jaguars 3, New England Patriots 28
What you need to know
QB Byron Leftwich returned as the starter for Jacksonville after missing five starts in the regular season with a fractured left ankle. Both he and the Jaguars offense started very slowly, with their first three drives ending after three plays. Leftwich soon picked up the pace, and he started to complete more short passes, including eight consecutive in the first half. He finished with 18 completions but for only 179 yards.
In the fourth quarter, the relentless pass rush from New England was too much for Leftwich and his ankle. He hobbled through the first series of the fourth quarter, but was then replaced by QB David Garrard.
The Jaguars receivers were led once again by their youth movement, as WR Ernest Wilford, WR Reggie Williams and WR Matt Jones combined for 14 catches and 203 yards on 26 targets. Veteran WR Jimmy Smith had a bad game, dropping four passes.
RB Fred Taylor had only eight carries for 24 yards, and RB Greg Jones added only 15 more on two carries, a rather low number of touches given his December production. RB Alvin Pearman also ran the ball twice but fumbled it away for a key turnover.
The Jacksonville defense put up a good effort, covering the Patriots wide receivers well especially on deep routes, but gave up short and medium passes to the running backs and tight end. The defense sacked QB Tom Brady four times but could not force any turnovers.
QB Tom Brady passed for 201 yards and three touchdowns, all of them going to different receivers. He completed only seven of 17 pass attempts in the first half for just 74 yards, but went eight of ten in the second half for 124 yards and two scores. All of his completions were of the short and medium length variety, but he did take shots down the field. WR Deion Branch dropped a long pass for what would have possibly been a 54 yard touchdown.
TE Ben Watson was the leading receiver in targets, yardage and receptions for the Patriots. Most of his production came on one play, as he caught a short pass from QB Tom Brady at his own 44 yard line, broke three tackles, and ran the rest of the way for a 63 yard touchdown.
RB Kevin Faulk was a key contributor, rushing for 54 yards and adding 45 more on four catches. RB Corey Dillon attempted 17 runs but gained just 40 yards. Most of his carries came in the second half with the Patriots in the lead.
The Patriots defense kept Jacksonville off the scoreboard except for a lone field goal by K Josh Scobee. They forced two turnovers, including an interception returned for a touchdown by CB Asante Samuel.
LB Willie McGinest led the Patriots pass rush, registering four and a half of the six New England sacks in the game. McGinest set both a postseason record and a postseason career record for sacks with 16 in 18 games.
HC Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady and New England have now won ten consecutive postseason games, all NFL records. The Patriots will meet the Denver Broncos at Invesco Field at Mile High next Saturday, January 14th.
What you ought to know
|QB Byron Leftwich, Pass: 18 - 31 - 179 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 26 - 0|
Leftwich returned as the starter for the first time since Week 12, when he broke his left ankle on his first series against Arizona. He played this game with his ankle heavily supported, but showed no effects of the injury until the fourth quarter.
Leftwich started the game well, completing eight consecutive passes at one point in the first half but for no touchdowns. The game plan seemed to call for short and medium passes, which reflected in his stats in halftime as Leftwich was 11 of 15 but for just 101 yards.
Leftwich came out throwing in the third quarter, but drops by veteran WR Jimmy Smith and pressure from the Patriots defense led to just three completions on eight tries before the final period. The struggles continued in to the fourth quarter as Leftwich was slightly better, completing four of eight attempts, but one of those was his only turnover as he was intercepted by CB Asante Samuel who returned the pick for a touchdown.
Leftwich finally started to show effects of his lingering injury as he began to limp in the fourth quarter after getting sacked and hit numerous times by the Patriot defense. He gamely played through the first series of the final period before being replaced once again by QB David Garrard.
Much to the chagrin of the Jaguars, Leftwich was also the leading rusher for Jacksonville. He gained 26 yards on three carries, with most of that coming on an 18 yard scramble in the third quarter.
|QB David Garrard, Pass: 3 - 8 - 68 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 14 - 0|
Garrard had led the Jaguars for the last six weeks of the regular season, filling in for QB Byron Leftwich after he went down with a broken ankle on his first series in Week 12. He had to step in once again as Leftwich came out with just under nine minutes to go in the game, both due to a weakened ankle and a huge deficit on the scoreboard. Garrard completed just three passes for 68 yards, but did also add 14 more yards rushing on two carries.
|RB Fred Taylor, Rush: 8 - 24 - 0, Rec: 3 - 13 - 0 (3 targets)|
Taylor had a very quiet game, rushing just eight times for a three yard average. He ran twice for a long of seven yards, and both those came after a fresh set of downs. Taylor failed to pick up a single rushing first down and was a veritable nonfactor in the second half as Jacksonville dropped back to pass on nearly every play.
Taylor was slightly more productive as a pass receiver, catching all three of his targets. His lone first down came in the final quarter as he caught a pass for 12 yards, his longest play of the game.
Pearman was used both on punt returns and as a change of pace running back. His first carry was nearly his last, as he ran for four yards around the left side and was stripped of the ball by the Patriot’s DE Richard Seymour.
Pearman was given two more opportunities after his miscue. He ran for four yards in the third quarter and was also the intended receiver of a pass of about eight yards in the third quarter. The pass was well defended and broken up before Pearman could reel it in.
Jones touched the ball only twice all game, carrying once in the first quarter for four yards and again for 11 in the final period. His usage was surprisingly low for as well as he had performed over the past month for Jacksonville.
Jones was the most targeted receiver for Jacksonville, getting 11 chances to make a grab. Jones came down with six of those balls, gaining nearly 100 yards, with the bulk of those coming on a 41 yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. All of his catches were for under 15 yards through the air, as he gained 32 of those 41 yards running after the catch. His second longest reception was for 14 yards. Four of his catches were good for Jacksonville first downs.
Jones would have broken the century mark in yardage except for losing an eight yard fourth quarter catch on a penalty. He also dropped a touchdown pass in waning minutes of the fourth quarter that would have made for a six yard score.
Williams caught all four of his catchable targets against the Patriots, including the second longest Jaguar reception of the game. Williams caught two short passes for a total of 17 yards in the first three quarters, and later added two more of 24 and 15 yards, respectively, which were both good for first downs in the final quarter.
Williams had two other passes thrown in his direction. The first was a throw that barely reached his feet in the third quarter, and the other was a ball that was intercepted by New England CB Asante Samuel and returned for a touchdown. Samuel jumped the route and cut off the pass before it could even get close to Williams.
Wilford caught four short passes for a total of 53 yards and four first downs. All of the receptions were for between ten and 17 yards. He was also targeted three times in the end zone, but the first throw was well out of bounds, the second was batted down by the defender, and the final target would have been a remarkable catch as QB David Garrard was hurried to get the ball off and wildly threw it in to the back corner of the end zone. The ball fell incomplete despite a diving attempt by Wilford.
Smith was targeted nine times, and it was his own fault that he only caught three passes. He caught his first three targets, picking up 30 total yards and two first downs in the second quarter. However, things changed for the worse for Smith after he dropped a wide receiver screen designed for him on his next target. Smith went on to drop three more passes, four catchable balls in total, all of the short and medium length varieties. The playoff veteran looked uncomfortable and seemed to be pressing to make a big play to help his team mount a comeback effort. As a result Smith did not catch any of the five passes thrown in his direction in the second half, dropping three.
Brady caught just one pass for one yard in the third quarter. He was also targeted by QB Byron Leftwich on an impromptu shovel pass as the quarterback was looking to get rid of the ball. The pass surprised Brady and he had no time to react as the ball fell incomplete.
Scobee had two field goal attempts in the game, barely making a 36 yard attempt in the second quarter as the ball grazed the inside of the right upright. His second attempt from 41 yards in the fourth quarter also went to the right, but this one was no good.
Unfortunate as it was for fans of Jacksonville, Scobee was the leading and only scorer for the Jaguars.
New England had only three runs for over ten yards, two by RB Kevin Faulk in the first half and a third by WR Andre Davis in the third quarter. Jacksonville kept RB Corey Dillon and Faulk in check otherwise, yielding only six first downs and no touchdowns on the ground. Dillon had 17 carries but only 40 yards.
Jacksonville covered the New England wide receivers tightly all game, especially on deep routes. However that coverage scheme left the underneath passes for both TE Ben Watson and RB Kevin Faulk to the linebackers, which was a matchup that QB Tom Brady exploited. Brady completed only 15 passes but had three touchdowns and 201 yards with no interceptions.
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 15 - 27 - 201 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 9 - 0|
Brady had a pedestrian first half, completing only seven of 17 attempts for 74 yards, but did manage to complete an 11 yard touchdown pass to WR Troy Brown before halftime. He attempted only ten more passes for the game, but put up far better numbers in the second half. Brady added eight completions, two touchdowns and 127 yards to go with his nine yards rushing in the victory over Jacksonville. All three of his touchdowns were on short passes, even the 63 yard touchdown to TE Ben Watson. Watson had over 55 yards after the catch to reach the end zone for the score.
Brady favored both Watson and RB Kevin Faulk, targeting them a combined 15 times, as the Jaguars tightly covered the New England wide receivers on longer routes. Brady was effective in the short and medium range passing game, but could not complete a deep pass despite numerous attempts. He did have WR Deion Branch open once for what would have been at least a 50 yard catch (and possibly a 54 yard touchdown) but Branch let the ball sail through his hands.
Cassel took the final two snaps of the game for the Patriots, taking a knee for the final play.
|RB Corey Dillon, Rush: 17 - 40 - 0, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (1 targets)|
Dillon was not used very much at all in the first half despite being named the starter against Jacksonville. Dillon had just six carries (one lost due to a penalty) before halftime, finishing the second quarter with only 14 yards rushing. Later in the game with New England well ahead on the scoreboard, Dillon was used to move the ball and chew up clock. He added 12 more carries in the second half, but accounted for just 26 more yards. His longest carry of the game was just six yards, and he only picked up one rushing first down.
Dillon added one catch of 12 yards in the fourth quarter on his only target.
|RB Kevin Faulk, Rush: 6 - 51 - 0, Rec: 4 - 45 - 0 (5 targets)|
Faulk was the leading rusher and a major contributor to the New England offense. Faulk gained 51 yards on just six carries, highlighted by runs of 19 and 18 yards in the first half. He also added four catches for 45 more yards. Faulk had the second longest reception of any Patriot, 21 yards, and added 24 more on his other catches, including two short screen plays. He lost his fifth catch of six yards due to a penalty.
Pass gained six yards on his lone carry of the game in the fourth quarter, but did pick up a first down. He was also the intended recipient of a short pass in the first quarter but the ball was batted down behind the line of scrimmage by the defense.
|WR Andre Davis, Rush: 1 - 13 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)|
Davis ran an end around for 13 yards in the third quarter, and added a short catch for three yards in the fourth quarter. He also contributed by covering up TE Ben Watson’s fumble in the third quarter in the red zone at the Jaguar three yard line that set up a touchdown by WR David Givens.
Branch was well covered by the Jacksonville secondary all game as he had trouble getting open for most of the contest. One of the few times that Branch was open was in the second quarter where he had beaten the defense deep, but he dropped a 50 yard pass from QB Tom Brady that went right through his hands. At worst Branch would have set up a first and goal at the Jacksonville five, or he could have stayed on his feet and waltzed in for a 54 yard score.
Branch contributed a 20 yard reception in the first quarter and a 16 yarder in the third. He also helped the Patriots by drawing an illegal contact penalty in the opening period.
Givens made just one catch, but he made the most of it. Givens caught a three yard toss from QB Tom Brady after a nice play action fake and tap danced in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Givens also had two other targets on deep passes of about 30 yards in the second quarter, but the first was thrown into double coverage and the second sailed well over his head.
Givens’ touchdown reception was the sixth straight postseason game that he has caught a touchdown, the second most of any wide receiver in NFL history (Pittsburgh WR John Stallworth scored in eight straight).
Brown caught just one pass, but it was a big one. In the second quarter he caught a short red zone pass going across the middle at the two yard line, and then easily walked into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game.
Brown also played defense, as he was the sixth DB in the Patriots’ dime secondary package.
Watson was the big part of the offense for New England’s passing game. Watson led all Patriots with ten targets, 91 receiving yards, and the longest reception of the game. He was the most targeted receiver partly due to Jacksonville’s tight coverage of the wide receivers, which left QB Tom Brady to look for the tight end and running backs underneath on shorter routes. The majority of Watson’s yardage came on his 63 yard catch and run for a touchdown in the third quarter. Watson caught the ball at his own 43 yard line, broke three tackles before the 50, and ran across the field to complete the touchdown.
Watson added four other catches for short yardage. He lost three yards on his first catch on a tight end screen, then gained eight yards and a first down after dropping an 18 yard target. He caught two other passes in the third quarter for 23 combined yards and two first downs. Watson was also the intended recipient of the first pass of the game, but the pass from QB Tom Brady hit the umpire in the head.
Vinatieri converted all of his extra points. He attempted no field goals, but did line up for a 46 yard attempt in first quarter but pooch punted instead. Apparently the swirling winds and the cold weather made HC Bill Belichick decide against any long range field goal attempts.
The Jacksonville running game was virtually nonexistent, as QB Byron Leftwich was the leading rusher for the Jaguars. RB Fred Taylor had only eight carries for 24 yards and RB Greg Jones carried just twice for 15 total yards. RB Alvin Pearman had two carries for eight yards, but fumbled the ball away to New England on his first carry. Jacksonville managed only one rushing first down.
New England allowed Jacksonville’s QB Byron Leftwich few opportunities except for short passes. The defense kept constant pressure on both Leftwich and later on QB David Garrard, amassing six sacks, including a record four and a half sacks by LB Willie McGinest. McGinest set a playoff game sack record and also became the all time sack leader (since they began keeping track in 1982) with 16 sacks in 18 postseason games.
CB Asante Samuel also added an interception on an elaborately disguised zone defense. Samuel returned the pick for the fourth and final New England touchdown.