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Patriots 31, Jaguars 20 January 12, 2008

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Outside of the Colts who they will most likely face next week, the Jaguars are probably the best team the Patriots have had to beat this year (yes, I’m including you, Cowboys, who I’d rank 3rd), and this one was a really tough back-and-forth match in the first half, both physically and psychologically. It was no coincidence that both teams felt they had to make a point by going for it on a 4th down during a scoring drive, or that they both drove all the way down the field methodically and without making mistakes. By the time this continued into the Second Quarter, the game was looking more and more like a test of endurance and will power.

You could see when the fire went out of the Jags’ bellies, when they got worn down by a Patriots game plan that was basically the game plan we were all told would be used against New England: keep the ball on the ground, eat up the clock & score. Maroney and Faulk moved the ball consistently, and Brady continued to hit all his receivers with short passes that were basically runs. And the clock kept ticking. And the turnovers were deadly. The expressions on the faces of the Jaguars said a lot – they had lost the belief that they could win.

But besides the morale factor, in the end it also turned out to be a measure the depth in either team’s talent. Jacksonville’s David Garrard is a great quarterback who consistently comes through under pressure, especially in 3rd down situations, and avoids trouble as if he’s directing traffic on all sides of the field. He has a bunch of good receivers to throw to, and great running backs protected by some very large guys in the offensive line. But Brady has all that with great receivers to throw to, as well as that dreaded word “experience” on his side in dealing with tight situations and pressure. But I was very impressed with the Jaguars down the stretch this season and in this game, and now that they have wisely settled on Garrard as their starting QB, expect them to build up their receiving core and fill the few holes in their defense to move into the Patriots/Colts ranks of top AFC teams over the next several seasons. The Patriots beat them today, but I have a strong feeling that a Jaguars/Patriots playoff game for all the marbles sometime in the future will be as hard-fought a slog as well, the game next week will most certainly be.

Two more to go!

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