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Chung got his first start since Oct. 14 in Seattle, in large part because of injuries: linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard didn’t make the trip; corner Aqib Talib visibly struggled through warm-ups because of a hip injury, and though he was in uniform, he was limited.
That meant Devin McCourty, after two months at safety, was forced back to cornerback for at least one more game.
“We know we’ve got to play better no matter what. It’s better to come out of here when you’re not at your best and get a win,” McCourty said.
“We know we’ve got to win games, but our goal is to come out and play better than we’ve played. I think it’s a little disappointing for us that we know we didn’t play as good as we could have played.”
Indeed it was nothing to write home about, not after the Patriots’ offense gave the ball back after yet another failed third-down attempt, a third and 7 that ended with Tyson Alualu dropping Brady for a 10-yard sack.
And especially not after letting Jacksonville, wanting to end its home schedule with a respect-producing win over New England, once again threatened to get into the end zone.
A 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on Chung, a 17-yard reception given up on fourth and 10, and an 18-yard pass to Jordan Shipley and the Jaguars were in the red zone again, their modest but faithful fans itching for a victory over one of the best teams in the conference.
But on an end-of-the-game Hail Mary for rookie Justin Blackmon, Chung ended up with the ball once again.
“These guys came in and gave it everything they had to the last second,” defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said of Jacksonville. “I’m proud of the way we responded, but at the same time, at the end of the day it won’t be good enough.”
“You all saw that performance,” Ridley said. “That’s not Patriots football. That’s not how we like to play.”
Interestingly, one of the few members of the Patriots not to express clear frustration over the result of Sunday’s game was Belichick.
“It’s always good to win,” he said. “We got off to a slow start, but we made some plays to get back into the game right before the half. There’s always more work to do, but we have another week to work on things before we head into the playoffs.”
Shalise Manza Young can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.