After missing out on the postseason party last year, the Patriots are back in the playoffs.
Mac Jones and New England delivered a thunderous 50-10 win over the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium. That, combined with a loss by the Dolphins to the Titans allowed the Patriots to clinch a playoff spot Sunday afternoon.
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Jacksonville was overwhelmed from start to finish. Jones (22-30, 227 yards, 3 touchdowns) and the New England offense didn’t punt in the first half. They never trailed, and led by 20-plus points throughout the second half. Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris (two rushing TDS each) and Kristian Wilkerson (two receiving TDS) provided the bulk of the offense for the Patriots, who moved to 10-6 on the season with the victory.
The ground attack was sharp early. Harris put the capper on the first drive with a two-yard touchdown run, and after a Jacksonville field goal, he added his second of the day on a seven-yard run to make it 14-3 early in the second quarter.
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Then, it was the Patriots’ passing game that took center stage, as Jones found Wilkerson and Jakobi Meyers on scoring strikes to make it 21-3 at the half. Wilkerson found the end zone again early in the third quarter after a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jones.
New England kept after it when Stevenson got in on the fun, taking it in from a yard out (after Kyle Dugger returned a Lawrence interception) to make it 41-3 early in the fourth. Nick Folk blasted a 43-yarder with 11:46 to go in regulation, and Stevenson added a six-yard touchdown midway through the fourth (the extra point was off the mark) to give the Patriots a 50-3 lead.
Lawrence and the Jaguars finally reached the end zone late in the fourth when Lawrence found Dare Ogunbowale for a 28-yard touchdown to wrap up the scoring.
Jags get their first TD of the day — 3:42 p.m.
Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars reached the end zone for he first time all afternoon, cutting the New England lead to 50-10 with 3:48 to go. It’s the 10th touchdown pass of the season for the rookie.
Stevenson scores again — 3:34 p.m.
Another drive, another touchdown for the Patriots, as Stevenson gets his second of the afternoon to make it 50-3. (The extra point was botched.) Two missed extra points for New England.
Nick Folk connects — 3:22 p.m.
That43-yard field goal from Nick Folk makes it 54 in a row from inside 50 yards for the veteran. It’s 44-3 with 11:46 to go in the game.
End of the third quarter — 3:13 p.m.
Third quarter is done — Patriots up, 41-3.
Eyes on the record — 3:07 p.m.
The Patriots have 41 points late in the third quarter. Their single-game mark for the season is 54 against the Jets on Oct. 24.
More points from the Pats — 3:05 p.m.
Quick turnaround from New England: Kyle Dugger came away with the Patriots’ third interception of the day deep in Jacksonville territory, and the safety took it all the way back to the 1-yard line. One play later, Rhamondre Stevenson took it in to make it 41-3 with 2:42 left in the third quarter.
On a related note, I believe this Jacksonville team could be the worst non-Jets team to play in Gillette Stadium this late in the season.
Breaking: Pats punt — 2:55 p.m.
The Patriots will punt for the first time with just over five minutes to go in the third quarter. New England holds a 34-3 lead.
Pats add to lead — 2:20 p.m.
Fifth possession, fifth touchdown for the Patriots. Really, not much to analyze here at this point in the game, as New England is operating at peak efficiency on both sides of the ball. The Patriots have a pair of takeaways, haven’t yielded a touchdown, they’ve already surpassed their season average when it comes to running the ball (122 yards per game), and Jones continues to be razor-sharp through the air. Kristian Wilkerson just came away with his second touchdown catch of the game to make it 34-3 (the extra point was off the mark) with 11:14 to go in the third quarter.
Halftime analysis — 2:20 p.m.
Two quarters are in the books, and the Patriots hold a 28-3 lead. Here are a few quick stats and notes:
Mac Jones: 12-for-14, 107 yards, 2 TDs
Damien Harris: 9 carries, 35 yards, 2 TDs
Rhamondre Stevenson: 6 carries, 41 yards
Jakobi Meyers: 5 catches, 40 yards, 1 TD
Trevor Lawrence: 9-for-13, 128 yards, 2 INTs
-You never say never, but this won’t be much of a contest the rest of the way. The Jaguars are just overmatched on just about every level, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. And while you have to take this one with a grain of salt considering the opponent, but after two weeks of poor starts, good to see the Patriots come out of the gates with some urgency. No punts and only one first-half penalty on the Patriots. The very definition of a good start.
-The offensive game plan for this one is pretty clear: Pound the ball against a sluggish Jacksonville run defense, add in the occasional pass (as needed to the likes of Henry, Meyers or Wilkerson), lather, rinse, repeat. Unless something unforeseen happens, it shouldn’t be an issue the rest of the way.
-Lawrence has everything you need in a franchise quarterback; strong arm, nice poise in the pocket, ability to scramble when needed (he ripped off an impressive 15-yard pickup on a third-down situation in the first quarter). He delivered a couple of bad balls which led to a pair of interceptions, but really, he just needs time and more bodies around him.
-Is Kristan Wilkerson — who has three catches for 22 yards and a touchdown — capable of breaking the Curse of No. 17? We’ll see.
-A relatively uneventful first half for the special teamers — Folk was 4-4 on extra-point attempts.
-The Patriots will get the ball to start the second half.
Four possessions, four touchdowns — 2:15 p.m.
The Patriots keep adding to their lead. Just before the end of the half, New England makes it 28-3 with a 4-yard floater from Jones to Meyers, putting the exclamation point on a six-play, 43-yard drive after the pick.
Milestone interception for J.C. Jackson — 2:01 p.m.
J.C. Jackson with his eighth pick of the year gives New England the ball at the Jacksonville 43-yard line with 1:56 left in the first half. It’s the 25h pick of Jackson’s career — he’s now tied with Lester Hayes (25) and Everson Walls (25) for most interceptions by any player in the first four seasons of his career.
Kristian Wilkerson makes it 21-3 — 1:55 p.m.
The young receiver ran a great route along the back of the end zone, hauling in a nice ball from Mac Jones to make it 21-3 with 4:40 to go in the first half. It’s the first TD of his NFL career.
This one will be over soon — 1:38 p.m.
Myles Bryant comes away with his second career interception, and the Patriots have the ball and a 14-3 lead at the Jacksonville 33 with 8:17 left in the first half.
It’s Damien Harris, again — 1:38 p.m.
This is what we’re going to see all afternoon long; run the ball first and foremost, and augment that with some occasional quick passes. That drive was punctuated by a seven-yard TD run by Harris, his 14th touchdown of the season. It’s 14-3 with 12:02 to go in the half. Mac is 7-7 for 73 yards, while Harris has 8 carries for 31 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Meyers has 3 catches for 28 yards.
End of one quarter — 1:32 p.m.
First quarter is in the books, and the Patriots are up 7-3.
Trevor Lawrence: 4-6, 58 yards; 1 carry. 15 yards
Mac: 6-6, 56 yards
Harris: 6 carries, 24 yards, 1 TD
Jags make it 7-3 — 1:27 p.m.
New England holds in the red zone, limiting the Jags to a field goal. It’s 7-3 with 2:18 to go in the first quarter. A few quick notes:
Bad gap discipline on a 15-yard scramble from Trevor Lawrence on third down. Tough breakdown at the worst possible time.
•Great throw from Lawrence and great catch from Treadwell on that 40-yard deep ball. Way to fight for possession against a pair of defenders (Bryant and Mills) as he was headed to the ground.
•I’d expect the Patriots to keep in (mostly) on the ground moving forward.
Pats take early lead — 1:17 p.m.
Three quick notes as the Patriots take a 7-0 lead with 5:49 to go in the first quarter:
•After two straight weeks where they had sluggish starts, to see them put seven on the board on that first drive is a good sign — 11 plays, 70 yards.
•Everything clicking nicely on that opening series for the New England offense. Mac is 5-5 with 47 yards, Harris has 5 carries for 18 yards and the 2-yard plunge for the score.
•Kristian Wilkerson had his first career NFL reception, a 7-yarder. Good on him.
Pats take over — 1:08 p.m.
Great start for the New England defense on that series, which was highlighted by a Dont’a Hightower sack on that three-and-out. The Patriots will take possession at their own 30 with 12:52 left in the first quarter.
Time for football — 1:01 p.m.
The Patriots win the toss and defer.
Official Price Prediction — 12:58 p.m.
Patriots 28, Jaguars 3
A few pregame notes — 12:38 p.m.
According to those inside the stadium:
•The Patriots offensive line in warmups is (left to right) Wynn, Karras, Andrews, Mason, Brown.
•It looked like a pair of 58-yard field-goal attempts from Nick Folk came up just short.
•Good to see old buddy Danny Etling getting in some work before the game.
Mac has arrived — 12:19 p.m.
Can Pats cover massive spread? — 12:11 p.m.
Do we even need gambling information today? OK, we’ll do this, regardless of just how bad the Jags are…
Over the course of the week, the Patriots have fluctuated between a 15.5- and 17.5-point favorite. I think they cover. Meanwhile, the over/under has been in the low 40s — the consensus seems to be 41.5, at least as of this morning. I’m going to say that because of the conditions, they’ll hit the under.
A few more notes on this one, via Odds Shark:
•Jacksonville is 0-6 ATS in its last six games.
•The total has gone under in eight of Jacksonville’s last 10 games.
•New England is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games.
•The total has gone under in four of New England’s last six games against Jacksonville.
•New England is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games played in January.
•The total has gone over in New England’s last 5 games at home.
What does the forecast look like? — 11:59 a.m.
It’ll be interesting to see if the leftover precipitation will impact the game this afternoon.
Some stats to look for today — 11:56 a.m.
Most of these are courtesy of the Patriots’ PR staff:
•A win this week will move Bill Belichick into a first place tie with Don Shula for the most 10-win seasons by an NFL head coach. It would also give Belichick 321 coaching victories (regular-season and postseason), putting him 26 wins behind Shula on the all-time wins list.
•Mac Jones has completed over 70 percent of his passes in eight games — he can tie the rookie record today for the most games completing 70 percent of his passes. Dak Prescott completed 70 percent of his passes in nine games as a rookie in 2016.
•Jones has 18 touchdown passes and needs two touchdown passes this week to set a team record for most touchdown passes by a Patriots rookie quarterback. Jim Plunkett had 19 touchdown passes during his rookie season in 1971.
•Damien Harris is fourth in the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns in 2021. He needs one touchdown today to become the fifth New England player to reach at least 13 rushing touchdowns in a single season.
•Jakobi Meyers completed two passes for 45 yards in Week 4 against Tampa Bay. He is now 4-of-4 for 88 yards with two touchdowns and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his career. If he completes one more pass in 2021, he will be the first Patriots wide receiver to complete more than two passes in a single season.
•J.C. Jackson has 24 career interceptions, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Kenny Easley (24 interceptions) and Richard Sherman (24) for the third-most by a player in his first four seasons since 1970. Only Lester Hayes (25) and Everson Walls (25) have more.
•Matthew Judon enters this week with 12½ sacks in 2021. Judon is tied with Chandler Jones (12½ in 2015) and Mike Vrabel (12½ in 2007) for the most sacks in a season by a Patriots player under Bill Belichick.
•Nick Folk tied the team record for most 50-yard field goals in a season with his five. If he connects on a 50-yard field goal vs. Jacksonville, he will establish the team record for most 50-yard field goals in one season. Stephen Gostkowski had five 50-yard field goals in 2013.
Inactives for Patriots — 11:41 a.m.
Here’s a look at the inactives for the Patriots today and what the moves mean for the rest of the roster:
Nelson Agholor: The receiver is out with a concussion after not participating in practice all week. The veteran missed last week’s game against Buffalo — look for more opportunities in the passing game for some other receivers like Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers.
Joejuan Williams: Another healthy scratch for the young cornerback doesn’t augur well for his future in Foxborough. He’s played once over the last month and wasn’t on the injury report again this week. Look for Jalen Mills, J.C. Jackson and others to carry the load in his absence.
Shaun Wade: Same holds true for Wade. While he had health issues at the start of the year, the youngster who was acquired before the start of the season has struggled to see the field — he’s played in just three games this season. He’s a healthy scratch again this afternoon.
Jarrett Stidham: The fact that Brian Hoyer was cleared for a return from COVID Reserve makes this move a no-brainer.
N’Keal Harry: The receiver was on the injury report early in the week with a hip problem and was limited, but he was removed from the list on Friday. It’s a danger to try and diagnose a players’ physical state from afar, but with a distinct lack of depth at the receiver position, it’s a curious move for New England and a receiver who needs to start displaying some urgency in his career.
J.J. Taylor: The undersized running back wasn’t on the injury report all week, so it’s reasonable to assume two things: one, he’s a healthy scratch. And two, the Patriots feel pretty good about their depth and health at the position coming into this afternoon’s action.
Devin Asiasi: Another healthy scratch for the young tight end, who has been active once this year as he continues to sit behind Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith.
One more health-related note worth passing along: J.C. Jackson, Damien Harris, Kyle Dugger and Don’a Hightower — all of whom were listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report — are all active this afternoon.
Playoff clinching scenarios for the Patriots — 11:15 a.m.
Here’s what’s at stake today for the Patriots:
New England can clinch a playoff berth with:
•A win and a Miami loss or tie.
•A win and a Las Vegas loss or tie.
•A tie and a Miami loss, Las Vegas loss, and a Los Angeles Chargers loss.
•A tie and a Miami loss and a Baltimore loss or tie.
•A tie and a Las Vegas loss, Los Angeles Chargers loss, Baltimore loss, and Pittsburgh loss or tie.
•A tie and a Las Vegas loss, Los Angeles Chargers loss or tie, Baltimore loss or tie, Miami win, and Buffalo win.
(NOTE: There are other clinching scenarios for New England that involve multiple tie games.)
Pregame reading list — 11:05 a.m.
Only way to get your day started:
Let’s get it started — 11 a.m.
Happy New Year, and welcome back to football! This afternoon, it’ll be the Patriots and Jaguars, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. from Gillette. We’ll have all your updates all day long, so keep it here for the latest from the stadium, weather news, betting info, numbers to watch for, potential playoff scenarios, and much more leading up to the start of this one. CUE THE BAND.