The New England Patriots must have had some pent-up anger after taking back-to-back losses. The team played angry in their drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars and quarterback Trevor Lawrence. That’s how they made their first playoff berth in the post-Tom-Brady era.
The Jaguars couldn’t move the football — and the Patriots could do nothing but move the football. It was a tale of two totally different teams, which was why their rookie quarterbacks had such different stat lines. Mac Jones was 22 of 30 or 227 yards and three touchdowns and Trevor Lawrence was 17 of 27 for 193 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
Jones is clearly better coached and better supported at this point in his career. That’s how New England has punched their way to a 10-6 record, with an outside shot at finishing at No. 1 in the AFC East.
WINNER: WR Kristian Wilkerson
This was quite the game for the second-year receiver, who has spent his time on the Patriots practice squad since entering the NFL out of Southeast Missouri State in 2020. He hasn’t had the opportunity to take a substantial number of snaps since joining the team — until Sunday.
And he did just fine. He finished with four catches for 42 yards and two touchdowns,
Wilkerson got a spike in snaps with Nelson Agholor dealing with a concussion. Equally important, the Patriots elevated Wilkerson from the practice squad on a day when the team made N’Keal Harry a healthy scratch.
It’s easy to imagine the Patriots will not only promote Wilkerson to the active roster but also continue to bench Harry and play Wilkerson. Wilkerson clearly has room to improve, with missed opportunities on a pair of deep balls, one of which was definitely a drop. Still, he was a success on the day.
LOSER: WR N’Keal Harry
So, naturally, that brings us to the loser of Wilkerson’s breakout game. Yup, Harry is in serious trouble. There have been flashes throughout his career where he seems to trend in the right direction, including (most recently) when he had a highlight-reel grab against the Colts. But then he has often followed those flashes with one disappointing moment after another.
It seems after the Patriots’ loss to the Bills, when Harry had a drop and then was targetted for an interception on back to back plays, Bill Belichick has seen enough. It might not be overly dramatic to say that N’Keal Harry may not play another snap for the Patriots.
WiNNER: OT Trent Brown
There were a number of strong performances by Patriots offensive linemen, including good showings from Ted Karras and even Michael Onwenu, who rotated in behind Karras. But Brown often ends up in a class all by himself, because when he plays well, it’s a thing of beauty.
The Patriots put him out in space to lead block for big back Rhamondre Stevenson. The result was something that will remind you of a freight train.
New England finished with 36 carries for 181 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Winner: QB Mac Jones
We mentioned his stat line earlier. That, in itself, helps illustrate how well he payed. But Wilkerson dropped the football on what could’ve been another passing touchdown. The Patriots also pulled Jones in the fourth quarter and turned over the offense to Brian Hoyer, who poached some of Jones’ production.
Jones did well standing in the pocket to deliver some dimes, including his touchdown to Jakobi Meyers in the corner of the end zone. He also delivered a handful of beauties on the move, which included a cross-body touchdown to Wilkerson, the receiver’s first on the afternoon.
Jones bounced back after a few rough weeks. Sure, the Jaguars are a bad team. But he protected the ball and put up points. That’s all you can asked of a quarterback. This performance is one to celebrate, regardless of the opponent.
LOSER: CB Myles Bryant
Bryant showed up on the film in all the wrong ways in the first quarter, letting up a 40-yard reception to Laquon Treadwell. Both Bryant and cornerback Jalen Mills were in a good position, but neither of them made a play — and Treadwell ripped down a ball that should have fallen incomplete. The Jaguars managed to put up their only first-half points because of the catch.
With Bryant staring down the ball as it came in, he has to punch it away from Treadwell. Here’s a look.
In the second quarter, Lawrence went after Bryant again during a third-down that extended the drive. A Ryquell Armstread drop gave Myles Bryant his first interception of the season on jutt a few plays later. At risk of seemingly overly harsh, Bryant did a good job securing the ball for a takeaway, but otherwise did nothing special to get the ball. It simply bounced to him.
In the second half, Bryant committed an unnecessary roughness penalty.
WINNER: CB J.C. Jackson
He logged another interception, his eighth of the season. That meant that he has tied the record (25) for the most interceptions by a player in their first four seasons in the NFL with Lester Hayes and Everson Walls.
Step aside Stephon Gilmore. Here comes Jackson, one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks in the NFL. Could Jackson soon be the best?
WINNER: Safety Kyle Dugger
Let’s throw in Dugger for good measure. His interception was a text-book case of reading the quarterback’s eyes. Lawrence made an egregious demonstration of staring down his receiver — so Dugger turned himself into the receiver. Dugger actually did the same thing earlier in the game, but Ja’Whaun Bentley broke up a pass that was headed directly for Dugger.
At least he got this one, right?
Winner: Coach Bill Belichick
His offense put up 50 points. His defense allowed 10 points.
That’s a great win, even if it came against a pitiable franchise.
New England is 10-6, and will clinch the playoffs with a Dolphins win.