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Positives and Negatives: Patriots Outlast Jaguars in a Sloppy Contest

Boston.com/AP (http://www.boston.com/sports/football/patriots/2012/12/23/game-patriots-jaguars/XFpcGTRcmsvMEigILwsKjK/pictures.html)

Were those really the New England Patriots who took the field in Jacksonville last Sunday? Both the offense and defense looked positively sluggish following their emotional loss against the 49ers, but there is no excuse for the way they played against a team destined for the first or second pick in the NFL draft. For many, it did not feel like the Patriots even won this game, but at the end of a game, if you score more than your opponent, you get a win.

With Houston falling to the Minnesota Vikings and looking very susceptible, the Patriots have a chance to take over a bye with a win and a Denver/Houston loss. With a four o’clock start next weekend, the team will be able to get a feel for their chances at a playoff bye, and rest their players if need be. On to the Positives and Negatives:

Positives

  •  The first would be that the team got a win; the Patriots are in control of their own destiny now, and winning is paramount from here on out.
  • It looks like Stevan Ridley has earned some respect as a runner, as he saw no workload decrease after his disappointing performance, while Shane Vereen never saw the field. Ridley seeing no change in his workload is going to be important for this team moving forward.
  • With his 18th ten-catch game of his career, Wes Welker has broken Jerry Rice’s record for career 10+ catch games. Why is this guy not getting a long term deal?
  • With injuries in the secondary, Patrick Chung got an opportunity to start at safety again, and he made it count, hauling in two interceptions including one at the end of the game with Jacksonville knocking on the door. Marquise Cole added a pick as well in limited time at corner, showcasing that he isn’t merely a special teams threat.
  • Stephen Gostkowski hit all three of his field goal attempts, knocking one home from a long of 49 yards. New England needed all nine of those points, and it remains to be seen if Gostkowski has left some of those early season troubles behind. He will need to if the Pats want to make a deep playoff run.
  • Not enough credit has gone to Zoltan Mesko this season. He has been booming punts all season, helping to switch the field on opposing offenses. He managed a 40.6 yard average on Sunday with a long bomb of 56 yards.

Negatives

  • Two more interceptions for Tom Brady and he’s doubled his season tally in the last two weeks. Five interceptions in December is hugely uncharacteristic for Brady. He is going to have to be on the same page as his receivers moving forward. This team can only go as far as Tom Brady takes them.
  • Where on Earth was Aaron Hernandez? With five passes incomplete in his direction and an illegal motion penalty on him that wiped out a 14-yard gain, he finished the day with one catch for 13 yards. This team needs a healthy Gronk back for the playoffs; it has been way too inconsistent without him.
  • Tom Brady got sacked three times by one of the worst pass rushes in the league. This offensive line needs to get healthy and get their act together to keep number 12 upright.
  • The defense gave up yet another first drive touchdown, and to a team that has struggled mightily getting the offense going on the first drive. Belichick should consider giving the ball to his offense to start games because the team cannot start off in a hole against the better teams in the NFL.

The Patriots have a lot to work out after their victory. With the Miami Dolphins coming to town, the Patriots need to win handily and get some momentum built up for the playoffs. If the Colts can manage the upset over the Texans, the Patriots have a shot at a first round bye, something they could definitely use to get themselves back together.

Statistics courtesy of NFL.com

About DMac - @dmac4226

I grew up on Boston Sports during the championship era. Nothing has supported my love for Boston sports more than seeing three Lombardi Trophies, two World Series Championships, a Stanley Cup, and an NBA Championship all before turning 21. That will never stop me complaining when one of my teams falls on its face, and there will always be game film to go over, which is why I will always have something to write about.

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