Pats deal with second straight subpar performance
FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP)
The New England Patriots have picked a bad time for some mediocre
Now they have just one regular-season game left to gain momentum going
into the playoffs.
New England got off to a slow start for the second straight week and
trailed the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars 10-0 before getting a 23-16 win
That victory followed a 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in which
the Patriots had an even worse start to the game, falling behind 31-3.
That's how quickly the Patriots (11-4) went from a dominant team with
seven straight wins after a 42-14 rout of the Houston Texans to a
''We always talk about how we throw out the stats and throw out the
records because it doesn't mean anything,'' defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Monday. ''We never really know what we're going to get or
what we're going to run up into.''
They ran into numerous problems on Sunday, some caused by the Jaguars
(2-13) and others they brought upon themselves.
Jacksonville had more first downs on its opening possession (six) than
New England totaled on its first four (five).
Tom Brady threw interceptions on two of the Patriots first three
series. And they punted on their last two, allowing the Jaguars to move
to the Patriots 12-yard line before Patrick Chung intercepted Chad
Henne's pass on the final play.
''Certainly, (we) never really got into the game where we felt like we
were going to string together a bunch of drives,'' offensive
coordinator Josh McDaniels said.
The biggest problem was ''self-inflicted errors,'' Brady said Monday
during his weekly appearance on WEEI radio.
''We've got to do a better job,'' he said. ''We've got some pretty
important weeks of football ahead, and that's when we really need to
play our best.''
The first chance to get rolling again comes Sunday at home against the
Miami Dolphins (7-8).
The Patriots beat the Dolphins 23-16 in Miami one week before rolling
over the Texans, who had the NFL's best record at the time.
''What matters is that we finish out the season the right way and then
try to prepare and have a great week of preparation, whomever we play
(in the playoffs),'' McDaniels said.
Despite their recent problems, the Patriots still can be the AFC's
top-seeded team. They'd achieve that with a win over the Dolphins while
the Texans lose to the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos lose
to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Patriots would finish second, and still get a first-round bye, with
a win and a loss by the Texans or Broncos.
They would be seeded third if all three win, or fourth if they lose and
the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cincinnati Bengals.
With all that uncertainty, the Patriots still are thinking ahead even
though they usually say the only game they focus on is the next one.
''You can't be totally oblivious to the possibilities that exist out
there,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ''It's really hard to be specific
on something like that when there are so many possibilities. You're
working on a 25 percent chance of something; whatever you're working
on, there's probably a 75 percent chance that you're wrong.''
If they don't get a bye, they'll play Indianapolis or Cincinnati. If
they do, they won't know their opponent until the wild-card round is
So many possibilities.
''The most immediate one, that's the one that we'll take first and that
would be the wild-card weekend if we're playing that weekend,''
Belichick said. ''We'll definitely do as much preparation as we can on
those teams this week to make sure that we're ready to go on Sunday
night or Monday morning if that's the way it goes.''
More immediately, the Patriots must analyze what went wrong against the
Jaguars - execution, effort, emotion - and try to make sure it doesn't
happen against the Dolphins.
Brady's passer rating of 73.9 was his lowest of the season. Henne's 348
yards passing were the third most the Patriots have allowed.
Sure, the Patriots won.
But beating a team that had just one win in three months since beating
the Colts 22-17 on Sept. 23 - and doing it by just seven points - left
them thankful but dissatisfied.
''I'm proud of the way we responded,'' defensive tackle Vince Wilfork
said, ''but, at the same time, at the end of the day it won't be good
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