Patriots Are AFC East Champions, Again

Throughout the past week, we heard different media outlets asking if the New England Patriots were for real. I heard over and over that they could only beat the bad teams in the NFL. I also heard that this is a true test of whether they have what it takes to beat a playoff caliber team.

I would hope after the outcome of this game, we could consider those critics and experts silenced.

The New England Patriots went into Jacksonville to compete against a team that hadn't allowed more than 20 points at home all year. They put up 24 points handily and should have been more.

This game shouldn't have been as close as it was score wise. The defense played masterfully and except for a fluke 73-yard scamper by rookie Jacksonville running back Jones-Drew, they played to perfection.

The Patriots made plays all over the field tackling and causing disruptions to the Jaguars offense. What a difference having Rodney Harrison makes in the secondary. They have a different 'swagger' when he is out there. It was so fitting also that he recovered the end of the game fumble by Garrard.

The offense was effective and efficient when they needed to be. Before the first half Tom Brady had already hit 9 different receivers, which is a refreshing sight. Some people already have stated that they think the receivers actually bailed out Brady when his passes were 'off the mark'. Well, I say it is about time! This quarterback has been carrying this offense all year and if he had an off day and the receivers made him look good then, good for them for finally doing their job for number twelve.

Brady said it best after the game.

"We were trying to spread it around as best we could. The guys who were open were getting the ball. All the receivers who were out there were working hard to get open, I think the backs did a good job. But that's the way we play them, try to find the open guy, tried to spread them out a little bit and run it when there was a light box in there, which we did. We had the two big runs in there. Overall, the execution could've been better. But I'll take a win." - Tom Brady sounding "coach belichick-esque".

It was a sight for sore eyes to see Laurence Maroney out there scampering in the backfield after being out for a couple of games. To top off his, what was so far an average day, he broke into the open field for a 27 yard dash for the endzone for his fifth rushing touchdown on the year (sixth overall).

David Thomas provided the ray of sunshine Patriot nation needed after hearing Benjamin Watson was going to be out another game. Thomas came through like gangbusters when he accounted for 58 yards on one drive including a 22 yard perfectly thrown touchdown pass.

In this game the team was running on all cylinders. The defense kept up their part by shutting down - for the most part - the Jacksonville offense long enough to preserve the win.

One of the season notes has to be that Tom Brady has found 11 different receivers this year for touchdowns, one behind last years record-tying 12. A lot of people are probably going to say he seemed off target with a lot of the overthrows to Troy Brown. It looked as if they had a mix-up on the pattern that the veteran receiver was supposed to run. Overall, Brady threw almost 250 yards on the day with 1 touchdown and 0 interceptions. If you ask me, that was a pretty good day.

To all the fans that were yelling at the television, "Where's Adam Vinatieri when you need him?" rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 48-yard field goal in the second quarter to break a scoreless tie and give the Patriots a 3-0 lead. The kick through the uprights was Gostkowski's 11th consecutive successful field goal. The streak was broken when he missed a 49-yarder in the third quarter. Following that miss, he had made 16 of his last 18 field goals dating all the way back to Oct. 1. I think this young guy is going to be okay.

Coach Belechick had some nice words for his football team after the AFC East clinching victory. "That was a pretty good football game out there today. Real physical. Just like we expected. Jacksonville is a real good football team. They've played well here. I thought it took a real strong effort by our players and, in the end, they went out there and made enough plays to win. So I'm real proud of them. I'm proud of what they've done this year. We accomplished one of our goals today. We still have a lot to work to do, but that's very satisfying to come down here and win. It was pretty ironic, that the last time we were here it would be the same score [24-21 in Super Bowl XXXIX], with [Rodney] Harrison getting the ball at the end of the game. Regardless of how it happened, we're happy with the result, and you have to give all the credit in the world to the players today. They played their hearts out. It was a physical game. It's a tough place to play but they came down here and made enough plays to win. They certainly deserve it.

Next week the team travels to Tennessee to finish out the regular season. We'll see if they rest the starters or play them to try to jockey for position in the playoffs!

Shane is a lifelong Patriots fan who grew up in Worcester, MA. He showed his Patriots spirit representing his home team all over the world while in the military and attending games regularly through the years. He now resides in Bangor, ME where he roots for them from afar. He stands firm in his belief in the team and regularly makes the 500 mile round trip trek to watch them whenever he can.

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