Kisha's Korner: Patriots Clinch Division, Jaguars Clench Fists
December 29, 2009
By: Kisha Tapangan
Nasty, nasty day at Gillette Stadium. Initially it was the weather that was merciless, then came the offensive powerhouse that is the New England Patriots. They played right through everything the Jacksonville Jaguars had to throw at them. Entering the game at a still pretty impressive 9-5, it was clear what the mission was on Sunday afternoon for the Patriots: clinch the division. Easier said then done but the Patriots did have an advantage, they were playing at home, in horrible weather. All things equate to the Patriots' true "A" game taking the field.
A forewarning was issued to the Patriots about the Jaguars' standout running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Although the Jags have lost the last three games, with two of them being a loss of no more than four points, Jones-Drew has been putting up noteworthy numbers. The UCLA alum is leading the league in rushing touchdowns with 15 (tied with Minnesota Viking star Adrian Peterson), 1,309 yards and 296 carries. Not to mention, he's efficient, with only one fumble this season. With numbers like that, I'd say the warning was well-justified. Especially when the Patriots rush defense is ranked 11th and has starters rotating with rookies on various games.
The Jaguars know all about rookies. Several of their 16 first-year players have seen more play time than usual. While the rookies are gaining experience, the learning curve is doing a number on the Jaguars. Jones-Drew expressed his frustration to the Los Angeles Times, "We had an opportunity and we let it down and this can't happen again, no ifs, ands or buts about it... I don't care if we have a hundred rookies playing, it won't happen." A hundred rookies wouldn't have helped on Sunday against the Patriots.
On the New England side, their own set of rookies have shown to be well worth their respective place in the draft. Tackle Sebastian Vollmer from the University of Houston has shown his versatility in playing both left and right tackle while Matt Light and Nick Kaczur recovered from injuries. Quarterback turned slot receiver Julian Edelman has been dubbed the "Mini-Welker" of the team and has shown increasing necessary presence in the Patriots offense. Cornerback Darius Butler has two interceptions and 33 registered tackles. Finally, there is strong safety Patrick Chung. The highest Patriots draft pick of 2009, has recorded 35 tackles, two sacks and one interception.
On Sunday, the Jaguars weren't just facing the rookies of New England. Tom Brady was terrific, no, better than terrific, near perfection. Brady completed 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards, no sacks, no interceptions and four touchdown passes. If a you weren't a Brady Believer before, you definitely are after this game.
Number twelve played with a solid fluidity, and every single pass landed at the right place at the right time. Brady was humble in his post game press conference, "When we're completing a lot of passes, it's really a lot things; It's guys getting open and great protection and great play calling, so it makes it pretty easy on me when those guys are standing there wide open and it's my job to hit them. It was a really good day in the passing game..."
Offensively it was an exceptional game. Wide receiver Randy Moss had three touchdown passes and even had time for a quick and hilarious dance-off with a fan sporting a Randy Moss mask. Interestingly enough, I found myself in the Patriots Pro Shop a few weeks ago and came across the masks. I had a good laugh with some friends pondering at where would it be appropriate to wear it, other than Halloween. A game when three of the four total catches results in a touchdown might be a good time to sport the eerily accurate mask.
The Patriots dominated the match-up with a final score of 35-7. The Jaguars weren't able to put points up on the board until the fourth quarter. The New England rushing defense held Maurice Jones-Drew to a mere 63 yards. The Patriots defense pressured Jaguars' quarterback David Garrard who threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.
How did Jacksonville safety Sean Considine feel about the Patriots' overall performance?
"It hurts. We came in here fully expecting to compete and win the game. Obviously we got manhandled and it was a physical beating. We need to give the Patriots credit they showed up and kicked our butts up and down the field. There are a million excuses I would love to talk about right now, but we just didn't get the job done..."
New England has clinched the AFC East Divisional title for the ninth time in franchise history. For the Patriots it was a mission accomplished.
Korner Kicks : New England Patriots vs Houston Texans
Growing up in Texas, football was a part of life. As a fan, you had the option of being a Dallas Cowboys fan or a Houston Oilers (now Texans) one. I chose the latter. Luckily, I'll be able to actually attend this game and visit my home state for a weekend.
This game has much more meaning for the young Houston franchise for several reasons. If they lose to the Patriots, this would be there third consecutive season finishing at 8-8 under head coach Gary Kubiak and would leave many fans frustrated and asking, why can't they finish above .500. All the right pieces are in place in Houston, after the disaster of the David Carr era, it was the arrival of Matt Schaub that has made a major difference for the Texans. Schaub is now healthy and leading the league in passing yards with 4.467. Often referred to as the most underrated wide receiver in the league, Andre Johnson has 1,504 yards with 95 receptions and nine touchdowns.
A new goal is in place in Houston, for the first time, they have a shot at the playoffs. What would increase their chances? Defeating the New England Patriots to finish with a competitive 9-7 record.
Both teams are playing for something, but who will come out with the victory? After the Patriots' performance against the Jaguars, it would be easy to give them the win. But the Texans are not the Jags, they have a better quarterback, an extremely dangerous wide receiver and a rookie linebacker by the name of Brian Cushing that has been making massive impacts on the team's defense and overall morale. The former USC Trojan explained to the Houston Chronicle what he wants to be to the team, I want to be a spark plug, one of those guys that sets the tone and let's everyone in that huddle know you've got to play hard, you've got to play physical...We're going to be the nastiest, most intense group on the field. That's just my style. It has been since second grade when I first put the pads on.
This game might be surprisingly closer than what some may predict. The Houston Texans aren't perfect and the Patriots have come close to perfection, and to make it in the playoffs, a team must be as close to perfection as possible.
New England: 27
Kisha Tapangan covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for PatriotsInsider.com. To read more of her material, visit her blog at www.nrwithkisha.com . To contact Kisha, you can email her here: email@example.com