Patriots crush Jaguars, clinch AFC East in style
The Patriots looked to be in prime playoff form on Sunday, dismantling a Jaguars team fighting for a chance at a playoff berth. With the 35-7 win, New England clinches the division and guarantees a home playoff game in the Wild Card round.
Tom Brady had one of his best games this year, completing 23 of 26 passes for 267 yards and 4 touchdowns. Randy Moss caught three of those scoring throws in a magnificent game reminiscent of the last time these two teams met. In the 2007 AFC Divisional round, Brady and the clockwork Patriots offense made a mockery of the Jaguars pass defense, completing 92% of passes en route to a 31-20 win that was not even as close as the scoreboard suggests. In today’s game, the Pats showed flashes of the powerhouse pass-based attack that demolished the league two years ago. Wes Welker had another spectacular game, catching 13 balls for 138 yards. The Pats could have gone for more, but decided to chew up over twelve minutes of clock in the fourth quarter with a long, punishing drive spearheaded by Fred Taylor, who gained 35 yards on 11 rushes.
The Patriots defense also had a great game. The Jaguars’ chief weapon, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, was held in check all game long, getting a meager 63 yards on 18 touches. QB David Garrard was picked twice, including a terrible throw over the head of TE Marcedes Lewis that ended up in the hands of Brandon Meriweather.
The Jaguars are still mathematically alive at 7-8, but need losses by nearly every eligible Wild Card team in the AFC just to have a chance. The Patriots, now 10-5, are AFC East champions for the sixth time in seven years. The last time the Patriots entered the playoffs having lost 5 games, they came out Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history.
New England now turns their attention to a hot Houston team that is also playing for the hope of securing a playoff game. The 8-7 Texans have won three straight games and have held off late game rallies by the Rams and Dolphins while keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. They have to get a win and hope for losses by Denver, Baltimore, and/or the New York Jets to earn a Wild Card spot. The Pats got the road game monkey off their backs against Buffalo last week, but may decide to rest their starters for this one.