Among the many games on the Week Two slate for the 2018 NFL season, only one was able to brand itself as a rematch of the 2017 AFC Championship Game. For the New England Patriots and the Jacksonville Jaguars, the scene was a familiar one. The Jaguars had the Patriots on their heels. The Pats, who were being outplayed on both sides of the ball, faced a steep road towards a possible comeback. That comeback would be difficult, but not impossible.
Could lightning possibly strike twice…this time in the sweltering Florida heat?
As Santino “Sonny” Corleone once told Tom Hagen in The Godfather, “Not this time, consigliere.”
This time, there would be no Patriots’ rally to win 24-20 and get to the Super Bowl. Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles threw four touchdown passes, three of which came in the first half, as the Jags beat the defending AFC Champions 31-20.
Bortles unarguably played the best game of his five-year career. He connected with receivers Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins for scores in the first 30 minutes. It was the second time he’s done that in his NFL career. Bortles completed 29 of 45 passes for 377 yards, with the four touchdowns and an interception; thus boasting an impressive final stat line.
Cole finished with seven receptions for 117 yards and a score. He made a spectacular, one-handed catch on Jacksonville’s second drive. Just three plays later, he beat Eric Rowe for a 24-yard touchdown.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Patriots were outplayed in all three phases of the game. They trailed 24-3 in the third quarter, before finally showing signs of life. But Dante Fowler, once again caused headaches for Brady (just as he had in the AFC Championship Game) and stripped him of the ball. The subsequent fumble once again changed the momentum in Jacksonville’s favor. Several plays later, receiver Dede Westbrook added a 61-yard touchdown reception another on a crossing route to seal the victory.
Brady spent the day under constant pressure. He completed 24 of 35 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, both to Chris Hogan.
However, the reigning MVP never looked comfortable in the pocket. Rob Gronkowski was largely held in check by the Jaguars defenders, which limited Brady’s offensive weapons. Aside from some impressive runs by James White, the Patriots offense routinely lost battles with the Jags defense.
The Patriots also struggled on the defensive side of the ball. In total, the Patriots defense surrendered 481 yards in total offense to the Jaguars. It was not until the third quarter that the Pats defense finally showed some signs of life. Stephon Gilmore forced a fumble, which led to a Pats recovery and the first of two touchdowns from Brady to Hogan. Facing a 24-13 deficit, Kyle Van Noy intercepted a Bortles’ pass. However, the Patriots were unable to capitalize. As a result, the Patriots fall to 1-1 on the season.
FROM THE GROUND, UP
Patriots rookie Sony Michel, a first-round draft pick from Georgia, carried 10 times for 33 yards in his NFL debut. Michel showed some explosiveness in his running style. In addition to Michel, Rex Burkhead returned to action after spending much of the week in concussion protocol. Going forward, Burkhead and Michel will be relied upon to bolster the Pats running attack. However, they will need to remain healthy to do so.
Defensive end Trey Flowers and safety Patrick Chung both left the game, and did not return. Both suffered from concussions. Flowers was injured in the first quarter when he collided with teammate Keionta Davis. Chung was injured in the second half.
Defensive end Deatrich Wise, Jr. left the game in the fourth quarter with a hand injury.
An update on the health status of Flowers, Chung and Wise is expected within the coming days.
The Patriots will travel to Detroit, to take on the Lions at 8:05pm on Sunday, September 23. where Former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is now the head coach of the Lions. This will be the first time Patricia will face his former team.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC