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Snap Judgments: Patriots hang on to beat Jaguars, 23-16 12.23.12 at 4:09 pm ET
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In a game that was occasionally messy, the Patriots held on to beat the homestanding Jaguars Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, taking a 23-16 decision to move to 11-4 on the season. New England was led by Tom Brady, who went 24-for-41 for 267 yards with two touchdowns and two picks. Stevan Ridley had 18 carries for 84 yards, while Wes Welker added 10 catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. On the other side of the ball, Chad Henne was 29-for-51 for 348 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions on the afternoon.

Here are a few quick notes:


‘€¢After having some issues in the first quarter-plus on the afternoon, the New England offense got it cranked up in the second and into the third quarter, putting 20 unanswered points on the board and turning a 13-3 deficit into a 23-13 fourth-quarter lead. The Patriots best drive of the game came at the end of the second quarter, a 10-play, 66-yard sequence that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead that tied the game at 13 with less than a minute to go in the first half. The drive was highlighted by a direct snap to Ridley and an 11-yard pass play to Welker.

‘€¢A good day for the backfield, as Woodhead continues to be an important and versatile part of the offense — he had one receiving touchdown, and would have had a second if not for a terrific defensive play by Jacksonville’s Jeremy Mincey, who knocked the pass away at the last minute. In addition, running back Ridley bounced back nicely after a rough week against the Niners with 84 yards. (He’s 30 carries away from 300 — if he can hit the mark in the regular-season finale against the Dolphins next week, he’ll become the first 300-carry back for the Patriots since Corey Dillon turned the trick in 2004.)

‘€¢The two leading receivers — Brandon Lloyd and Welker — had another good game as a tandem. After finishing with 10 catches last week against the Niners, Lloyd had six catches for 62 yards Sunday in Jacksonville. As for Welker, he had 10 catches for 88 yards. Welker now has five seasons with at least 110 catches. No player in NFL history has more than two.

‘€¢After not showing much over the last few weeks — perhaps he’s been slowed by an ankle injury he suffered last month against the Colts — rookie defensive end Chandler Jones delivered a key fourth-quarter play to lift the New England defense. Down by seven in the fourth quarter, Jacksonville decided to take a shot for the end zone on fourth down. But Jones came off the edge and delivered a great shot on Henne, which affected the route of the ball. The pass was picked off by Patrick Chung. (The first of two picks on the afternoon for Chung.) Jones has struggled over the last few weeks, but it was a big play at a big time for the rookie out of Syracuse.


‘€¢The Patriots were extremely sluggish out of the gate, as they had issues on both sides of the ball when it came to keeping up with the woeful Jags. A large portion of that was likely due to the fact that New England was going with a lot of relatively new personnel combinations on both sides of the ball (because the Patriots wanted to get a look at some youngsters, as well as the fact that they were dealing with some injury). While it’s tough to fault them because some of it was due to new faces in new places, the slow start was initially a cause for concern.

‘€¢In that same vein, the Jags were able to take advantage of some confusion in the New England secondary and hit on some big pass plays. Jacksonville had some big plays early, including a 53-yarder to Montell Owens, a 36-yarder to Jordan Shipley and 18-yard pass plays to Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts III.

‘€¢The New England offensive line is going through a rough patch. Brady was sacked just three times from Week 6 to Week 12. He’s now taken 11 sacks from Week 13 through Sunday.

‘€¢Chung was targeted in coverage on several occasions, and ended up taking a costly helmet-to-helmet hit late in the game on Shorts. He did come away with a pair of picks, but in between, it was a rough afternoon for the safety.

Third-quarter notes: Patriots 16, Jaguars 13 12.23.12 at 3:16 pm ET
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Three quarters are in the books, and New England now holds a 16-13 lead. Here are a few quick notes:

It was a relatively uneventful third quarter, as both teams continued to struggle offensively — since going up 13-3, the Jaguars have punted the ball four times and added an interception into the mix (as well as an end-of-half drive). Meanwhile, the Patriots were able to take the lead for the first time all afternoon with an early field goal.

The Patriots took their first lead of the day on their first drive of the third quarter with a nice sequence that included passes to Brandon Lloyd of 16, 14 and nine yards. New England wasn’t able to punch it in — Jeremy Mincey made a nice pass breakup on a ball for Danny Woodhead — and settled for a 38-yard field goal on its opening drive to make it 16-13 with 11:48 remaining in the third quarter.

On their final drive of the fourth quarter, the Patriots were able to get down to the Jags’ one-yard line with a nice drive that included a sweet 25-yard pass play from Tom Brady to Wes Welker. (Welker also added a nine-yard gain on an end-around.)

Second-quarter notes: Patriots 13, Jaguars 13 12.23.12 at 2:28 pm ET
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Two quarters are done in Jacksonville, and after a rough start for the Patriots, the game is tied at 13. Here are a few notes:

The Jags were moving at the start of the second quarter, but after some nice defensive pressure on Chad Henne by Justin Francis and Trevor Scott, the Patriots were able to force Jacksonville to settle for a field goal — Josh Scobee connected on a 35-yarder to push the Jags’ lead to 13-3 with 13:11 left in the half.

After a 3-and-out for the Patriots, the Jaguars dialed up a 3-and-out of their own. New England then answered with a sharp drive, but one that again stalled out short of the goal line. Tom Brady found Aaron Hernandez on a nice 14-yard catch-and-run, and that was followed with a 24-yard pass play to Danny Woodhead. But a bad penalty on Hernandez put the Patriots’ in a third-and-long situation, and forced them to settle for a 49-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski (his second field goal of the day) to make it 13-6 with 5:25 left in the quarter.

The Patriots then put together their best drive of the first half at the end of the second quarter, a 10-play, 66-yard sequence that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Woodhead that tied the game at 13 with less than a minute to go in the first half. The drive was highlighted by a direct snap to Stevan Ridley and an 11-yard pass play to Wes Welker.

The Patriots continued to shuffle things up in the secondary. Aqib Talib was back on the field, while Tavon Wilson replaced Pat Chung at safety. That gave New England a Wilson/Steve Gregory combo at safety, while Talib, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington were together at corner. It’s debatable how much the changes could be happening because of situational football — it appears there’s also a desire to make sure everyone is as game-ready as possible heading into the postseason. They’re getting a look at a lot of people this afternoon on both sides of the ball. (Offensive players who are getting a good look include rookie running back Brandon Bolden.)

First-quarter notes: Jaguars 10, Patriots 3 12.23.12 at 1:41 pm ET
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One quarter is in the books in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars hold a 10-3 lead. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢Things have started badly for New England, as the Jags had no problem marching downfield on their first drive of the game for a touchdown. Jacksonville followed that up with an interception of Tom Brady on a ball for Stevan Ridley that was tipped and picked off by Jacksonville safety Chris Prosinski. The Jags stalled out on that drive, but did pick up a 41-yard field goal from Josh Scobee to make it 10-0 with 5:43 left in the quarter.

‘€¢The Patriots had a few defensive wrinkles to start the game. Aqib Talib (who had struggled with injury over the course of the week and in warmups) and Alfonzo Dennard (who was on the inactive list) were sidelined, as the Patriots went with Devin McCourty at corner in his place. McCourty’s move to corner meant that Steve Gregory and Pat Chung were back together at safety. And Rob Ninkovich took over at middle linebacker for Brandon Spikes, who was inactive because of a knee injury. (The Patriots’ featured a defensive front of Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick.) The Jags took advantage of some issues in the New England defense, marching smartly down the field and taking a 7-0 lead when Justin Blackmon on a three-yard touchdown pass with 9:39 left in the first quarter.

‘€¢The best sequence of the quarter for the Patriots came at the end of the first when they went on a 10-play, 73-yard drive that really got going after a 32-yard pickup from Brady to Michael Hoomanawanui that New England a spark. The Patriots, who also got runs from Ridley of 16 and nine yards, were able to steer to the Jacksonville seven-yard line, but with New England in the red zone, there appeared to be a miscommunication between Brady and Brandon Lloyd — that resulted in a third-down misfire and forced the Patriots to settle for a 25-yard field goal to make it 10-3 with just over three minutes left in the quarter.

‘€¢Scobee missed a 43-yard field goal attempt wide left at the end of the quarter, and that opened the door for New England. However, a couple of plays into the drive, Brady threw his second pick of the quarter, a play where Jacksonville defensive back Derek Cox neatly undercut Lloyd to come away with the ball.

Ten things you have to know about Patriots-Jaguars 12.22.12 at 9:56 am ET
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Here’€™s everything you need to know about Sunday’€™s Patriots-Jaguars game:

Our three favorite matchups on the afternoon:

1. Running back Stevan Ridley against linebacker Paul Posluzny: Despite an otherwise terrific season, Ridley put the ball on the ground four times this year, including once last week against the Niners. Posluzny is a big, physical linebacker who has forced a pair of fumbles on the season. When it comes to ball security, it should be a good test for Ridley, who still has a shot at a unique plateau with two games left in the season: he can be the first New England running back since Corey Dillon in 2004 to hit the 300-carry mark, and he also has a shot at finishing over 4.0 yards per carry. If he can hit both, he’€™ll join an elite group of backs who have turned the trick over the last five years. Since 2007, only 11 different running backs have managed to carry 300 or more times while averaging at least four yards per carry.

2. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork against center Brad Meester: While we’€™ve lauded linebacker Brandon Spikes for being a huge part of New England’€™s success against the run this year, it’€™s becoming more and more evident that the Patriots’€™ stout presence is due to the work of Wilfork up front. The big fella continues to dominate in the trenches, and will have another opportunity to be a tone-setter Sunday afternoon a Jacksonville offensive line that has allowed 42 sacks on the season (tied for fourth in the league) and has struggled to provide protection for quarterback Chad Henne (or whoever else has been under center).

3. Cornerback Aqib Talib against wide receiver Justin Blackmon: After an occasionally rocky start to his rookie season, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound has started to come on nicely over the last month with 18 catches in his last four games to give him 51 receptions on the year, to go along with 707 receiving yards and three touchdowns. (His best game this season came in a loss to the Texans, where he had seven catches for an amazing 236 yards, both of which were career-highs.) While he won’€™t be matched up exclusively with Blackmon, Talib will likely receive the bulk of the duty opposing the rookie out of Oklahoma State. Talib, who has 17 tackles (11 solo) and a pick in his relatively brief career with the Patriots, has teamed to form an impressive corner-safety tandem with Devin McCourty that has worked well in recent weeks, particularly when it comes to baiting quarterbacks and receivers into throws that are eventually picked off. It’€™ll be interesting to see if they have anything special planned for Henne and Blackmon.

4. Under the radar opponent who Patriots’€™ fans need to know: Cecil Shorts III. The wide receiver out of tiny Mount Union — who New England was sniffing around during the predraft process in 2011, thanks mostly to the fact that he was one of the best at the combine in the 3-cone drill — has world-class speed, and that’€™s translated into some nice numbers this season with the Jags. In his second season in the NFL, he has 49 catches for 925 yards and seven touchdowns, to go along with an 18.9 yards per catch average, second-best in the league. Not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s someone who can do an excellent job when it comes to getting behind a secondary. ‘€œThey do a good job of trying to get him in different spots, whether it’€™s a matchup or a particular pattern they’€™re looking for, but he’€™s definitely a guy that can create a big play and someone that obviously is gaining trust with the quarterback and building that relationship,’€ Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said of Shorts. ‘€œ[He’€™s] a guy that will go up and get the ball and catch it and be able to turn plays that may be a shorter route on paper, but the application on the field turns into a bigger play than they thought.’€

5. By the numbers: (tie, both courtesy of Nuggetpalooza): The Jaguars have sacked opposing quarterbacks on just three percent of passing plays this year, the lowest percentage in the league and on pace to be the fourth-lowest percentage since 1970; Jacksonville’€™s defense has been called for 15 personal fouls this season. Only Baltimore, with 17, has more. Six of the Jags’€™ personal fouls were for roughing the passer, tied with Denver for the most in the league).

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Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2012 season 12.18.12 at 8:08 pm ET
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Through 14 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 87 penalties (tied for 22nd in the league) for a total of 753 yards (20th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots this year, not including penalties that were declined or offset:

Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:
Team: Seven penalties (illegal formation, two illegal shift, illegal block above the waist, defensive holding, two 12 men on the field), 36 yards
LB Jerod Mayo: five penalties (two defensive pass interference, unnecessary roughness, illegal contact, roughing the passer) 43 yards
LB Brandon Spikes: five penalties (two defensive holding, unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, encroachment), 41 yards
DL Vince Wilfork: five penalties (three encroachment, defensive offsides, facemask), 35 yards
TE Rob Gronkowski: four penalties (two offensive holding, false start, offensive pass interference), 35 yards
CB Kyle Arrington: three penalties (two defensive pass interference, defensive holding), 60 yards
CB Devin McCourty: three penalties (defensive holding, two defensive pass interference), 51 yards
TE Aaron Hernandez: three penalties (two offensive pass interference, false start), 25 yards
OL Donald Thomas: three penalties (false start, two offensive holding), 25 yards
CB Alfonzo Dennard: three penalties (defensive holding, two unnecessary roughness), 21 yards
OT Sebastian Vollmer: three penalties (illegal formation, false start, offensive holding), 20 yards
TE Daniel Fells: three penalties (false start, offensive pass interference, offensive holding), 18 yards
DE Chandler Jones: three penalties (encroachment, two defensive offsides) 15 yards

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In Focus: Charting offensive opportunities for Patriots skill position players 12.18.12 at 5:22 pm ET
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Every week over the course of the regular season, we’€™ll present a list of the Patriots’€™ ‘€œoffensive touches,’€ a running tally of which one of the offensive skill position players is getting the most looks. Like our weekly look at targets, it can occasionally be an inexact stat, but it remains a good barometer of how confident the coaches (and quarterback) are when it comes to the skill position players at their disposal. Fourteen games into the regular season, here’€™s a breakdown of the New England offense for 2012:

RB Stevan Ridley: 258 (252 rushes, 6 catches). 24 negative runs.
RB Danny Woodhead: 103 (70 rushes, 33 catches). 2 negative runs, 2 negative receptions.
WR Wes Welker: 100 (0 rushes, 100 catches). 2 negative receptions.
WR Brandon Lloyd: 67 (0 rushes, 67 catches).
RB Shane Vereen: 62 (54 rushes, 8 catches). 3 negative run.
TE Rob Gronkowski: 53 (0 rushes, 53 catches).
RB Brandon Bolden: 47 (45 rushes, 2 catches). 7 negative runs.
TE Aaron Hernandez: 46 (1 rush, 45 catches). 2 negative receptions.
WR Julian Edelman: 25 (4 rushes, 21 catches). 1 negative reception, 1 negative run.
QB Tom Brady: 23 (23 rushes, 0 catches.) 23 sacks, 8 kneel downs, 1 negative run.
WR Deion Branch: 13 (0 rushes, 13 catches).
QB Ryan Mallett: 8 (8 rushes, all kneel downs).
TE Daniel Fells: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches).
TE Michael Hoomanawanui: 3 (0 rushes, 3 catches).
TE Kellen Winslow: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch).
WR Donte Stallworth: 1 (0 rushes, 1 catch)
RB Lex Hilliard: 1 (1 rush, 0 catches)
TOTAL: 814 touches (458 rushes, 356 catches): 45 negative plays, plus 23 sacks and 16 kneel downs.

By position
Running back: 471 touches (422 rushes, 49 catches). 36 negative runs, 2 negative reception.
Wide receiver: 206 touches (4 rushes, 202 catches). 3 negative receptions, 1 negative run.
Tight end: 106 touches (1 rush, 105 catches). 2 negative receptions.
Quarterback: 31 touches (31 rushes, 0 catches), 1 negative run.

By way of comparison, here’s a look at how things broke down through 14 games last season.

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