This week's Christmas festivities and subsequent recovery (K aptly called it, "letting the vacation sink in") make me a Tuesday Morning Quarterback today...a few belated thoughts on this week's Pats performance to clinch the AFC East.
- The Patriots continued their "angry sea of everybody" approach on defense, at times coming to the line with only one or two down linemen. The Jags came out in the third quarter spreading the field more effectively, leading to their only score, but the Patriots did a much better job this week of keeping momentum going in the second half, regrouped, and didn't let the Jags across the goal line again.
- Mike Wright had a pretty good game again this week filling in on the defensive line, and we heard Tully Banta-Cain's name called plenty. But the standout this week on defense was Brandon Meriweather. He earned a key stop on third down in the first quarter, setting up a 4th and 1 the Jags couldn't convert. Up until that point the Jacksonville opening drive had begun to remind me of Buffalo's first-quarter march down the field to start things off last week. Meriweather made a crucial play on a series that set the tone for the rest of the game. He followed this up with an interception on an overthrown deep ball in on the next Jacksonville possession, and combined with swarms of teammates to gang-tackle and neutralize Maurice Jones-Drew.
- Despite the presence of the fearsome John Henderson (6' 7", 335) lining up for Jacksonville, the offensive line gave Brady some truly luxurious time in the pocket. Sebastian Vollmer deserves a lot of the credit for neutralizing Henderson on the right side of the line.
- All day to step up allowed Brady to chew up yards in huge chunks via Wes Wellker over the middle, driving the Jags defense back slowly, methodically, and repeatedly. More than once, Welker put in all the hard work as the offense drove down the field, and then Randy Moss ran a little route over the middle to catch six points in the back of the end zone, without being touched.
- Multiple Twitter reports from the stadium Sunday afternoon described a moment not shown on TV -- apparently a fan in a Randy Moss mask was shown doing Randy's end zone celebration dance on the Jumbo Tron, which Randy himself apparently got a kick out of, doing the little "separation" move on the sideline in response. The crowd was said to be chanting "Rand-y! Rand-y!" Not two weeks ago they were booing the guy like Roger Clemens at Fenway Park; the cynical would call Pats fans fickle. More optimistically it could be said that when your head's back in the game, we forgive and forget quickly.
- At least two of the touchdown plays with Randy over the top in the end zone looked nearly identical. Some smart prognosticators had forecasted a dogfight in this game, but the Jaguars that had been advertised--the Jaguars that had made a game of it against Indy--didn't show up in Foxboro this week.
- The Pats offense also mixed things up a little by going to their tight ends as part of their offensive strategy, no doubt pleasing a good chunk of the callers to WEEI's postgame show. Maybe Belichick has been listening.
- The golden sombrero for the offense went to Laurence Maroney, who did not return to the field after fumbling the ball on the goal line, AGAIN, in the first quarter. On the defensive side of the ball, Jonathan Wilhite continued to be the weakest link, often in coverage when the Jags made first downs on passing plays, and missing some key tackles.
- I don't think anyone expected the Patriots to dominate like this over a team that seemed like a close match. They seem like a different team than the one steamrolled by the Saints just a few weeks ago. They seemed to be playing with more purpose this week, as well as more proficiency; considering how things have looked for the Pats at times this season, you couldn't ask for a more encouraging mood as the team reserves its spot in the playoffs.