Sunday, September 27, 2015

Brady, Gostkowski Make History As Patriots Punk Jaguars

Tom Brady on Sunday became only the fourth quarterback to throw for 400 touchdowns.
The New England Patriots scored on every possession they had against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday afternoon.

Well, almost every possession - there was the final series where Jimmy Garoppolo traded in his clipboard for the pigskin, kneeling down twice to kill the final minute of the game - but the Victory Formation doesn't count. Or maybe it does, but either way you want to look at it, to score on nine consecutive possessions to start the game is mighty impressive.

For the third week in a row, the Patriots offense has proven to be increasingly unstoppable, going from scoring 28 points against the Pittsburgh Steelers to 40 last Sunday at Buffalo, topping off the season-starting trifecta approaching juggernaut status by hanging 51 on the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Next week the Patriots face the only thing that will be able to hold them down, as an early-season bye will keep that offense off the field - which was the only chance that Jacksonville had of staying in the game on Sunday - but they even lost the time of possession battle by a wide margin, scoring only 17 points in the process, seven of those in garbage time with New England in their three-deep shell.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady again had his way with an opposing secondary, going 33 of 42 for 358 yards and two touchdowns as his vendetta tour against the league continued at record pace, his two scoring strikes both notable as his first to Danny Amendola was the 400th of his career, while his second to the newest Patriot Keyshawn Martin was Martin's first NFL touchdown,

Amendola actually gave away Brady's historic ball to a fan after scoring, but Brady said he didn't care and Amendola admitted he wasn't aware of his gaffe. "I didn't realize until I was halfway back to the sidelines that I gave the 400 ball away, but we got it back, so it's all good." Amendola said with a shrug.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski continued his torrid pace as well, smothering four of Brady's offerings in his huge mitts for 101 yards, while Julian Edelman contributed his usual yeoman-like effort in catching eight balls for 85 yards and running back Dion Lewis pitched in with five receptions for 30 yards.

The Patriots ground game finally found its legs against a stout Jacksonville front seven, with LeGarrette Blount coming on as the designated clock killer in the second half to post 75 yards on 18 carries and scoring three times, while Lewis contributed 37 yards in eight carries but seeing his lowest snap total of the young season, giving way to Blount and passing back James White, who had 34 yards in six touches.

Defensively, the formerly porous New England run stoppers held the second-ranked Jaguras to just 57 yards on 20 carries, a 2.6 ypc average, while keeping second-year signal caller Blake Bortles in check while it mattered, with 80 of his 242 passing yards coming on Jacksonville's last possession, a scoring drive that came against the Patriots version of the prevent.

Coming into the game, Bortles had thrown an interception in each of his previous games, and had two very close calls before safety Devin McCourty picked off  a badly underthrown ball deep in the second quarter with the Patriots lead standing at just ten, setting up Brady and the New England offense with good field position near midfield, that Brady quickly turned into his 400th career scoring toss to Amendola.

In all, Brady led the Patriots on touchdown drives of 64, 57, 67, 80, 24 and 58 yards, the last of which was the most impressive of the afternoon - a 17 play effort that took nearly ten minutes off the clock, converting five third downs while mixing eight passes with nine runs, helping to tie a franchise record with 35 first downs for the game.

With the defense forcing Jacksonville to a three-and-out on their first series, the Patriots offense went 65 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead, Gronkowski accounting for 53 of those yards on two receptions, one a 43 yard catch-and-run up the seam, Lewis running the ball in from eight yards out to give the Patriots a lead they would not relinquish.

Two Stephen Gostkowski field goals capped the next two possessions for New England, sandwiching a 17-play, 58 yard field goal drive for Jacksonville to make the score 13-3 in the second quarter, the Jaguars driving for what would have been at least for a field goal, but McCourty's interception turned the momentum of the game and Brady's scoring strike to Amendola 1:29 later gave New England a 20-3 lead going into the rooms at halftime...

...another Gostkowski field goal got the second half started, with a one-play, 67 yard "drive" for a touchdown to run New England's total to 30 points following, 66 of those yards coming on two pass interference calls on Jacksonville to get the ball to the Jaguars' one yard line, where Blount powered into the end zone for his first of three scores on the day.

Bortles responded on his next series with a gorgeous 59 yard pitch and catch for a Jacksonville touchdown, receiver Allen Hurns finding a soft spot in the Patriots zone between a leaping Malcolm Butler and safety Duron Harmon, the latter overrunning the play, leaving Hurns nothing but green as the Jaguars closed the gap to twenty points.

But Brady found Martin for a 13 yard score on the Patriots' next series - after which Gostkowski set a new NFL record by nailing his 423rd consecutive point after - then Blount scored on consecutive possessions to close out the game.

After three games, Brady is 96 of 133 for 1112 yards and nine touchdowns, all except the touchdown total on pace to smash his career high numbers.

His average of 32 completions on 44 attempts would net him personal bests of 512 completions on an insane 704 attempts, eclipsing personal bests set in 2012 by a wide margin, the difference of which will see him complete 72% of his passes, which would also be a career high.

At his current pace, Brady will approach 6000 passing yards and will lead this offense to 635 points, far and away the best in franchise history, but he's not doing his numbers any favors by letting his running backs find paydirt, as LeGarrette Blount scored three touchdowns on short runs and Dion Lewis broke a few ankles on an eight-yard run to get things started, as on this pace he will fall a couple short of his record 50 passing touchdowns.

But Brady isn't thinking about records, though he became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to eclipse the 400 touchdown plateau, and could have had plenty more were it not for that darned running game.

"I've always said that I don't care whether we run it in or throw it in," Brady said after the game, "As long as we score points and we're winning, it makes it fun for me, so I'm happy."

The Patriots are most assuredly scoring points and no team has won as much as the Patriots have since the turn of the century, so that must mean that Brady is having more fun than anyone else in the game, and judging from the pace he's set for himself and elevated skill level he's demonstrating, he's likely to have more fun than anyone else for years to come.

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