by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
As my father used to say (usually after his first sip of cold beer on a summer day), “Not too shabby.”
The Patriots needed a win to seal the AFC East title and did so in convincing fashion, taking a five-touchdown lead before settling for a 35-7 win over the Jaguars.
The win puts New England’s team in good position and their fans in a good mood, as the squad displayed some of their best overall football this season.
Some plays and players worth noting…
Safeties On: Strong games by Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders, epitomized by an early Jacksonville drive. On third and short, Meriweather (six tackles, one interception) stopped an end-around run for no gain; when the Jags went for it on fourth down, Sanders (five tackles) bolted in to bottle up dynamo running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Feeling Welker: Quarterback Tom Brady looked like his old self, and receiver Wes Welker had a lot to do with that. The fleet flea had 13 catches for 138 yards, accounting for most of Brady’s 23 completions (of 26 attempts) and 267 passing yards. Welker now has 122 grabs for the year after missing two games. His underneath routes helped open up Randy Moss for three touchdowns.
Making Ends Meet: Nice to see the tight ends get more involved in the offense, as Chris Baker (two catches, 32 yards, one TD) and Benjamin Watson (one for 14) helped the Patriots offense keep the heat on in the first half.
One Guy Named Mo: After an unfortunate fumble by Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris took over rushing duties and showed his pre-injury form, gaining 95 yards on 12 carries, including a 55-yard hammer-and-sickle run (an apt description of him pounding and slicing the defense; just watch it here) The jaunt set up Morris’ own one-yard touchdown that gave the home team a 21-0 lead.
Rarefied Arrington: For a player who started the season on New England’s practice squad, Kyle Arrington has more than earned his spot on the active roster. The special teams Tasmanian devil always gets to the ball. Arrington got credit for five tackles against Jacksonville and now has 17 in seven games. The guy makes more stops than a school bus.
Springs Into Action: Just in the nick of time, cornerback Shawn Springs has gotten back on the field. His interception at the two-yard-line put an end to Jacksonville’s nine-minute, 16-play drive at the start of the second half that had Pats fans a tad antsy despite the home team’s 28-0 lead.
Banta-Cain Is Comin’ To Town: Better watch out; I’m telling you why. Tully Banta-Cain proved a menace to the opposition once again, tallying five tackles and one sack with a forced fumble on QB David Garrard (19 for 25, 185 yards, two INTs). The team’s most consistent pass rusher has been solid all over the field, something that bodes well for upcoming games.
Oh, There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays: Ah, Perry Como. The Pats should be singing this tune all week after having gone 8-0 at home for the regular season and continuing Brady’s streak of 23-0 in Gillette. As they have nailed down either a third or fourth seed, they have also guaranteed themselves a home playoff game.
Not too shabby.
Email Chris Warner at [email protected]