98 degrees, 70% humidity
Key Decision #1: (NE ball, score tied 0-0 / fourth-and-7 JAC 36 / 11:49 1Q)
• Coming into the game, it was clear that NE’s offensive personnel was not well matched against the Jaguars’ defensive personnel, so holding JAC down offensively would be a key to the game – NE had to keep this game close and avoid playing from behind; they simply don’t have the WRs to threaten JAC.
• We would agree that a pooch punt from this spot on the field would be rare, but a FG miss here would give JAC a very short field. … While NE’s Stephen Gostkowski is an excellent kicker, 54 yards outdoors still is a long try.
• Instead of punting (and NE has an excellent punter and special teams unit, generally), Bill Belichick decided on the long FG try. It missed, JAC took over at their 44-yard line, and immediately converted for a TD and a 7-0 lead that they would never relinquish.
Key Decision #2: (NE ball, trailing 24-13 / third-and-9 JAX 24 / 12:35 4Q)
• NE has all the momentum as JAC has just turned it over; even a FG finally draws NE to within one possession.
• This is an obvious passing down, with JAC DL ready to rush hard.
• The play call for NE here was critical; converting on third-and-long has been hard all day for NE – the matchups just don’t favor them. The decision here was to either go conservative and protect the FG try, or attempt a longer developing play.
• NE chose the longer developing play. JAC DL Dante Fowler (a first-round draft pick) was matched against backup RT LaAdrian Waddle. He beat Waddle, caused a fumble by QB Tom Brady, and JAC recovered. JAC kept a two-possession lead.
Key Decision #3: (NE ball, trailing 24-13 / fourth-and-inches NE 18 / 8:01 4Q)
• There still is time for NE to drive and make it a one-possession game. NE needs eight inches for a first down, and the decision is whether to go for it.
• Belichick decides not to do so, and punts.
• The Jaguars immediately score on the next play and lead 31-13, effectively ending the game.
• JAC offensive game plan was brilliant. They decided to be very aggressive from start to finish, and they spread the ball around all over the field, using WR Keelan Cole and RB Corey Grant effectively all day.
• NE just does not match up, personnel-wise, with JAC at the moment. NE had their chances to climb back into this game, but the margin for error was thin, and head coach Bill Belichick made what we would consider to be some judgments that cost him. In fairness, these decisions were very close calls and could have gone either way, but the personnel mismatch we saw was the deciding factor for us.