If that looked like it was harder than it should have been, your eyes did not deceive you.
Safety Patrick Chung intercepted Jaguars’ quarterback Chad Henne twice in as many drives – with a couple of big assists from defensive end Chandler Jones – as the New England Patriots hung on to nip a determined and physical Jaguars squad in Jacksonville, 23-16.
The Jaguars also a hand in their own demise.
With a 3rd and goal inside the Patriots one yard line with 4:00 left in the game, tight end Zach Potter committed a false start penalty, then from the 6 yard line, linebacker Dont’a Hightower sacked Henne to set up a 4th and goal from the 10. Henne’s arm was hit by Jones as he released the ball on the ensuing play and Chung picked off the wobbler at the goal line to end that threat.
But the Patriots sluggish offense couldn’t run out the clock and Jacksonville got the ball back with with just under a minute left.
Henne moved the Jaguars down the field quickly to the Patriots 12 yard line with enough time for two shots at the end zone to tie the game, but Jones again forced a bad throw with his relentless pass rush on a stunt up the middle and Chung intercepted his floater in the end zone to end the game.
On a day when the Patriots were missing several defensive starters, including both starting cornerbacks, Chad Henne threw for 348 yards on a 29 of 51 performance that included one touchdown but 3 interceptions.
Tom Brady had a rough day for New England, absorbing several direct shots from the Jaquars’ pass rush. Throwing 41 times, Brady completed 24 for 267 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions as the Patriots squeaked by to raise their record to 11-4.
Stevan Ridley ran hard and kept the ball high and tight, gaining 84 yards on 18 carries. Brady targeted him on a floating pass on the sidelines that Ridley couldn’t pull in, tipped in the air, and was intercepted by Jaguars’ safety Chris Prosinski. Brady’s other interception came on bad read over the middle, Derek Cox stepping in front of Wes Welker.
Jacksonville scored first, taking the opening kickoff and driving 78 yards in 9 plays, Henne hitting wide receiver Justin Blackmon for 3 yards and a 7-0 lead. A Josh Scobee 41 yard field goal later and looking up at a 10-0 deficit, the Patriots got on the board with a Stephen Gostkowski 25 yard field goal.
Jacksonville matched field goals with New England before the Patriots’ offense finally sparked to life, Brady hitting Danny Woodhead with a 14 yard strike for a 13 all tie at halftime.
Gostkowski kicked another field goal and Brady hit Wes Welker with a 2 yard scoring toss to provide New England with a 10 point lead, setting up Jones’ and Chung’s heroics.
The Patriots got an assist from the Minnesota Vikings in the race for playoff seeding as the Vikings crushed the Houston Texans. The Texans’ loss leaves them just one game ahead of New England for a top 2 seed and a 1st round bye. The Patriots still have to beat Miami next Sunday and hope that Houston loses in Indianapolis for that to transpire.
A loss by Denver to Cleveland this afternoon would put the Patriots in good position for a top 2 seed as well, but to beat Miami next week is going to take a significantly better performance from a beat up Patriots’ team.