BOSTON (CBS) – Following a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots should have an easier time against the 2-12 Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend.
Just don’t tell that to head coach Bill Belchick.
“We don’t talk a lot about records,” Belichick said on his Tuesday conference call, starting a week of what will be seen as forced-praise for the Jaguars. “We just don’t do it – we didn’t talk about Houston’s record or San Francisco’s record or Jacksonville’s record. It doesn’t really mean anything.”
“What we do is we look at our opponent and try to analyze their strengths and the things that we have to do to be competitive against them and the areas of weakness that we feel like we can attack,” said Belichick. “Whatever their record is doesn’t really matter. Those are against other teams; we didn’t have anything to do with those games. It’s how we match up against them. All our preparation and focus will be on what Jacksonville does well, what we need to stop and where we think we may be able to gain some advantages or have opportunities and how we can hopefully exploit those. That’s really the way we approach every game.”
Tale of the Tape: Patriots vs. Jaguars
“What the team’s record isn’t really very important because the most important game that we’re going to play hasn’t happened yet,” he said.
It might be a little tough for Belichick and his staff to find what exactly the Jaguars do well. On defense they can’t stop the pass, giving up 246 yards per game. They can’t really stop the run either, surrendering 148.1 yards per game — an NFL worst.
Still, the Patriots will find the bright spots on the Jaguars D and hammer them home this week. For one, linebacker Paul Posluszny is filling up the stat sheet on a weekly basis with 122 tackles, two forced fumbles and three interceptions on the season. Fellow linebacker Russell Allen has chimed in with 115 tackles, and newcomer Jason Babin has forced a fumble in each of his two games with Jacksonville since being scooped up from the Philadelphia Eagles.
But when it’s all said and done, the Jaguars are allowing 27.4 points per game — 28th in the NFL.
Things aren’t that much better on the offensive side either. The Jaguars passing game, now led by Chad Henne, ranks 24th in the league with just 201.6 yards per game. Their run game has also struggled, thanks in large part to injuries, averaging just 82.4 rushing yards per game.
But Jacksonville could get Maurice Jones-Drew back in time for Sunday’s game, giving the Patriots a dynamic back to worry about. Jones-Drew leads the Jags with 414 yards on the ground this season, and the Patriots will be preparing for him — as much as they’d like to see him sit another one out.
“I think we all know what type of back he is. I’d say it would probably be good if he waited one more week; I’m sure he could use another few days of rest before he comes back,” Belichick joked. “(He’s got) great speed, balance, strength, a low center of gravity — kind of built like Ray Rice with great lower body strength; hard to knock off his feet, real good balance, good vision, can accelerate through the hole, excellent hands, good coming out of the backfield.”
Should Jones-Drew miss his ninth straight game with a foot injury, it would leave Jacksonville very shorthanded. Rashard Jennings’ status is still uncertain after suffering a concussion almost a month ago against the Bills, so it would be Montell Owens getting the bulk of the carries.
That would put a bigger emphasis on Jacksonville’s pass-attack. Henne did torch the Patriots while with the Dolphins in the 2011 season opener, throwing for 416 yards and two touchdowns, and does have a few receivers that should concern the Patriots secondary. Cecil Shorts is having a great season with four 100-yard games to go with his seven touchdowns, and fifth overall pick Justin Blackmon is enjoying a solid rookie year with 51 receptions for 707 yards.
As Belichick said, the Patriots won’t be looking at the Jaguars 2-12 record, or their lack of offensive firepower or defensive ability. A month ago Jacksonville gave the then 9-1 Texans a scare, taking a two touchdown lead in the fourth quarter before eventually falling in overtime. That will be more than enough for Belichick to keep his team focused, despite the temptation to push this matchup to the side.
“We’ll break down Jacksonville for what they are, the team that they are and the problems that they present, which are numerous, just like we have everybody else,’ said Belichick. “I think the players won’t have any trouble seeing that.”
Tune in to Sunday’s Patriots-Jaguars game at 1pm on WBZ-TV and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Pregame coverage begins on 98.5 with Patriots Preview at 10am, followed by three hours of postgame coverage after the game. WBZ-TV kicks off their coverage at 11:30am with Patriots GameDay, followed by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s postgame press conferences on Patriots 5th Quarter after the game.