6 takeaways from the Patriots’ win over the Jaguars in Week 17

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  • Jacksonville Jaguars
    Jacksonville Jaguars
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  • New England Patriots
    New England Patriots
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  • Trevor Lawrence
    Trevor Lawrence
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  • Mac Jones
    Mac Jones
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The New England Patriots won a game everyone expected them to win, though by an even wider than anyone could have predicted. They beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, 50-10, in Week 17 on Sunday.

With an assist from the Tennessee Titans, who beat the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots managed to clinch a playoff berth. New England made good use of some of their most important players, with quarterback Mac Jones, running backs Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson and cornerback J.C. Jackson enjoying particularly impressive days.

Meanwhile, the opposite was true for Jacksonville, with the Jaguars’ stars, like rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, struggling with production. He threw three interceptions on the day.

Here are our six takeaways from the game on Sunday.

The Patriots are playoff-bound, and that's probably enough to consider this season a success

(Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

New England completely revamped their roster during the offseason, with an unprecedented amount of spending in free agency. It resulted in a total overhaul of the receiver and tight end positions, with boosts at edge, tackle, cornerback and defensive line. And then, of course, they drafted a rookie quarterback at 15th overall.

Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the defensive coaching staff had a lot to do to bring aboard the massive group of offseason additions. But they got it done, acclimating enough of the incomers to ensure they made Belichick’s 18th postseason of his career as Patriots coach. He has never missed the playoffs in back-to-back years in New England. The Patriots helped preserve that record in 2021.

It’s a good year when a rookie quarterback is a part of a playoff team. Belichick has done impressive work with the Patriots, and deserves consideration for Coach of the Year.

Don't read too deeply into the "get-right" narrative that will ensue

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots won handily, and anytime a team wins by 40 points, it’s an impressive performance. New England deserves to celebrate, enjoy and gawk at the lopsided score. But it’s foolish to think this has suddenly cured the Patriots’ woes when it comes to beating tough teams.

Yes, Jones looked confident. And yes, the defense was back to ripping down takeaways. New England still needs to play cleaner games and, simply, show up bigger against playoff-caliber opponents — which the Jaguars seem years from being.

The Patriots blueprint success remains unchanged

(Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

This is a part of the reason why the Patriots’ win shouldn’t really change the perception of the playoff and Super Bowl hopes. New England went back to beating bad opponents in the way they know how: build and protect and early lead. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that when the playoffs roll around, they will likely have to exchange the lead with their opponent — or even play from behind. Those situations have ailed New England, which likes to rely upon his running game and its defense to grind out wins.

Jones and the offense will need to play smarter football — avoiding penalties and turnovers — when playing from behind, not just when they’re ahead.

In the NFL, it’s OK to pick on someone who’s not your size. It’s just that when someone your size does actually enter the stadium, you’ve got to be ready. Until they do that, the Patriots are still what we thought they were: a good but not great team. And that’s OK because they’re on an upward swing behind this new core of players.

Cornerback J.C. Jackson is such a special player

He deserved special mention after logging his eighth interception of the season. It’s not like this is new for him. He had three interceptions in 2018, five in 2019 and nine in 2020. His 25 interceptions in his first four seasons is enough to tie him with Lester Hayes and Everson Walls for the most ever. He can set a new NFL record with an interception in Week 18.

Jackson has risen up the ranks in New England from backup to nickel corner to CB2 to CB1. He is currently one of the NFL’s best. With drama surrounding Gilmore, Jackson shined. New England will be lucky to have him on franchise tag next year, if that’s what they choose to do. Even if he didn’t exactly shut down a No. 1 receiver this Sunday, he managed a crafty interception — and it’s not like he has shied away from top-end receivers when they’re actually on the field.

Any comparison between Mac Jones and Trevor Lawrence is flawed

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

At this point, everyone can just agree that Jones and Lawrence should be judged as two totally different entities? Right?

Anyone saying that Jones, not Lawrence, should have been the Jaguars’ pick at No. 1 is kidding themselves? Agreed?

Coaches are far more influential on the outcomes of high draft picks than they’re willing to admit. A generational talent like Lawrence can both draw justified comparisons to Andrew Luck while also failing in the NFL because the Jacksonville Jaguars ruin his talent. We have not arrived to that point. Hopefully, a new coach will arrive in 2021 and save Lawrence from the most tumultuous situation that a rookie QB has experienced in recent memory. Urban Meyer ran a dumpster-fire organization. If Lawrence fails in the NFL, the blame will likely fall on Jacksonville as much as it does on Lawrence.

Similarly, if Jones succeeds — with his insane diligence and competitiveness but his weak arm strength — it will likely be due in equal parts to the Patriots and the rookie QB. New England is doing everything it can to help this young quarterback succeed. And he’s doing everything they ask. No one cares about credit.

That said, let's give the QB credit. Mac Jones was pretty darn good on Sunday.

Put an asterisk on the performance. (You probably should.) But this was still an impressive game from Mac Jones, who fired the ball all over the field with excellent ball placement. He did well putting the ball in place while running and throwing off-platform. Jones dropped a few beautiful deep balls in for Wilkerson, one of which was a drop. And Jones fired a beauty to Jakobi Meyers in the end zone that only the receiver could haul in.

Jones was able to work the ball outside the numbers and downfield at an impressive rate.

It was as complete game from the youngster and a performance that Belichick was clearly intent upon celebrating. He gave Jones huge kudos after the game.

“A lot of consistency and great work ethic and really pays attention to details and has just improved in every area throughout the course of the year,” Belichick said postgame. “Continues to improve on a daily basis. He’s just a really great person to coach because he’s so responsive to trying to do everything the way that you want to do it. Josh [McDaniels] has done a fantastic job with him, and Mac has really, I think, embraced the wisdom that Josh has transmitted to him, and he played extremely well today.”

Belichick has been reluctant to show love for Jones. This heaving dosage of praise means the Patriots coach is genuinely impressed.

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