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Sideline blowups from Brady, McDaniels and Belichick show Patriots fell apart in every facet against Jaguars

Alex Reimer
September 17, 2018 - 10:45 am

The Patriots have withstood lots of excruciating early-season losses before. Prior to Sunday’s debacle in Jacksonville, each one turned out to just be a hiccup, rather than harbinger of doom. That’s why it’s tempting to dismiss New England’s 31-20 loss to the Jaguars in 97-degree heat as a fluke. 

But it’s apparent the trio of masterminds behind the Patriots’ on-field brilliance –– Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels –– didn’t just take this one in stride. All three men had sideline blowups, demonstrating the apparent frustration that accompanied this drubbing.

After a failed first drive at the conclusion of the first quarter, Brady and McDaniels laid into the offense. The Patriots’ QB yelled at his teammates to “do their job,” echoing one of the organization’s slew of trademarked phrases. Shortly thereafter, McDaniels was spotted screaming at various members of his offense.

It’s not uncharacteristic for Brady or McDaniels to behave histrionically in moments of duress. But given the tension that seemed to cloud over Patriot Place all offseason, it’s difficult to not at least put Brady’s agitation in a larger context. At his postgame presser, Brady put the pressure on his teammates, challenging them to work harder.

“Things just don’t magically happen,” Brady told reporters. “You’ve got to make them happen. All of us have to have more urgency to do things right more often over the course of practices and games, and then it’s a matter of us going out and executing. But it was us. First couple of drives, it was us.”

Brady echoed those sentiments on "Kirk & Callahan" Monday, saying the Patriots need to play with more urgency and competitveness. 

Sunday’s dismal showing may serve as a breaking point for Brady, who's been handed maybe the worst receiving corps of his career at 41 years old. The Jaguars blanketed Rob Gronkowski –– two catches for 15 yards –– leaving Brady to rely on Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and James White to move the ball. While White led the team with seven catches and 73 yards, Patriots wideouts only combined for 11 catches and 104 yards. The lone bright spot was when Hogan caught a touchdown pass in traffic in the third quarter. 

First-round pick Sony Michel, who was an electric pass-catcher out of the backfield at Georgia, received plenty of opportunities to make an impact –– and squandered nearly all of them. He dropped an easy completion in the first quarter that would’ve led to a first-down, and perhaps not coincidently, occurred just minutes before Brady’s verbal fit.

The Patriots’ receiving group won’t look so anemic every week, obviously. Gronk demonstrated he can still dominate in Week 1, and Julian Edelman will be back at the end of the month. But as we know, health isn’t guaranteed for either of those players. If one of them goes down, Sunday’s slog could start to resemble the norm.

The Jaguars tried their hardest to throw the game away. On successive series in the second half, they fumbled, went three-and-out and threw an interception. The Patriots converted the first two into points –– Hogan’s touchdown and a 46-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal –– but Brady was strip-sacked by Dante Fowler Jr. following the Blake Bortles pick. Opportunity squandered.

But the Jaguars still didn’t capitalize after that, giving the Patriots the ball back in two minutes and 41 seconds. And they weren’t done yet. Even though the Pats went three-and-out, and called a curious punt on 4th-and-1, a Jaguars player jumped offsides. But nobody on New England touched him, meaning an encroachment wasn’t called. That miscue prompted Belichick to scold special teams aficionado Brandon King on the sidelines.

While Bortles played an exceptional game against an overmatched Patriots secondary, the Jaguars were still on the verge of handing the contest over. But the Patriots let them off the hook, allowing Dede Westbrook to score a 61-yard touchdown dagger. 

From all vantage points, this was a systematic breakdown, and the Jaguars didn’t even have three of their best offensive players: running back Leonard Fournette, wideout Marquis Lee and left tackle Cam Robinson. Recent history tells us this loss will probably be remembered as a fluke.  

But in two of the last three games, the Patriots defense has surrendered 72 points and 750 yards to Nick Foles and Bortles. So even more recent history tells us they can't stop the pass, and Brady has a mishmash collection of receivers trying to catch his balls. 

The exasperation on Sunday was out there in plain sight.