Despite a somewhat respectable second half comeback, the Patriots suffered their first loss of the season in a 30-21 setback to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Playing in Florida and with a heat index surpassing 100 degrees at kickoff, New England didn’t heat up until late in the third quarter – by which time it was down 24-3.
Stephon Gilmore pried a ball loose from the grasp of DJ Chark, leading to a Chris Hogan touchdown reception with 1:42 to go in the quarter. The Patriots then forced the Jaguars to go three-and-out, followed by a Stephen Gostkowski 46-yard field goal to make it 24-13 Jacksonville.
Blake Bortles threw an interception on the second play of the ensuing series for the Jaguars, with Kyle Van Noy coming up with the ball for New England. But a Dante Fowler strip sack after he beat LaAdrian Waddle along the edge halted any true chance at a Patriots comeback along the lines of the last time these teams met in the AFC Championship Game.
New England erased a 10-point fourth quarter deficit in January, when Tom Brady dialed up Danny Amendola for a pair of scores to send the Patriots to the Super Bowl. With no Amendola at his disposal this time around, Brady and the offense never got into a rhythm on Sunday.
To make matters worse for New England, the team couldn’t even escape Jacksonville healthy. Two defensive starters, Trey Flowers and Patrick Chung, left the game with concussions in the first half and didn't return. Deatrich Wise Jr. also left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent hand injury.
Brady finished 24 for 35 for 234 yards and two touchdown passes, each of which went to Hogan.
After catching a pass on the first play from scrimmage, Rob Gronkowski finished his day with just two catches for 15 yards. He routinely faced double and even triple coverage, seldom getting the one-on-one matchup fans clamored for with Jalen Ramsey.
James White was New England's leading receiver, hauling in seven passes for 73 yards. Phillip Dorsett followed up last week's breakout with five catches for 44 yards, the five grabs enough to help him match his total of 12 from all of last season through two games.
In his NFL debut, Sony Michel had 10 carries for 34 yards and one catch for seven yards for the Patriots.
Bortles finished with the third-highest total of passing yards for his career with 377 and threw for four touchdown passes. He threw three in the first half, targeting a different New England defender in one-on-one coverage in each instance: first Gilmore, then Eric Rowe and finally Chung.
The Patriots play on Sunday Night Football next week on the road, where they’ll pay a visit to the Detroit Lions and old friend Matt Patricia. The Lions are off to an 0-2 start with Patricia as their head coach.