EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 28, 2009

Two-minute drill

Two-minute drill

Big Shows

1. Tom Brady — Near-flawless performance at a time when his team needed it most. Championship effort, going 23 of 26 for 267 yards.

2. Wes Welker — Best player on the field again with 13 catches (in 13 throws to him) for 138 yards.

3. Brandon Meriweather — Game-changer with a thumping tackle to stuff a reverse early and a huge interception and return. Ended with six solo tackles.

4. James Sanders — Got turned loose in the box and made the Jaguars pay. Huge fourth-down hit. Four unassisted tackles. Broke up two passes.

5. Randy Moss — Finished drives off with three TDs.

6. Sammy Morris — Carried 12 times for 95 yards with a long of 55.

7. Tully Banta-Cain — Active and attacking ferociously from the edge. Four solos and one sack.

8. Jerod Mayo — Best game of the year with 11 solos on gains that averaged 5.2 yards apiece.

9. Junior Seau — Even though Maurice Jones-Drew didn't have the football, it was still a great hit by a 40-year-old man.

10. Adalius Thomas — Three solos, including one for a loss.

11. Julian Edelman — If he can stay on the field without dropping the football, he's the answer at the No. 3 receiver spot.

12. Chris Baker — His most productive game as a Patriot with two catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.

No Shows

1. Laurence Maroney — Fumble on the goal line. You're on the pine and the only No Show during an otherwise flawless day.

Grading the Groups

Offense

Line (A) ... Brilliant day handling Jacksonville's three-man rush, and the running game chewed up 5.5 yards per carry in a 197-yard day.

Backs (A) ... Suddenly, it's a group that looks very dangerous, the way Sammy Morris and Kevin Faulk handled the load yesterday.

Quarterback (A+) ... Vintage Tom Brady. Four TDs and just three incompletions.

Receivers (A+) ... When the QB averages 10.3 yards per attempt, the receivers are making plays.

Defense

Line (A) ... Solid job shutting down the running lanes for Maurice Jones-Drew. Good pressure on David Garrard all game.

Linebackers (A+) ... Flew to the football, swarmed on ballcarriers. Held Jacksonville to just 98 rushing yards.

Defensive Backs (A+) ... The bottom line is Jacksonville scored an inconsequential seven points in a game that was a battle for the Jaguars' playoff lives.

Coaching (A-) ... Tom Brady and the lead guys probably shouldn't have seen the field in the second half, but the way Jacksonville was playing, the only real chance of injury was a freak ankle twist on an overzealous celebratory body bump.

Hot Reads

As expected, the 7-8 Jaguars crossed the Mason-Dixon Line and rolled over to play dead for the seventh straight time here in Foxboro.

New England didn't need Miami's loss at Houston this week. The Patriots claimed the AFC East title on their own.

Did the Patriots draw anything out of yesterday's 35-7 walkover, though?

From this corner, I just don't see it. This franchise has never struggled beating fraudulent teams at Gillette Stadium.

Go to Houston, win there. Knock off a team that needs a win to reach the playoffs while on the road, and we can get excited about the next month.

Of course, that's probably not going to happen.

Bill Belichick will most likely rest everyone he can in a game that means little to this team next week. Third seed, fourth seed, either way you're taking to the road after Wild Card weekend.

The legend of Chris Canty lives

First, Jacksonville's Anthony Smith struts like a proud rooster after pounding Wes Welker. Nice hit? Sure, good for a Patriots first down.

Next play, Smith has one-on-one on Randy Moss and gets toasted for the first TD of the game.

It's a shocker to me that Smith is with his fourth team in four seasons. Really.

The return of Big Ben

Not Watson.

We're talking about Coates here.

Watching Chris Baker rumble down the middle of the field, shove a defender aside with two hands and catch a TD pass brought back memories of old Ben Coates. There was no finesse, just production.

Playoff Picture

The four division winners in the AFC are set with Indianapolis locked into the top seed and San Diego at No. 2. AFC North champ Cincinnati and the Patriots will be the 3rd and 4th seeds, hosting playoffs on wild card weekend. If both teams win next week, the Patriots would be the No. 3.

The Wild Cards are still up for grabs with the New York Jets, Denver, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Houston all alive at 8-7.