Curran: More questions as game-to-game play varies


JACKSONVILLEWe can go round-and-round on this all day, cant we?

The Patriots played like warm doo-doo Sunday in Jacksonville and won. Of course, the Jaguars pushed the AFCs No. 1 seed Houston to overtime a few weeks back IN Houston before losing.

Yet, since that win, Houston has gone 2-3 and been de-pantsed on national TV by the Patriots, so what does that all mean?

And whats it mean that Denverthe hottest team in the NFL with 10 straight winswas beaten by the Patriots back in October? And who has Denver played recently? Cleveland, Baltimore, Oakland, Tampa, Kansas City, San Diego (twice), Carolina, New Orleans and Cincinnati. Some OK teams, but no juggernauts, right?

Then check out the Niners. They mopped the floor with the Patriots for a half, got the mop turned on them and then survived at New England last week? And now the best team in the NFL for six days has taken a whipping at the hands of Seattle. And the Patriots muddled their way to a one-point loss out in Seattle that they certainly should have won.

So who is what, exactly? And what do all these games mean? Are they not evidence of something? Cant they be used as indicators of future performance? In a word, no. Or in two words, not always.

Game-to-game momentum means nothing. The game a team brings to the stadium in their NEXT game is all that matters. And, of course, what their opponent brings matters as well.

This preamble is meant to highlight the fact that the Patriots performance in Jacksonville will mean nothing in two weeks. Wakeup call or harbinger of doom? Flat performance or a sign the team plateaued. Anyone who says they KNOW is lying. And wringing your hands raw about what will happen if, if, if, well have fun with that.

All that said, Sunday in Jacksonville? Not that awesome.

We gotta do better, said special teams ace Matthew Slater. A win is a win but you better learn lessons in your wins. If we play like that, our season isnt gonna go much longer. We know that.

Hats off to (the Jaguars) they competed, they played well, but we just didnt play our best football, Slater added. We were a little off here, a little off there. And that adds up.

The Patriots were flat from the jump. Missing their starting cornersAlfonzo Dennards knee left him inactive, Aqib Talibs hip made him uselessthe stars were aligned for Jaguars journeyman Chad Henne to have a big day. He did, throwing for 348 yards. The Jags put up 202 yards of offense in the first quarter as Tom Brady got picked twice.

The sack-challenged Jags battered Brady, sacking him three times, hitting him nine. The interior of the Patriots offensive lineDan Connolly in particularhas had better days.

Meanwhile the Jaguars were throwing the kitchen sink at the Patriots in terms of unused formations and a hurry-up offense. The Patriots settled down eventually and got some big plays down the stretch from players who were silent most of the dayChandler Jones and Donta Hightowerbut it was a disturbing reminder of how important the midseason pickup of Talib has been. And how much Dennard and Brandon Spikesalso inactive because of a knee injuryare as well.

I dont know if we came flat or what but it showed we wasnt ready to go and when that happens you really have to buckle down and play football, said Vince Wilfork. I think sometimes we did. Sometimes we didnt. But like I said, these guys gave it everything we had to the last minute. Im proud of the way it went, but at the end of the day it wont be good enough.

Two weeks ago, there wasnt a person willing to suggest the Patriots werent the best team in the AFC after the Houston ripping. Last weeks start against San Francisco caused that perception to slip. By Sunday at 5 p.m. EST, the Houston game was rendered wholly irrelevant.

Were the Patriots flat after their run of prime-time games and a pair of hyped matchups with Houston and San Fran?

Im not buying any of it, said Slater. We have a job to do at all times. Doesnt matter who were playing, where were playing, what time were playing. The time of the year it is. We have to perform. Thats what were paid to do and it just wasnt up to par today.

We understand that if we play like that its not gonna last much longer, Slater added. We all understand that. Being upset is not gonna help anything really, ever. You can hoot and holler all you want but we gotta get done what we gotta get done. Simple as that.

Said Wilfork, Were a lot better than what we showed today. We gotta get it moving.

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