JACKSONVILLE - With 4:06 remaining and the Jaguars on the Patriots 1-yard line facing third-and-1, they made the kind of mistake that two-win teams make in December.
Tight end Zach Potter jumped offsides. The penalty pushed the Jags back into a third-and-5. From there, a Donta Hightower sack and a hurry by Chandler Jones led to a pick in the end zone and the Jags got nothing.
After the game, Jaguars head coach Mike Mularkey alleged that the Patriots shifted and used a verbal cadence that drew Potter offsides. That, Mularkey said is against the rules and should have been flagged, per a conversation he had with officials before the game.
According to Mularkey, the shift was fine. The cadence he alleged the Patriots used, was not.
"That was disappointing because that was brought up to the officials before the game that they were going to do that," said Mularkey. "They were going to shift illegally - not illegally - but line up and shift with the intent to draw the offense offsides and blurt out a cadence as they're doing it. ... That was addressed. We practiced it. We practiced it the whole week, those guys shifting with the cadence. They were informed it was coming. Obviously, (the officials) didn't call it and we jumped. But we practiced that. Very frustrating. I will not bring those things up with the officials anymore. We are going to get a time check and who the captains are and move on."
Asked if what the Patriots did was illegal, Mularkey said, "It's only illegal if they throw a flag. It's illegal in the book if they blurt out a cadence.
Mularkey said the officials told him they "couldn't hear the cadence."
Bill Belichick has a pair of young quarterbacks dealing with injuries at the moment. Jimmy Garoppolo was inactive for Thursday's win over the Texans due to a Grade 2 AC joint sprain he endured in Week 2 against the Dolphins, and Jacoby Brissett sustained a minor injury to his right thumb in his first pro start last week.
Asked if he was concerned about either player being available for New England's Week 4 contest against the Bills, Belichick didn't provide much in the way of hints one way or another.
"Well, we'll all give our injury report on Wednesday, as we always do, as we're required to do," Belichick said. "Based on where things are at that point, that'll be represented in the report."
If there's concern over both quarterbacks as the team gets closer to its final game without Tom Brady, it may be forced to add a quarterback so as not to subject an emergency option, like receiver Julian Edelman, to extended snaps behind center.
Six days – four quarters of football – remain in Tom Brady’s four-game suspension.
The fact is the Patriots are 3-0 and have gotten a long – and enjoyable – look at their quarterback depth behind Brady. Brady, meanwhile, has gotten a chance to shave one-quarter off the season-long wear-and-tear he takes.
But highlighting silver linings and pointing out there’s not much sand left in the suspension hourglass is no real consolation. Said one team source Thursday night, “It’s never going to go away.”
What’s Brady been up to? Mixing family time and working out. He’s routinely spent four hours a day training, I’m told, presumably with his body coach Alex Guerrero at TB12 Sports Performance at Patriot Place. Also, aside from his Sunday session with Wes Welker, Brady’s been throwing to young college players at undisclosed locations, eschewing the opportunity to bring in some of the “name” former players who’ve reached out and offered their services.
Spotted in Italy with wife Gisele Bundchen last week, Brady’s also been back home in San Mateo visiting with his family.
Speaking to two people close to him, I was told he succeeded in making peace with the time off and avoiding the creep of too much bitterness. I was also told he’s unbelievably motivated to return at a high level and wants his transition back to be seamless in terms of performance and conditioning. That last part is, of course, to be expected. But it will be interesting to see how Brady does perform out of the gates after a month’s forced exile.
NINKOVICH RETURNS, TOO
The lesser of the two suspended prodigal sons set to return next week – Rob Ninkovich – is no doubt going to benefit physically from the quarter-season vacation as well. And the defensive ends who’ve performed well in his absence – Jabaal Sheard and especially Chris Long – will do well to have Ninkovich back in the mix. Mention should also be made of Trey Flowers who has shown up in opponent’s backfields on a weekly basis. It depends on what your personal cup of tea might be, but through three games, Long seems to me a much better defensive fit for this team than Chandler Jones. Jones was the more explosive pass-rusher but Long’s ability in the running game, and his play-in, play-out impact in applying pressure on the tackle in front of him makes it seem so far as if he’s an upgrade.
NEW DEALS AHEAD?
Still no word on which Patriot may be in line for a new deal since the team restructured Devin McCourty and freed up some cap space.
Donta Hightower, Malcolm Butler and Jamie Collins have been seen as the most likely targets for extensions and a redo of Hightower at this point would whittle down his $7M cap number and possibly allow another extension to be executed for either Collins or Butler, as our Phil Perry pointed out. Jabaal Sheard, meanwhile, is the Patriot who flies under the radar when extension talk starts. He may be every bit as important to the success of the Patriots defense as the other three.
The Bills are 0-2, the natives are beyond restless in Buffalo and the Cardinals are in Western New York on Sunday. The Bills are expected to play without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and are a team staring into the esophagus of 0-3 with a visit to the Patriots coming next week. Have a gander at the Bills Mailbag in the Buffalo News. Seems like years since Rex was all giddy about the paint job on his new truck. It was less than 19 months ago.