JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The New England Patriots look to rebound from a rare December loss when they play the Jaguars on Sunday.
New England rallied from a 31-3 deficit a week ago to tie San Francisco but ultimately suffered a 41-34 setback to snap its seven-game winning streak. The loss crippled New England’s hopes of securing the top seed in the AFC but still exemplified what a powerhouse offense the Patriots possess. New England racked up 407 yards of offense in the second half against the stout defense of the 49ers.
Jacksonville is clearly playing out the string and it got little going offensively last week in a 24-3 loss at Miami. Even when Jacksonville made some positive plays, penalties proved costly and negated an early touchdown. Chad Henne has played well since taking over for Blaine Gabbert under center but Jacksonville has just one win at home and has established no offensive rhythm since running back Maurice Jones-Drew was injured in Week 7. Jones-Drew has began running but remains a long shot to play on Sunday and will likely again be replaced by former University of Maine star Montell Owens.
TV: 1 p.m. ET. CBS.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-4): Despite an uncharacteristic sloppy first half when it scored just three points, the Patriots did little to derail its top-ranked offense last week. New England went over 500 points for the season but turned the ball over four times in the game and it ultimately cost them. The Patriots were also hurt by four long touchdown passes by Colin Kaepernick, which will once again raise concerns about their suspect defense. New England is now the third seed in the AFC and it could find itself on the road after the first round of the playoffs.
ABOUT THE JAGUARS (2-12): Jones-Drew still leads the team in rushing even though he hasn’t played in two months due to a foot injury. Jacksonville has just one win since September in what is its worst season in franchise history. Last week the Jags had the ball just 14 minutes in the final three quarters and had one score negated due to an illegal substitution penalty and another taken off the board via replay when Cecil Shorts was ruled out of bounds. As it turned out, Jacksonville didn’t score on either possession and the Dolphins cruised to the win. Henne’s best game as a pro came against the Patriots, and he’s thrown for over 300 yards in three of his four starts against New England, all coming as a member of Miami.
INJURY REPORT: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will not play in Sunday’s game, The Boston Globe reported Friday. Gronkowski has practiced for the past week on a limited basis while he continues his recovery from a broken forearm. There’s a chance that Gronkowski could return for the regular-season finale against Miami, NFL.com reported. Gronkowski suffered the injury on Nov. 18 and has missed four games. The Patriots have gone 3-1 in his absence, losing to San Francisco on Monday night.
In 10 games this season, Gronkowski has 53 catches for 748 yards and 10 touchdowns.
EXTRA POINTS: New England won the last meeting 35-7 back in 2009. … Tom Brady threw for 443 yards last week and has at least one TD pass in his last 46 games. … Shorts needs 75 yards to become the first Jags receiver to reach 1,000 yards since Jimmy Smith in 2005.