Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 11:29PM
By Matt Waldman, TheSportsHatch.com writer
The Patriots got their offense back on track at the Razor, securing a playoff spot after dominating the Jacksonville Jaguars, 35-7 and greatly lessening the importance of this week's game against the Houston Texans.
A steady rain fell throughout the first half, so the Patriots went to their running game early and often. New England drove down field with authority on their first possession, mixing crisp Tom Brady passes with tough runs by Laurence Maroney.
The Pats' fortunes were looking good until Maroney fumbled on the 1 yard line. He didn't see the field for the rest of the day.
The Jags did nothing with that opportunity and the Patriots got the ball back to set up their first touchdown of the afternoon. The Patriots defense did a great job containing the very dangerous Maurice Jones-Drew, holding him to just 63 yards rushing.
The Patriots employed four running backs for this game, which could be an indication of their playoff strategy. Sammy Morris was impressive with a 55-yard rush (New England's longest of the day) that set up a touchdown.
Pats' receiver Wes Welker showed why he's the best possession receiver in the league this year following another great performance. Welker posted 15 catches for 138 yards despite taking some huge shots over the middle.
But the best Patriots' news of the day was that Tom Brady was back playing at his championship level. Brady spread the ball around to multiple receivers and threw 4 touchdown passes. The Brady-Moss combo was simply unstoppable and for the 4th week in a row, the offensive line kept Brady clean and upright.
As for how the team will approach the Texans game this week. Tom Brady addressed the issue of playing time on WEEI's Dennis and Callahan show earlier this week. “It doesn't really matter what I think or say. As you know it isn't really a democracy in Foxboro. Coach Belichick makes those decisions.”
There is no doubt the Patriots starters will take some snaps on Sunday, but Belichick will take the opportunity to give much needed game experience to the reserves. Their key is to rest up and get set for the playoffs. Right now, the Patriots are not the best team in the AFC by a long shot. But anything can happen on any given Sunday, especially in the playoffs.