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Week 16 Risers and Fallers: Pats Come Out Flat, Nearly Blow it Against Jags

So much for redemption. 

Anyone who thought the Patriots would take out their frustrations about last week's loss to the 49ers had to have grown a few more grey hairs Sunday as New England barely beat the lowly Jaguars in Jacksonville. 

Missing Brandon Spikes and Alfonzo Dennard, New England's defense allowed 436 total yards, including 348 yards by Dolphins castoff Chad Henne. 

Though New England picked off the former Michigan star three times, it wasn't a day to write home about defensively. 

The pass rush was nonexistent and too often there were gaping holes in New England's suddenly soft defense. 

Those problems didn't compare to the complete lack of execution by the offense. And for the first time in a while, Tom Brady was one of the main culprits. 

Brady just seemed off Sunday, missing too many open targets and forcing a few too many throws. 

Ultimately the Jags beat themselves, but this wasn't a performance Bill Belichick will be happy about. 

Let's take a look at this week's risers and fallers. 

 

Risers 

1. Wes Welker, WR: The best slot man in the NFL proved to be too much for the Jaguars secondary to handle. In racking up 88 yards on 10 receptions, Welker broke Jerry Rice's record for most games (18) with 10 or more receptions. The sure-handed Welker was one of the only sure things for New England on Sunday. 

2. Dont'a Hightower, LB: Although he still has lapses in coverage, the 25th overall pick stood out in run defense and as a pass rusher. Hightower filled the stat sheet with six tackles, a sack, one quarterback hit and a pass defended. The former Alabama Crimson Tide star has shown plenty of growth potential as a rookie, and he will be counted on to keep producing as New England heads to the playoffs. 

3. Stevan Ridley, RB: He couldn't find the end zone, but he held on to the ball Sunday. New England's top tailback still earned the majority of the snaps in the Patriots' crowded backfield and made the most of them. Ridley carried the rock 18 times for 84 yards (4.7 average), eating up all but nine of the Patriots' 27 rushing attempts. 

4. Marquice Cole, CB: Often overshadowed by Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty, Marquice Cole has quietly been an integral part of the Patriots secondary in 2012. The slot corner earned big snaps Sunday with Dennard out and Talib playing limited snaps, and the former Jet responded with a very solid performance. Cole recorded six tackles (two for loss) and snagged his first interception of the season. 

 

Fallers

1. Offensive Line: In what's become a troubling trend, the offensive line failed to open up much room in the ground game and allowed too much pressure on Tom Brady. After picking up just 95 yards against the 49ers last week, New England's running game managed just 103 yards and a paltry 3.8-yard average. Brady was also under duress on the afternoon, as the Jags' sorry pass rush managed to bring him down three times. 

2. Tom Brady, QB: Yes folks. He's human too. Brady didn't play a great game Sunday, and he'd be the first to tell you so. Although Tom tossed two more touchdowns, he also tossed two more picks to make it four in his last two games. The first one was kind of a fluke play, but the second one seemed like a bit of a forced pass to Brandon Lloyd, who probably should have taken a better angle to the ball. Brady posted his second-lowest QBR rating of the season. Besides the blowout victory against Houston, Brady has recorded quarterback ratings of 74.8, 68.9 and 73.9 in his last three outings. 

3. Pass Rush: Outside of some late pressure by Chandler Jones, New England's defensive front failed to put any pressure on Chad Henne. Jones, who's been stuck on six sacks for over two months, finally got to Henne on the Jaguars' last two drives, but it was almost too little too late. Vince Wilfork didn't dominate like we've grown accustom to seeing, and Rob Ninkovich was held to a quiet two tackles. New England could really use Jermaine Cunningham's pass-rush skills in a hurry and would benefit from Jones resuming his strong play from the first half of the season.

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