1. Justin Blackmon is improving. The rookie wide receiver has shown signs in the second half of the season, and he continues to show those signs. He’s not all the way there yet. He needs a lot of growth and progress in the offseason, but if he can build on what he has done, he has a chance to be very effective.
2. This team hasn’t quit. There were some troubling signs the last month when the Jaguars came out of halftime and got dominated on both sides of the ball. The Patriots had rallied in the second quarter, and seemed poised for a big third quarter. Instead, the Jaguars’ defense played well enough to keep the Patriots close and the Jaguars very nearly tied the game in the fourth quarter.
3. When Derek Cox is good, he’s really good. It was easy to forget because Cox struggled at times with injuries throughout the course of the season, but when he’s right, he’s one of the AFC’s better cornerbacks. He had an interception on Sunday and was all over Brandon Lloyd much of the game. The Jaguars asked Cox to take away Lloyd; for the most part, he did.
4. Adversity can be handled. Too often this season, one bad play meant the Jaguars’ opponent was running away with the game. The Jaguars had several plays go against them Sunday. The difference on Sunday was they never let that turn into more bad plays. That’s a positive sign.
5. Bryan Anger is good. Yeah, the pick can be second-guessed – and probably will be for a long time. And yeah, we know people get tired of hearing about the punter. But the rookie punted four times Sunday for a 56.3-yard average *and* had two downed inside the 20. If he’s not a Pro Bowler as a rookie, he has a good chance to be one for a lot of years.
6. Jordan Shipley might have a future here. No one knows what the offseason will bring for the Jaguars, but Shipley could be that rare midseason acquisition who sticks around. He had five receptions for a team-high 82 yards Sunday and was a hair away from a 100-yard game. When the Jaguars started moving offensively in the fourth quarter, Shipley was a big reason.
7. The Jaguars can catch a pass from Tom Brady. Entering the game, Brady had thrown 13 touchdowns with no interceptions in five games against the Jaguars. On Sunday, the Jaguars intercepted him twice in the first quarter. Not coincidentally, the Jaguars pretty much stayed with New England the whole game Sunday. Turnovers turn games.
8. The Jaguars can rush the passer. It’s clearly too little too late, but the Jaguars’ pass rush on Sunday looked like the team expected it to look all season. It wasn’t dominating the entire game, but it got pressure in the second half enough to keep the Jaguars in the game when the Jaguars’ offense was struggling. Credit the staff for mixing in just enough blitzes to complement a pass rush that got some good pressure from the down linemen.
9. The line hasn’t forgotten how to run block – or pass block, for that matter. The offense line, maligned much of the season, had one of its best games of the season. Not only did the Jaguars average four yards a carry – and the team ran very effectively at times – the Jaguars allowed just one sack. Henne was under a bit too much pressure at times, but overall, this was a better day from a unit than most of the games this season.
10. Daryl Smith matters. The Jaguars’ best defensive player missed the first 14 games of the season. They entered Sunday 31st in the NFL in total defense. He played Sunday and the Jaguars registered three sacks, two interceptions and held the Patriots 13 points below their season average. That wasn’t all Smith, but having a player of his status sure doesn’t hurt.