FOXBORO, Mass. – This was tough from the start, and got no easier.
With the Jaguars unable to solve quarterback Tom Brady or Rob Gronkowski early and with the New England Patriots playing with characteristic efficiency throughout, Sunday's game had a result that followed suit.
Quarterback Blake Bortles was intercepted once and the Jaguars' offense never found a rhythm, enabling Brady, Gronkowski and the unbeaten, AFC East-leading Patriots to pull steadily away for a 51-17 victory over the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium.
Bortles, a week after throwing two touchdowns without an interception in a victory over Miami, completed 17 of 33 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once, with an interception by safety Devin McCourty late in the first half helping the Patriots break open the game.
Bortles' first touchdown pass came with 6:15 remaining in the third quarter: a 59-yarder to wide receiver Allen Hurns that cut the Patriots' lead to 30-10.
Brady completed 33 of 42 passes for 358 yards and two touchdowns. Gronkowski, perhaps the NFL's best tight end, caught four passes for 101 yards and his big plays set a tone early.
The Patriots scored on their first nine possessions, and finished with a franchise-record-tying 35 first downs.
The Patriots controlled the first half, scoring on all four of their drives and moving 64, 62, 78 and 57 yards and finishing with a touchdown, field goal, field goal and a touchdown. Brady had completed 17 of 23 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown at halftime.
The Patriots outgained the Jaguars 268-118 at halftime, with a one-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Danny Amendola with :18 remaining in the second quarter giving New England a 20-3 lead.
That drive began when McCourty intercepted an overthrown pass from Bortles to tight end Marcedes Lewis. McCourty returned the interception 27 yards to the Patriots 43.
Images of the Jaguars Week 3 matchup with the New England Patriots.
The touchdown to Amendola, the 400th touchdown pass of Brady's career, came eight plays after the interception.
The Patriots moved easily early, with running back Dion Lewis' eight-yard run capping the first New England drive for a 7-0 lead. Gronkowski's back-to-back receptions of 10 and 43 yards gave the Patriots first-and-goal at the Jaguars 8.
A 46-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski ended the Patriots' second drive and made it 10-0, New England, with 2:56 remaining in the first quarter.
Jason Myers' 40-yard field goal with 9:32 remaining in the second quarter made it 10-3, Patriots. The field goal capped a 17-play, 58-yard drive that consumed 8:24.
Gostkowski's 20-yard field goal with 3:42 remaining extended the Patriots' lead back to 10, 13-3, with safety Sergio Brown and cornerback Davon House breaking up passes in the end zone to stop the 14-play, 78-yard drive at the Patriots 2.
The Patriots stretched a 17-point halftime lead quickly, with Gostkowski's 46-yard field goal making it 23-3 and a 1-yard run by LeGarrette Blount making it 30-3 with 9:02 remaining in the third quarter.
The Patriots took a 37-10 lead on the possession after Hurns' touchdown, with Brady passing 13 yards to Keshawn Martin with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter.
A pair of 1-yard runs by Blount gave the Patriots a 51-10 lead, and Bortles' 6-yard pass to tight end Clay Harbor made it 51-17 with 1:22 remaining.
Player of the game
Allen Hurns, wide receiver. A Player of the Game wasn't easy to find for the Jaguars Sunday. The Patriots controlled the game pretty much from the start, but Hurns' 59-yard touchdown reception from Bortles midway through the third quarter was a highlight.
The Jaguars pieced together a few extended drives in the first half, but managed just one field goal in that half as the Patriots pulled away. The offense produced just 119 yards in the first half, after which the game no longer was in doubt.
The Patriots scored on all four of their first-half possessions, a trend that continued in the second half. The defense struggled early against the Patriots' quick passing game, with New England effective across the middle on early drives. That set the tone for much of the game.
This was a difficult area to judge Sunday. The Patriots didn't punt and the game turned one-sided quickly. Jason Myers converted a field goal and an extra point. A fake-punt attempt late in the third quarter – a run by Corey Grant – failed and set up a Patriots touchdown.
Setting the scene as the Jaguars hit the road for the first in 2015 to face-off with the New England Patriots.
*Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee left the game in the first half with hamstring tightness and safety Josh Evans left late in the first half with a knee injury and did not return after halftime. Safety Sergio Brown left with a calf strain.
*The Jaguars made guard Brandon Linder and Lee active shortly before kickoff, deactivating left tackle Luke Joeckel and safety Johnathan Cyprien at that time. Joeckel missed last week's victory over Miami with an ankle injury and Lee had been downgraded from probable to questionable Saturday. Linder sustained a shoulder injury and Cyprien missed the Miami game with a calf injury.
*Defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks (knee) and running back Denard Robinson (knee) also were ruled out shortly before kickoff. They had been listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report.
*Tight end Julius Thomas (hand), defensive end Andre Branch (knee) and cornerback Dwayne Gratz (ankle) were ruled out Friday. Thomas is expected to be reevaluated this week.
*Standing out *
*Hurns finished with two receptions for 70 yards. …
*Clay Harbor had a 26-yard reception in the first quarter, a play that marked the first reception by a Jaguars tight end this season.
*Wide receiver Bryan Walters had two receptions for 28 yards, with each reception coming on the same second-quarter drive.