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Interceptions bury Jags


Byron Leftwich said it was "just like old times" and, to a man, the Jaguars maintained the weather played no factor in their 27-13 loss to the New England Patriots. But this much was undeniable: The harder it snowed, the deeper the Jaguars' troubles got.

In near-blizzard conditions to start the fourth quarter, rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich made his first of two critical mistakes. His pass intended for wide receiver Jimmy Smith was intercepted by Tyrone Poole. Six plays later, the New England Patriots were in the end zone with a 20-6 lead.

Leftwich and the Jaguars were turnover-free in the first half, but that was before the weekend's "nor'easter" blew into Gillette Stadium. Snow began to fall lightly early in the third quarter, and it slowly intensified. By the start of the fourth quarter the storm was at full fury, dropping between 1-3 inches an hour.

That's when the Jaguars got "chilled." Poole intercepted Leftwich for a second time inside six minutes left to play, and Poole returned the "pick" 44 yards to the Jaguars three-yard line. Three plays later, the score was 27-6.

"I made two mistakes," Leftwich said, referring to his interceptions. "Us not taking care of our opportunities hurt us in the second half. We have to score more touchdowns," Leftwich added.

Other than having misfired on a pass for Kyle Brady in the back of the end zone, Leftwich played well in the first half. He posted a 111.9 passer rating and would've thrown a touchdown pass had Fred Taylor not dropped a short lob at the five-yard line.

But the second half was a different ballgame. The Patriots defense pressured Leftwich with a multitude of blitzes and assorted schemes. Eventually, the rookie cracked.

"They do a lot of different things. Offensively, we picked it up. It comes down to 4-5 plays we wish we could have back. Sometimes the defense wins. Let's give those guys credit," Leftwich said.

"I take my hat off to them. They did the things they had to do to win the football game; kept us out of the end zone, got some turnovers late and converted on third down," Del Rio said. "They're just playing good, sound defense. They're a smart, tough group. We were 0-for-3 in the red zone today."

When a Boston reporter asked Del Rio how the Patriots defense compares to the Ravens defense of 2000, the Jaguars coach said: "It's a good, solid team. I don't think it's quite on that level.

"That's a solid team, but everybody has a weakness," Del Rio added.

The Patriots defense was not dominant against the Jaguars, until it had to be. The only touchdown they allowed was after the verdict had been decided, when Leftwich found Kevin Johnson with a 27-yard pass with 3:22 to play.

"We weren't able to generate the touches for Fred (Taylor) we would've liked," Del Rio said, referring to only 16 rushing attempts for Taylor, who was held to 57 yards rushing. He had rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the three previous games.

Leftwich ended up attempting 40 passes, completing 21 for 288 yards. The two interceptions dropped his passer rating to 63.3.

If the Patriots have a weakness, it's their running game, which is one of the lowest-ranked attacks in the league. Against the Jaguars, the Patriots managed only 84 yards rushing, though against the league's second-ranked rush-defense.

"It's another learning experience," Del Rio said. "We leave no doubt our team is willing to put forth the effort necessary to win in this league."

The Jaguars gave a courageous effort in arguably the worst weather conditions the team has ever faced. The temperature at kickoff was 25 degrees with a 16-degree wind chill. The heavy second-half snow made Gillette Stadium a winter wonderland and produced a crowd around the sideline heater.

"We play hard, we don't quit and we have to learn from this game," cornerback Fernando Bryant said. "When you're playing a team in December on their field, you have to find a way to win."

Veteran wide receiver Jimmy Smith praised Patriots Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel, who works in concert with head coach Bill Belichick.

"They've got an outstanding defensive coordinator. He threw a lot of things out there to confuse us. They disguise (defenses) well. You have to give them credit. They play well," Smith said.

And the Patriots also play very well in the cold weather. The win over the Jaguars raised the Patriots' record to 13-2 in games since 1993 when the temperature was 35 degrees or colder.

The harder it snowed, the more difficult the Patriots were to beat.

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