You know it is the Patriots in the playoffs and Bill Belichick is rubbing off on the denizens of New England when they win 28-3 and all anyone can talk about is how the defense gave up too many completions and the dropped passes and lack of a Cory Dillon running game in the first half.

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At best, it was a solid win. At worse, it was an inconsistent victory. While the Patriots did not dazzle by any stretch of the imagination (four fumbles, dropped passes, no running game, spotty pass defense in the first half), the team, as they tend to do in January, did enough to win. Remember that in 2001 and 2003, the first game played in the playoffs proved most difficult for the Belichick Boys. 2001 was the snow bowl against the Raiders (or the Tuck Rule game if you prefer), and 2003 was the Windchill Game against the Titans where the Pats had to hold-off an upset-minded co-MVP named Steve McNair (The other Co-MVP that year, Peyton Manning, proved to be a much easier game to win.).

The Jaguars, for all the disrespect that they claimed, really were, a one-dimensional team with a good, but not great, defense. Small wonder that the teams that beat them were the ones with the quarterbacks who can air it out and take on all comers (3 of 5 losses to Manning or Brady). The Jaguars are a young running back and a stud young receiver away from being a serious threat. Fred Taylor and Jimmy Smith are going to run out of gas soon, and one has to wonder if David Garrard or Byron Leftwich can carry a team past the first round or two of the playoffs, which where quarterback play really becomes a major factor in whether a team advances or not.

Seriously, other the fluke of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, when was the last time a team with a worse quarterback reached the super bowl? Neil O’Donnell? Kordell Stewart in the AFC Championship? Defense takes you so far in the playoffs. Eventually the offense needs to make big plays to win a game. The Jets and Steelers both suffered from young QBs who could not make the big throws in the playoffs last year (although I expect Roethlisberger, though not as good as the media proclaims him, will be a super bowl caliber QB in the future). When Jake Plummer actually takes the next step in a big game, it will be the first time (and I hope and doubt that time is Saturday night). Peyton Manning, if the defense does not rest, is running out of chances to make the leap, although there are no doubts about his ability, leadership, and skills.

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