JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Tom Brady and the New England Patriots may have knocked Jacksonville out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season -- while clinching their own division title.
Brady directed three long touchdown drives, capped one of them with a perfect touch pass to David Thomas , and helped the Patriots clinch their fourth consecutive AFC East crown with a 24-21 victory against the Jaguars on a rainy Sunday. New England (11-4), returning to the site of its last Super Bowl victory, also crippled Jacksonville's postseason chances.
The Jaguars now need to win at Kansas City next week and get lots of help to earn a wild-card spot. The Jaguars (8-7) made the playoffs last season, but promptly lost 28-3 at New England. That game was decided early in the second half when the Pats scored 21 unanswered points.
New England put Jacksonville away much later Sunday. Laurence Maroney , who missed the last two games with torn rib cartilage, had a 27-yard touchdown run with 4:36 remaining to put the Patriots ahead 24-14.
But Jacksonville answered when David Garrard hooked up with Matt Jones for a 33-yard score about a minute later. The defense then forced its first three-and-out of the game, giving the offense the ball near midfield.
Garrard, though, started to scramble out of the pocket and fumbled after getting hit by Jarvis Green . Rodney Harrison , back in the lineup after missing six weeks with a broken shoulder blade, recovered to seal the victory. Brady did most of the early damage.
Throwing often because of Jacksonville's stout run defense, Brady engineered a 78-yard to open the second half. He was 4-for-5 for 68 yards and his best throw was his last, a 22-yarder over the middle that Thomas caught as he dived across the goal line, making it 17-7.
He was even better on the 68-yard drive that ended with Maroney's run. He completed both passes and picked up a first down with a 7-yard scramble on third down. Brady had 31 yards rushing, getting several first downs on sneaks and scrambling for yards to avoid sacks.
But he was at his best in the pocket, completing passes to 10 receivers and picking apart the NFL's second-ranked defense He finished 28-of-39 for 249 yards. The Jaguars scored their first 14 points thanks mostly to two big plays.
Maurice Drew, starting in place of Fred Taylor (hamstring), had a 74-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that put the Jaguars ahead 7-3. Drew ran into the back of tight end Kyle Brady and fell to the ground.
No Patriot touched Drew down, but the 5-foot-7 rookie quickly popped up, broke a tackle by Harrison and scampered for the long touchdown. Patriots coach Bill Belichick challenged the play, but officials ruled Drew had not been touched.
Drew scored again in the third quarter, a 1-yard plunge that cut the lead to 17-14. His score -- his seventh consecutive game with at least one TD run -- followed a 41-yard completion from Garrard to Ernest Wilford deep down the sideline.
But Garrard's one bad play made the difference. He had three turnovers returned for touchdowns last week at Tennessee, and his poor plays may cost him a chance to keep his starting job.