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Jaguars once-proud defense torched by Brady & Co.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- John Henderson bullied his way past two offensive linemen and sacked Tom Brady on New England's first snap.

It was the first -- and last -- big play for Jacksonville's defense.

The Jaguars couldn't get to Brady, couldn't stop Laurence Maroney, couldn't cover Wes Welker.

No surprise then that Jacksonville's defense was the main problem in a 31-20 loss to the Patriots in an AFC divisional playoffs game Saturday night.

Those big, bad Jaguars were just plain bad at Gillette Stadium.

It started with Brady, who took advantage of Jacksonville's scheme by throwing mostly to underneath routes.

"You've got to be able to put pressure on him, which we weren't able to generate as much pressure as we'd like," defensive end Paul Spicer said. "You can't have a guy like Brady sitting back with time -- 5, 6 seconds -- to find a receiver because, believe me, he's going to find a receiver."

New England racked up 403 yards, converted 60 percent on third down and scored on nearly every possession. The Patriots even made their lone fourth-down attempt.

The Jaguars accomplished their goal of containing All-Pro receiver Randy Moss, who caught one pass for 14 yards. But using three-man rushes and few blitzes, they couldn't get pressure on Brady.

"We knew they were going to be dumping the ball down, and to get off the field, we had to make tackles," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. "We didn't do that very well, especially in the first half. "We're a physical team and a good-tackling team -- just not tonight."

The Jaguars' defense has been the cornerstone and the strength of the franchise the last few years. But the once-proud unit has been torched at times this season, mostly because of poor safety play and injuries at cornerback.

It didn't help that three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Marcus Stroud and hard-hitting linebacker Mike Peterson missed most of the second half of the season with injuries.

Jacksonville knew it had to play a near-perfect game to stop Brady & Co. Instead, they were prone to making mistakes.

Mathis and Terry Cousin and safeties Reggie Nelson and Sammy Knight combined to miss several tackles. Most came against Maroney, who finished with 112 yards rushing.

Henderson and fellow defensive linemen Paul Spicer, Bobby McCray and Reggie Hayward hardly touched Brady.

Sure, the Jaguars sacked Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger six times last week, forced a fumble and intercepted three passes. But that kind of performance was rare, not routine, this season.

Rookie Derek Landri got one of the few hits on Brady, but it came after he released the ball and drew a 15-yard penalty.

Nelson missed a tackle on the next play, and Maroney gained 29 yards. Four plays later, Ben Watson shoved cornerback Scott Starks to the ground and caught a 9-yard TD pass from Brady that made it 28-17 late in the third quarter.

Brady finished 26-of-28 for 262 yards and three touchdowns.

"It was a dump-down game," Nelson said. "Anybody can go 26-of-28 in a dump-down game."

Maroney ran 22 times for 122 yards and a score. Welker caught nine passes for 54 yards and a touchdown.

Heck, even when the Jaguars looked like they might get a stop, Brady bought a little time and found Donte' Stallworth for a 53-yard gain that set up a late field goal that put the game out of reach.

The defense won't get all the blame, either.

David Garrard had a huge fumble in the first quarter that gave New England a short field and allowed the Patriots to take a 14-7 lead.

And Dennis Northcutt, a free agent the Jaguars gave a five-year, $17 million contract in the offseason, dropped a deep pass near the goal line in the fourth quarter.

"We made mistakes all over the field," Mathis said.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.

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