JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — If the New England Patriots need to accomplish anything before the postseason, it probably should be avoiding sluggish starts.
The AFC East champions had to rally from a double-digit deficit for the second consecutive week, recovering from an early hole and then holding off the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars 23-16 on Sunday.
Tom Brady threw two interceptions in the first quarter but bounced back with two touchdown passes to lead the come-from-behind victory.
"We came out flat and I think it showed out there," Patriots receiver Wes Welker said. "We've got to do a better job of starting fast and doing what we do to take control of the game."
A week after falling behind 31-3 against San Francisco and tying the game before losing 41-34, the Patriots (11-4) found themselves down 10-0 in Jacksonville.
But the Jaguars faded in the third quarter for the fourth consecutive week, lost for the 11th time in the last 12 games and set a franchise record for losses in a season.
Brady had a lot to do with Jacksonville's latest setback, finding his rhythm after a sluggish start and picking apart Jacksonville's defense.
He completed 24 of 41 passes for 267 yards, his worst outing in six games against the Jaguars. Welker caught 10 passes for 88 yards, passing Jerry Rice and Andre Johnson for the most 10-catch games (18) in NFL history. Stevan Ridley ran 18 times for 84 yards.
But the team's lethargic start got all the attention.
"They got off to that fast start and that kind of caught us by surprise," Patriots offensive tackle Nate Solder said. "I thought we played better as the game progressed. We've just got to avoid the slow starts and get the offense going right from the first quarter."
Brady hooked up with Welker for a 2-yard score on the second play of the fourth quarter, putting the Patriots up 23-13. That seemed like plenty of cushion against the offensively challenged Jaguars. Jacksonville, though, had two decent chances to tie things in the closing minutes.
Trailing by a touchdown, the Jags faced third-and-goal at the 1 when tight end Zach Potter jumped before the snap. So the short-yardage situation became a passing play, and Chad Henne was sacked, leaving Jacksonville with a fourth-and-goal play at the 10.