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December 24, 2012

Patriots hold on to beat Jaguars 23-16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Tom Brady and the playoff-bound Patriots settled down in time to beat the woeful Jaguars.

Brady overcame a rough start by throwing two touchdown passes, and New England held on for a 23-16 win Sunday.

Brady had two interceptions in the first quarter, the second one helping the Jaguars (2-13) build a 10-0 lead.

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 the home team’s latest setback, finding his rhythm after a sluggish start and picking apart Jacksonville’s defense.

He hooked up with Wes Welker for a 2-yard score on the second play of the fourth quarter, putting the Patriots (11-4) ahead 23-13 — what seemed like plenty of cushion against the offensively challenged Jaguars.

But Jacksonville had two chances to tie things in the closing minutes.

Trailing by a touchdown, they were facing 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.

Chandler Jones hit Henne as he tried to throw, and Patrick Chung intercepted the floater over the middle.

The Patriots, though, couldn’t run out the clock, and the Jaguars had the ball near midfield with less than a minute to play. Henne connected with Toney Clemons on fourth down with 22 seconds remaining, then found Jordan Shipley for an 18-yard gain that put them at the New England 12. But Chung intercepted Henne’s final pass, essentially a jump ball to the middle of the end zone.

New England, coming off a 41-34 home loss to San Francisco, avoided consecutive losses in December for the first time since 2002.

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