The Patriots scraped by the Jets on Sunday with a 22-17 win that seemed much more difficult than it needed to be. New England didn’t score the game winning touchdown until there was 1:56 left to go in the game. On top of that, they failed to convert the two-point attempt, which would have allowed the Jets to win the game on a touchdown. Despite the many mistakes the Patriots made, they managed to come out of the game with an exasperating win.
Here are my quick thoughts:
– For seemingly the first time this season, the turnover game went in the Patriots favor. Malcolm Butler had a beautiful forced fumble where he punched the ball out and fell right on top of it. That play gave an energy boost to an otherwise flat defense. Chris Long also forced a fumble from Ryan Fitzpatrick that sealed the game for the Patriots. The bounces finally seemed to go the Patriots way.
– In a rare event, Bill Belichick had extremely poor clock management to end a half. The Patriots got the ball back at their own 32 yard line with just under two minutes to play. They managed to get down to the Jets 21 yard line with forty seconds to play. Instead of calling a timeout (they had one) or spiking the ball, they sauntered up to the line and instead tried throwing it into the end zone. That failed play took enough time off the clock that the only option they had left was a Gostkowski field goal (which he would miss). Had the Patriots used their time out, or simply spiked the ball, they could have had one to two more attempts at the end zone, or even to get an even closer field goal. It was a poorly coached sequence that could have come back to bite the Patriots.
– Tom Brady did not have a good first half at all. His throws were all sailing high, and he couldn’t seem to get into a rhythm. He also appeared to be limping slightly, so it’s easy to assume that his ailing knee is playing a larger role than Brady would like us to believe. He settled down in the second half and finished with 286 passing yards and two touchdowns (and a great lead block).
– Rob Gronkowski left the game early with an apparent back injury. Reports say that the injury is not serious and he will not miss any time, but nevertheless this will be something to monitor going forward.
– As I had expected, the Patriots attacked Darrelle Revis, with Edelman once but more often with Malcolm Mitchell. Mitchell’s quickness out of his breaks was too much for Revis to keep up with, and the rookie out of Georgia continued his breakout stretch, finishing the game with five catches for 42 yards and two scores. As his chemistry with Brady grows, the Patriots offense becomes much more dynamic.
– The Patriots secondary was, surprise surprise, dismal once again. Malcolm Butler did not have his best game, as he was physically outmatched by the much bigger Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa. Speaking of Enunwa, he finished the game with 109 yards and a touchdown, despite averaging just 53 receiving yards per game over the Jets first ten games. The Patriots just couldn’t manage to cover anyone effectively, as Patrick Chung was even burned by tight end Brandon Bostick. Ryan Fitzpatrick finished with a passer rating of 115.2, which is absolutely astounding for such an average player. I say this every week, but the secondary needs to improve or they will begin costing New England games against the better teams coming up like the Ravens and the Broncos.
– The impacts of the Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins trades are starting to shine through. Each game, the Jones trade is starting to look better and better, as Joe Thuney continues to improve and is arguably the Patriots best lineman, and Malcolm Mitchell becomes an integral part of the Patriots offense. On the other hand, the problems with the Collins’ trade are starting to shine through. While Jamie Collins was not a particularly disciplined player, and was poor in man coverage, his ability to rush the passer was outstanding. He was consistently able to get pressure on the quarterback, or at least draw enough blockers to allow others to slip through. Since his departure, the Patriots have been getting next to no pressure, which has been shown by stellar quarterback play. Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Fitzpatrick, two of the worst quarterbacks in the league, have shredded the Patriots defense because they have had all the time in the world to complete their passes. The Patriots will need to find a way to generate pressure, or they will suffer beat-downs from much better offensive teams.
– Through 11 games this season, Stephen Gostkowski has made a mistake in eight of them (i.e. missed field goal, missed extra point, or kickoff out of bounds). That means he has had a direct negative impact on 72% of the Patriots games so far. Based on that statistic, he is projected to make a mistake in three to four of the Patriots last five regular season games, and in the scenario that they play all nine potential games between now and the Super Bowl, it would mean that he would have an effect on six of them. The problem is so bad that Bill Belichick chose to go for it on fourth and four on Sunday, rather than risk a 50+ yard field goal with Gostkowski. He needs to get his head on straight, or he will end up costing the Patriots (another) playoff game.
A win is a win, and while it was not pretty, the Patriots made it work. They now travel back home for a two game stretch against the LA Rams and the Baltimore Ravens.
Until next time- B$