By: Derek Havens
After a dominating performance against the New York Jets on Monday night, there is no lack of storylines surrounding the match-up. In a long week of preparation for both teams, the Patriots brought their A game and continued to roll as they beat the Jets 45-3 Monday night.
As of right now they seem like the best team in the NFL, or at least in the conversation. Not many negatives can be pulled from the game, but there are a whole lot of positives. Here are some thoughts I picked up from the game:
- With the division on the line, the Patriots came to play. The same cannot be said for the Jets as they were dominated in every phase of the game. I was extremely impressed with the way the Patriots executed on each side of the ball. They came out fired up and were extremely focused. Bill Belichick said it best. That was the best 60 minutes of football the team has played all year.
- There is no player in the NFL right now, playing better than Tom Brady. He has this offense on a tear and has everything working in harmony. I believe he is playing the best football of his career and seems to be on a mission. His 27 TDs to only 4 INT ratio is simply amazing and he has taken the inside track to the leagues MVP at this point in the season.
- The offensive game plan was masterful Monday night. The Jets like to play a lot of aggressive man coverage defense and the game plan exposed them. Between the multiple groupings, substitutions, excellent mix of run and pass, Bill O’Brien did a great job. Whatever the offense decided to do, they could do no wrong. In the end, the players executed the game plan and they certainly did their job.
- Not only was the overall game plan very impressive, that was one of the most impressive offensive play calling performances I can recall. I have ripped Bill O’Brien in the past for poor play calling but that was not the case Monday night. Whether it was putting Welker in motion or the routes being run for a particular play; the Pats were dominant. When you combine these with a few unique plays and the balance the offense displayed, that ultimately contributed to keeping the Jets’ D off balance the entire game.
- The Patriots defense continues to be misleading. For example, the Patriots gave up a total 152 yards on the ground. Did it look like the Jets ran all over this defense? No, but that is the type of defense New England is working with this year. Statistically this defense is last in many defensive categories but the eyeball test tells another story. With the Patriots capitalizing on turnovers and having a lead for a big portion of the game, they are content giving up five yards plays. This young defense has done a good job keeping the play in front of them and essentially opposing teams aid them in running out the clock.
- Devin McCourty came up big Monday night again. The rookie from Rutgers has made a lasting impression on the coaches, his teammates, and the fans as well. His 6th interceptions lead all rookies and his 64 total tackles lead all cornerbacks. He also has 19 passes defended, which is one behind Cleveland’s rookie stand out Joe Haden.
- Once again the Patriots had the turnover margin on their side. The Pats went plus three with interceptions by McCourty, Spikes, and Sanders. That puts their turnover margin at +14 for the season. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have a better margin at +15. If the Patriots can continue this success, they will be very tough to beat. Good teams don’t turn the ball over, and they have certainly done that.
- Not only does this team take care of the ball, they also play a very fundamentally sound brand of football. Since Bill Belichick has been the head coach, this team is one of the least penalized in the NFL and they displayed that yet again on Monday. The Pats were flagged just once during the games entirety for an offense pass interference call against Deion Branch. The Pats can expect to win a lot more games if they do not kill themselves with mental mistakes.
- The Jets did a lot of talking throughout the week. There was not as much bulletin board material as there usually is, but the Jets have made a decision to put a bullseye on their back from the beginning of the Rex Ryan era. The big talk sounds great when you are winning but after a humiliating loss, it is classless. The Jets should take a page from the Patriots book “When you win say little, when you lose say less”.
Play of the Game: The play of the game was undoubtedly the Brandon Spikes interception at the beginning of the second half. At the end of the first half, the score was 24 – 3 but there were not of fans that felt like the game was over. When the Jets started to drive down the field, doubt crept in. A touchdown would mean a two score game with almost 24 minutes to go. Brandon Spikes did not bite of the Jets play action and picked off Sanchez to recapture the momentum. The game was never the same after.
Player of the Game: I won’t start making a habit of picking Tom Brady as the player of the game, even though he has made it easy in the past few weeks. But after last night’s performance, how is he not the player of the game? Brady went 21-28 for 326 yards and 4 touchdowns. This was also his 7th consecutive game with no interceptions. However, Tom Brady did not just do it on the field last night, he also displayed great leadership on the sidelines and throughput the game. His passion and charisma has been evident on several different occasions this year. Grabbing the helmets of Welker and Hernandez after each score, as well as the high fives on the sidelines. Those actions speak to not only his leadership but also his drive. Brady has total command of this offense and while he is playing at this level, the Patriots will be nearly impossible to beat.
Unsung Hero: Hero, or heroes? This weeks unsung heroes were the entire offensive line. Even though Brady was sacked three times, the offensive line’s protection was near perfect for the other 69 snaps. Any Rex Ryan defense is going to be blitz heavy. In fact, the Jets defense has the highest blitz rate in the NFL at over 55%. Brady had perfect protection for those 69 snaps, and had more than enough time to find an open receiver. Protection like Brady had on Monday night is one of the reasons he had so much success against the Jets defense.
Overall just an unbelievable performance from this Patriots team. Now at 10 – 2 through the first three quarters of the season, the Pats have taken the top seed in the AFC. Now that they can control their own destiny, I expect this team to take full advantage of their opportunity.