By: Derek Havens
What just happened?
A question a lot of Patriots fans around the country asked themselves several times on Sunday. The New England Patriots lost in overtime to the New York Jets 30-27 in the week seven matchup.
Rob Gronkowski’s return was one of the few bright spots for the Patriots Sunday.
(USA TODAY Images)
The Pats had the game under control at the half, but the Jets battled back at the start of the third quarter and it quickly turned into a dogfight. New England’s offense was sloppy and their defense, a unit that had played exceptional through the first six weeks of the season, looked lost. The recent injuries to Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib certainly looked like a huge factor.
To New York’s credit, they played a solid game. The Jets had some success early, grabbed momentum in the second half and made more plays to win the game. It seemed as if the Jets offense was on the field the entire contest.
After a game like that, there’s a lot to digest and discuss. Here are five thoughts on Sunday’s contest, in this week’s Monday Hangover.
1.) The penalty on rookie Chris Jones was the right call, but egregious timing: The Patriots did not deserve to win the game on Sunday, but they did not deserve to lose the way they did either. The penalty, which was just put in place this off-season and had not been called by an official to that point, was correct by the letter of the rule.
“Rule 913: Team B (defense) players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into offensive formation.”
My biggest gripe with the call was the situation. To me, it was similar to calling a pass interference penalty on a Hail Mary. What Jones did happens very frequently around the NFL. It’s understood the league wants to implement the rule for player safety, but to call a penalty on a player that had no impact on the play and ultimately decide the game was a disgrace. Overall, it left a very bad taste in your mouth if you were a Patriots fan.
2.) The Patriots deserved to lose: As I previously mentioned, the Patriots did not deserve to win Sunday. The offense was stagnant, the offensive line gave up four sacks, the turnover battle was even and the Jets had the ball for a whopping 46 minutes (46:13) in time of possession. Fans can point to questionable play calling or bad calls by the referees, but lack of overall execution was the reason New England left MetLife Stadium with their second loss on the year.
3.) Tom Brady has to play better: There’s blame to go around in a loss like this one. That being said, it starts with the most important player on the team, quarterback. For the second time in three weeks, Brady did not throw a touchdown pass. His accuracy was off for the majority of the contest and he threw a costly interception near the beginning of the third quarter that Jets safety Antonio Allen returned for a touchdown.
Even if you’re a Brady apologist and have pointed to the poor offensive line play or lack of weapons for him to work with this season, he still needs to play better than he has through seven games. Completing only 48 percent of his passes is just unacceptable.
After the game Brady said, “We just haven’t been good on third down all year. Obviously, that’s a big problem. We certainly need to be better on third downs and in the red area… You’re not going to win many football games going 1 of 12… No excuses. We just didn’t play well. I (have) to do a better job out there. That’s what I need to do.” Quote courtesy of ESPNBoston.com.
4.) Gronkowski’s return a bright spot: Tight end Rob Gronkowski made his 2013 debut and finished with eight catches for 114 yards on the afternoon. The 24-year-old wore a huge black sleeve on his left arm and took a few big hits to the area during the game, undoubtedly leaving some spectators — including myself — holding their breath. It was great to see him back on the field for New England.
Some say the Patriots forced the ball to Gronkowski throughout the contest. While he was targeted 17 times, 10 more than the next receivers (7) Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson, it’s hard to make that argument. Gronkowski is the Pats best offensive weapon and he brings an incredibly tough matchup for opposing defenses. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. But in his first game back, his performance was a silver lining. The production was immediate and the efficiency will come as he settles back into the offense.
5.) Health is key moving forward, but keep the loss in perspective: Health is the biggest factor right now for the Patriots. The aforementioned losses of Wilfork (achilles) and Mayo (pectoral) will be tough to overcome, but Talib (hip) and Tommy Kelly (knee) are expected return in the coming weeks. Running back Shane Vereen (wrist) is eligible to return following the bye in week 11. Danny Amendola (concussion) and Gronkowski have yet to be on the field together this season. Presuming Amendola returns and Gronkowski stays healthy, the offense will get a big boost in play making ability. It’s just about putting the pieces together and continuing the development of young players in the meantime.
After almost any loss, it’s easy to lose perspective and overreact to any deficiencies by the team. There’s no question the Patriots have to improve and get better. That being said, it’s just one game. New England is still atop the division and holds a 5-2 record on the season. The loss narrows the gap, but the season is not over by any stretch.
For now, the Patriots must correct their mistakes and work to improve moving forward. New England returns home next week to host the division rival Miami Dolphins.
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