By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots lost 30-27 against the New York Jets Sunday.
Tom Brady and the Patriots were sloppy on Sunday, converting only one third down the entire game.
(USA TODAY Images)
The Patriots are now 5-2 seven weeks into the 2013 season. While it wasn’t all negative, they still have a lot of work to do moving forward. Here is my report card for week seven. —
Offense Grade: D
Sunday’s performance was ugly for the Patriots. Tom Brady was sacked four times. The unit went one-for-12 on third down. On top of that, they held the ball for only 23 minutes and 40 seconds in the contest. There is certainly blame to go around.
The offensive line was on their heels for nearly the entire game. Center Ryan Wendell, right guard Dan Connolly and left tackle Nate Solder had the worst performances of the five-man line. Offensive lineman will tell you, it’s always easier to run block because you’re pushing forward and not fending off. That being said, when they have been asked to pass block this season the unit overall has struggled greatly. The last three weeks they have allowed 13 sacks and Brady has been hit 20 times. No surprise the team is 1-2 in that stretch.
While the running game generated a solid 4.5 yards-per-carry average Sunday, the backfield only gained 90 yards. Some question the team not running it more, but New York’s front seven is second in the league in yards allowed on the ground. The Pats probably could have benefited from running more, but it’s always easier said with hindsight being 20-20.
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, the 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.
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, one of the few bright spots on the day.
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.
Consistency is the key for the offense moving forward. It’s clear at this point they need to shake things up and play better as a whole. Injuries have hurt and forced the team to make adjustments without some of their best weapons. Whether or not the team can overcome their injury woes and establish a consistent offense, will dictate how they finish the season.
Defense Grade: D
This was a really tough game for a New England defense that played very good through the first six weeks. Being on the field without Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib showed. While Kelly and Talib will return at some point, the unit must adjust after losing Mayo and Wilfork for the year. Dont’a Hightower took over Mayo’s role, calling the defensive plays and while no big issues seemed to arise from the upgrade in responsibility, Hightower really struggled Sunday.
With all of the key players missing, it’s hard to be too critical of the unit. That being said, the defense let up way too many yards and could not get off the field throughout the contest.
Similar to the offensive line, the defensive line lost containment and the battle at the point of attack more often than not. The Jets chipped away for 177 total yards on the ground and kept New England’s offense watching on the sideline.
The Patriots pass rush was inconsistent, like it’s been for most of the season. The front seven was able to sack quarterback Geno Smith four times, but when the unit could not get pressure, the Jets rookie had a clean pocket and picked the secondary apart.
With Talib out, there was a noticeable difference in the secondary. The group lacked the confidence and edge they had played with in previous weeks. Kyle Arrington, who has played well in his slot role the majority of the year, was benched after being dominated by wide receiver Jeremy Kerley. Marquice Cole took over, but didn’t fare any better.
Rookie Logan Ryan had a solid game. He was competitive in coverage and returned an interception for a touchdown. Devin McCourty continues to have a stellar season.
Special Teams Grade: B
This grade was an “A” until the call on rookie Chris Jones on Nick Folk’s game-wining field goal in overtime. I wrote about my thoughts on the penalty in my Monday Hangover.
It spoke to Jones’ character to take responsibility for the mistake, but ultimately it was not his fault. The coaching staff made a mistake interpreting the rule or tried to take advantage of a grey area. Either way, it knocked the grade down a letter.
Aside from that, the special teams unit was solid Sunday. Captain Matthew Slater returned, Gostkowski was perfect on both field goal attempts, rookie punter Ryan Allen averaged 50.5 yards-per-attempt and the coverage was terrific. Kick return man LeGarrette Blount averaged 24 yards and Julian Edelman once again displayed his incredible punt return skills. He’s a true weapon in the return game.
Overall Grade: D
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.
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.
Do you have a Twitter account? Be sure to follow me: @PatriotsHaven!