By: Ian Logue
The Patriots may have gotten beaten up in their first meeting against the Jets last season, but it’s pretty clear that things are going to be different when New England visits the Meadowlands on Sunday.
For starters, the Patriots were already in tough shape the first time around after losing Wes Welker and Jerod Mayo to injury during their season opener against the Bills last season. Without Welker, it allowed New York to double Moss, leaving them to only have to deal with Julian Edelman and Joey Galloway. The problem was that neither of those two could get enough separation for Tom Brady to get them the ball.
Edelman ended up leading the team with 8-catches for 98-yards, but the part that gets lost in that statistic is the fact that he was also targeted 16-times, which means he and Brady failed to connect 8 times. The same holds true for Galloway who caught five balls for 53-yards, but Brady also looked his way a total of 13 times, which means between the two receivers there were 16 plays where Brady tried to hit them but threw incomplete.
That’s enough to frustrate any quarterback, Hall of Fame calibur or not.
You could definitely see the frustration, and it showed as we watched him also get called for three delay of game penalties, which I believe was a career-high for him in a single game.
Prior to the game Rex Ryan had requested that every fan be as loud as possible, and the fans delivered. The place was deafening, which was a fact that Brady eluded to this week when he said the “road environment was different” and then criticized fans for leaving early last Sunday against Cincinnati.
It made for a tough environment in week two last year, as between the fans and being hampered by losing his best receiver, Brady and the Patriots managed just three field goals and were 0-for-3 inside the red zone. It was an ugly game that when it was over, Brady was extremely frustrated about the fact they put too much pressure on their defense with their lack of execution.
“To not get the ball in the end zone, that is unacceptable,” said Brady after that game. “You’re not going to win if you don’t get the ball in the end zone.”
“We have to do a better job throwing the ball down there in tight quarters. It puts too much pressure on the defense when you don’t score touchdowns.”
The Patriots were without Wes Welker when they met for the first time last season at the Meadowlands. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
That will be different this time around. This time they’ve got Welker back, and both rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski have already been difference makers, both in the passing game and blocking downfield. They finished 3-of-5 from inside the 20 last week, with Brady connecting twice to Welker and once to Gronkowski, with both rookies helping spring Welker one on of his touchdowns.
We’ve also seen improvements from Brandon Tate, who is starting to settle into the passing game along with being a threat returning kicks. Put those three things together, and any weapon you can add to Brady’s arsenal is only going to make them more dangerous.
Defensively the speed they’ll have at the linebacker position will also be an improvement this time around. Mayo was also their leading tackler in their second meeting, and having another year under his belt should make him even better heading into today’s game. Factor in both rookie Brandon Spikes and an improved Gary Guyton, and there is a lot more speed covering guys coming out of the backfield which should allow them to do a little more to frustrate Mark Sanchez.
Overall Sunday’s game may be a similar challenge to what they faced last season, but it’s safe to say they’re certainly much better prepared this time around. They’ve already proved they could take care of business in their second meeting at Gillette last year, and they’ve added even more talent since then. Needless to say fans should be a bit more confident heading into today’s visit to the Meadowlands.
So it’s safe to say the noise level will likely be the same. The big question will be how long it lasts should New England start faster and take the crowd out of the game. The Jets are facing a must-win game at home and really need to win to stop the meltdown that will likely ensue should it not turn out in their favor. If Brady can get the offense going early, it would definitely help put pressure on a Jets offense that so far hasn’t been able to do much of anything. If that ends up being the case, the crowd may end up turning against their home team – which could end up making the day even better for New England.
Nevertheless Rex Ryan may have been confident heading into this game last year, but one would have to believe even he knows he’s got more to worry about when the two teams take the field later today. If it doesn’t go well, the only “hard knock” he’ll be thinking about will be the fact his team will 0-2 when they head to Florida next week.