Patriots nose tackle Chad Eaton needs to get better. Quick.
Eaton missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury, and during his absence New England allowed New York Jets running back Curtis Martin to rush for 143 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday during the Patriots 34-17 loss to their AFC East rivals.
Coming into the game the Patriots hadn’t allowed a 100yd rusher all season, and a big part of that had to do with Eaton who during the first six games had 26 tackles and did a great job clogging the middle.
But the biggest problem on Sunday was the fact that the Patriots committed five turnovers in the game, three of which the Jets converted into 17 points. Bill Belichick was very disappointed in his team’s performance after the game, calling it their poorest showing thus far.
“It was our poorest performance of the year,” said Belichick after the game. “We just really didn’t give ourselves a chance to win that game at all. We got outplayed, outcoached, pretty much in every phase of the game and I don’t think really there is a whole lot to say. They just did a better job than we did today all the way around.”
The Patriots committed two turnovers in a matter of just their first five offensive plays. Their first came on their opening drive when runningback Kevin Faulk caught a pass on 3rd-and-2, but was wrapped up by the Jets defense and lost the football on the way down. New York linebacker Brian Cox recovered the football, and nine plays later the Jets were in the endzone on a 2-yard run by Curtis Martin, giving the Jets a 7-0 advantage.
Their second turnover came just two plays later when Drew Bledsoe’s pass was knocked down and Victor Green picked off the football and ran it back 21-yards for another Jets touchdown. The Jets at that point had a quick 14-0 lead, and this time the Patriots were the ones who were taken out of their game plan.
“We did things that we hadn’t done all year,” said Bledsoe after the game. “We turned the ball over, especially early in the game and spotted them 14 points. From there on we tried to continue to run the ball some but we were fairly ineffective there. Then late in the game when we get into a one-dimensional ball game where we’re throwing all the time, that’s hard for us right now to protect in those situations to work the ball downfield.”
“The Jets had a very nice game plan for us coming in. They came with the idea of taking away our quick throws, and forcing our protection to hold up longer. I think we made two big plays down the field but we weren’t able to take advantage of their game plan enough. It’s a credit to them for coming up with something that made it difficult for us, and we didn’t handle it well enough.”
The Patriots actually had pulled within 4 after Tony Simmons hauled in a 46-yard pass which set up 1st-and-goal at the Jets 9 yard line. Runningback Kevin Faulk ran the ball in for the touchdown on the next play cutting the Jets lead to just 14-10.
But the Jets put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive on their next possession which culminated in a 4yd touchdown run by Martin, and New England never recovered.
Bledsoe said after the game that the Patriots knew the Jets would blitz early and often, and that the game plan was to set up in spread formations to try and make it easier to see where each one was coming from.
“I think that the way we were looking at it, that was our best chance to make plays was to spread them out,” said Bledsoe. “If they were coming at least we could tell where they were coming from blitz-wise. But then we had to take advantage of them by making plays and throwing the ball and we didn’t do that.”
The pressure continued to come and the Patriots offensive line was unable to do much about it, and to make matters worse when New England came back out onto the field to start the second half they were down by two touchdowns, forcing them to try and throw the football to get back into the game. What they had been able to do against the Broncos and Indianapolis was to get an early lead to take both teams out of their game plan. That was just what the Jets did to them on Sunday.
“We got behind,” said Belichick. “We didn’t run the ball enough early in the game. Part of that was inefficiency, part of it was the score, and it became a one dimensional game. That’s always going to be a problem when you have to pass-block every play and you fall behind in the score.”
The nail in the coffin for the Patriots came in the third quarter when the Jets took possession at the New England 40-yard line. They drove down the field on just 9-plays and scored on a 2-yard touchdown run by Martin. The Jets lead at that point was 31-10 with 4:13 left in the third quarter.
New England tried to close the gap and did manage one last gasp on a dramatic 16-yard touchdown run by quarterback Drew Bledsoe to make the score 31-17 with 9:38 left in the game. Bledsoe ran up the middle behind center Damien Woody, but actually pushed Woody aside and looked like a man possessed as he dragged three Jets defenders including Brian Cox, Scott Frost, and Victor Green into the endzone. Both Cox and Green tried to strip the ball out, but Bledsoe simply wouldn’t let go and the result was the first rushing touchdown of his career.
The Jets later added a field goal, and on the Patriots final possession Belichick opted to let Michael Bishop enter the game after it was apparent that Bledsoe had taken enough of a beating.
Bledsoe said after the game that both he and his team will need to forget about this one and focus on this week’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
“It’s one game, it’s one step back,” said Bledsoe. “We’re 2-5 now so we’re really at the bottom of the pile looking up at everybody. This is a key game for us try and get back into the mix, but it doesn’t change the fact that we have to come back this week.”
“We’re going in to play the Division Champs at their place so we have a huge battle for us. We have to come back and go try and get the next one.”
Posted Under: 2000 Patriots Season