Here’s a quick rundown with some thoughts on what we learned during Sunday’s disappointing 26-20 overtime loss to the Jets:
1) The final two minutes of the first half on Sunday was one of the more bizarre sequences we’ve seen in quite some time. With 1:53 to go in the half and two timeouts in their possession, the Patriots inexplicably opted not to be aggressive in going after points to close out the quarter and the way they handled it could have potentially cost them another key player. After clearly showing they were content to run out the clock, New England dodged a major bullet on a play where another key member of their offense took an unnecessary big shot from a Jets defender. With under 40-seconds to go, the Patriots opted to run a slant play to James White, who was absolutely drilled by Calvin Pryor III after the catch and they were lucky he popped back up. Given that they hadn’t turned the ball over or made any big mistakes offensively, why they didn’t try to close out the half with points is certainly head-scratching to say the least. And if they weren’t going to do so, they should have just taken the kneel-down and kept White and the rest of the offensive players out of harm’s way.
James White took quite an unnecessary shot at the end of the first half Sunday.
2) It was another strong performance for wide receiver Keshawn Martin, who finished Sunday’s game as New England’s leading receiver after catching seven passes for 68 yards. He’s continued to be a pleasant surprise for a receiving core that needs some additional depth and it’s going to be fun to see how productive he could be once Julian Edelman is healthy and this offense starts to click in the postseason. Martin handled both the kickoff and punt duties, handling two kickoffs and two punts and has done well. His contributions here have been mentioned previously but given their lack of consistent talent down the depth chart at the receiver position, it’s certainly nice to see a player like Martin emerge in an offense that, considering their injury issues, can definitely use the depth.
3) Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been a player who has enjoyed much success against New England, but he finishes the 2015 regular season with pretty impressive numbers. His 26-of-41 performance for 296 yards and 3 touchdowns was another strong outing, with Fitzpatrick finishing with nearly the same number of passing yards as the 295 yards he passed for back in October. Taking his numbers from Sunday, coupled with his performance from back in October, he completed 48-of-80 (60%) for 591 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. Brady hinted at the fact it’s possible these two teams could meet again in January and as much as you hate to admit it, given what we’ve seen this season, the Jets quarterback is playing well and obviously has had success against them this season. That would certainly have to make any Patriots fan nervous, regardless of whether or not the Jets would have to win in Foxboro.
4) There’s obviously a lot of respect between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and former Patriots receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who was carted off the field on Sunday after a non-contact injury where he went down clutching what appeared to be his knee. Thompkins caught four passes for 27 yards for the Jets on Sunday and played fairly well, with three of his four catches coming on third down, including two first downs. Thompkins went down with just under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and as he sat on the cart, Belichick came over and shook the hand of his former player:
Belichick's respect for KT is real. pic.twitter.com/EIk3SpUMGf
— Will D. (@WAD1980) December 27, 2015
Hopefully his injury isn’t too serious. But it was a nice moment between Thompkins and his former coach on an afternoon that didn’t have too many good things to reflect on.
5) Sunday’s battle with the Jets hinged quite a bit on field position, and the fact this one stayed close had a lot to do with the performance of punter Ryan Allen, who continues to be a quiet but big piece of New England’s success. Allen punted four times Sunday, landing two of those kicks inside the twenty which repeatedly flipped the field position and forced the Jets to have to deal with putting together long drives. One of his biggest punts of the afternoon came after the Jets kicked a field goal to go up 20-13 and New England went three-and-out. With the drive stalled at their own 18-yard line, Allen crushed a 51-yard punt all the way to the Jets 31, which was fair caught and kept them from starting with good field position. He did the same thing on New England’s ensuing drive after strategically hitting a punt that went out of bounds at the Jets’ 6-yard line. Those two punts made life tough enough on the Jets where New England had an opportunity to force overtime and he certainly deserves credit for how well he played.
6) Former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley played well against his former team on Sunday, totaling 36 yards on 7 carries for a solid 5.1 average yards-per-carry. Mark me down as someone who felt the team should probably have stuck with him. He obviously had some issues early in his career with ball security, but he’s just 26-years old and looked bigger, stronger and looks like he’s starting to get his quickness back. He’s always had great vision and was a productive ball-carrier, which is something the Patriots are going to have to look for this offseason to accompany Dion Lewis in 2016 as LeGarrette Blount didn’t look like himself this season and suffered a season-ending injury. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ridley returns to form and ends up being a productive runner in this league and if it ends up being with the Jets, that might be a problem for the Patriots.
Sunday’s injury to Sebastian Vollmer was another huge blow.
7) The number of injuries are getting out of hand and on the offensive line, it’s scary to think of how this team will fare in the playoffs given how thin they are right now at nearly every position. Sunday’s loss of Sebastian Vollmer could potentially cost New England their other starting tackle after already having lost Nate Solder for the season, leaving them in very difficult shape when the Patriots start playing better defenses in the postseason. Teams have had more and more success in recent weeks getting pressure on Brady, which coupled with their injury issues, has been a big part of New England’s inconsistencies offensively. They’ve managed to survive up until now but as they begin facing more complete football teams, this might honestly end up being one of the most challenging postseasons for Brady if they can’t keep opposing defenders off of him.
8) All eyes will obviously be on the Monday night game tonight as the Bengals get set to battle the Broncos in what will be another game with playoff implications for New England. As it stands right now, a loss by the Patriots next week coupled with a 2-0 finish by Cincinnati means that the Bengals would lock up the number one seed. Meanwhile, a 2-0 finish for the Broncos and a loss by New England would give Denver the top seed given the fact they hold the tiebreaker thanks to their earlier win against the Patriots. Hopefully the Patriots will simply take care of business next week and neither scenario will need to be considered.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 Patriots Season Bill Belichick Cincinnati Bengals Dion Lewis James White Kenbrell Thompkins LeGarrette Blount Nate Solder New England Patriots New York Jets Ryan Allen Ryan Fitzpatrick Sebastian Vollmer Stevan Ridley Tom Brady