The Patriots lost a great opportunity to clinch the #1 seed in the Meadowlands of New Jersey on Sunday and ultimately lost to the Jets in overtime 26-20.
The Patriots won the coin toss and Bill Belichick decided to go with his defense which had played well in the fourth quarter in hopes of getting the ball back in good enough field position for the offense which struggled mightily all day long against an excellent Jets defense.
But the Jets made three consecutive big plays, capped off with an Eric Decker touchdown and the Jets, courtesy of the Steelers meltdown in Baltimore against Ryan Mallett of all people, are now in the #6 seed of the playoffs with a game to go.
The Patriots still control their own destiny and with a win over the Dolphins on Sunday would still be the #1 seed for the AFC playoff picture. They have already secured a bye week which, with all the injuries they’ve suffered this season will be a welcome relief.
Right Call, Bad execution: The Patriots went against the grain with the coin toss in OT and decided to kick. Because they lost now of course, every would-be GM will be scouring to the record books to find fault with Belichick for a coaching blunder. The Jets, in true Jets form partied like it was 1969 and took to trolling the Patriots on Twitter immediately after the game.
Some national writers dusted off the 2009 4th & 2 call against the Colts…. So Belichick makes a questionable coaching decision every six years? But the bottom line is …it was the right call, poorly executed.
The Patriots offense was far from resembling the juggernaut that rolled thru the early season. They were missing their top wide receivers (Edelman and Amendola), their top two running backs (Lewis and Blount) and their top two tackles (Solder and Vollmer…injured on the first series) By the fourth quarter, Vollmer’s replacement LaAdrian Waddle was out with a shoulder injury.
The offensive line’s play was just that, offensive. Brady was being hit at every turn and the running game with no room to do anything was a shadow of what was needed. The Pats managed only 284 yards of offense on the day, a season low. Their 16 first downs were tied for the season low (Denver). They scored a season low 13 points on offense and were 1-10 on third down. Kicking off was the right call.
The only confusion was in the wording; Belichick had already told the referees if the Patriots won the toss they would kick off. Matthew Slater confirmed it with Belichick but when they won the toss, the referee asked Slater, “You want to kick off?” Slater said yes when he should have said, “we want to defend that goal.” What followed was a conversation that sounded like he chose kicking off was not what was wanted. The end of the field didn’t factor in the overtime at all anyway. So it was a minor point and Gostkowski kicked it out of the end zone.
But on 2nd and 8 Tavon Wilson in for Jordan Richards who was hurt the play before, collided with Leonard Johnson on a three-yard slant to Quincy Enunwa and it turned into a 48-yard gain. On the next snap Ryan Fitzpatrick hit a leaping Brandon Marshall for another 20 and then followed the touchdown to Decker.
Belichick has never been shy going against conventional “wisdom” and in this case he was right…they didn’t execute. Tip your hat to the Jets offense.
Defense gashed by the run: The Jets running game consistently gashed the Patriots right up the middle. It was one of their poorer games collectively and while many point to Pat Chung being out and Dont’a Hightower being less than 100 percent, it doesn’t give the Jets offensive line and their backs their due.
The Jets ran 27 times for 143 yards and most of the damage was done right up the middle of the defense. The Jets OL was winning the battle at the point of attack and their pass protection of Fitzpatrick was stellar.
The Jets mixed up the running game with Bilal Powell, Stevan Ridley, Chris Ivory and Fitzpatrick with a couple of scrambles.
Keys Proved prophetic: One of our keys to the game was to bring more pressure on Fitzpatrick than the October meeting where he was sacked just twice and frequently had plenty of time to throw. On Sunday he had even more time and the Patriots pass rush was for the most part MIA.
One of the few times they did get pressure, Jabaal Sheard strip-sacked Fitzpatrick and Jamie Collins returned it for a touchdown, their second defensive touchdown in as many weeks.
Fitzpatrick finished 26 of 41 for 296 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. And he was his own worst enemy; on many occasions he had the deep ball open and missed his receivers. The Jets mixed up the short screen game and the deep ball well all game long. Fitzpatrick was given plenty of time to look downfield.
Sunday was a rewind of watching the struggles of the Patriots DBs against taller wide receivers. Last week Dorial Green-Beckham torched them for 6 catches for 113 yards. This week Marshall had a huge game with eight catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Decker was a non-factor until late in the game and then made a 25-yard catch before his touchdown reception.
The Jets won that OL-DL matchup….convincingly and if the teams meet a third time, and there is a good chance of that happening, then the coaching staff had better find a way to manufacture a pass rush or they’ll find themselves in a bind.
Milestones: Tom Brady’s touchdown pass to James White in the fourth quarter was his 481st as a member of the Patriots which ties Brett Favre’s record for most in NFL history with one team. Brady ended up 22 of 31 for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He and Gronkowski had a rare communication breakdown in the third quarter as Brady threw and out route and Gronk went deep. It resulted in an easy interception for Darrelle Revis.
Rob Gronkowski caught 4 passes for 86 yards and passed Ben Coates for most yardage all-time by a Patriots tight end.
Sheard’s strip sack of Fitzpatrick was the 28th straight game that the Patriots have registered a sack, the longest current streak in the NFL.
On to Miami: So the Patriots travel down to South Beach, the scene of so many struggles in the past with a chance to wrap up the #1 seed against the Dolphins. They’ll leave a day earlier due to the NHL’s Winter Classic being held in Gillette Stadium.
The fact that were even in overtime against the Jets was a bit surprising as they’d been outplayed by a wide margin for the majority of the game. But the team did show some mental toughness as down 17-3, they rallied to tie the game with under two minutes to go. But in Foxboro, moral victories don’t cut it and a loss to the Jets especially on a day when they opened the door for the Jets to control their own playoff destiny, is particularly galling.
They’ll need some of that mental toughness as they’ll still be short-handed when they face the Dolphins next Sunday. It should be an interesting game….stay tuned.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Bilal Powell Bill Belichick Brandon LaFell Brandon Marshall Chandler Jones Danny Amendola Eric Decker Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots New York Jets Patriots Patriots edge rushers predictions Quincy Enunwa Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Ryan Fitzpatrick Tom Brady