The Patriots offense scuffled for most of the afternoon against the New York Jets on Sunday. But with 5:04 to go and 83 yards away from the end zone, Tom Brady rose his game up and carried the team on his back, as he’s done so many times before. Brady led the game-winning drive hitting Malcolm Mitchell for the game winner and the Patriots had a gritty come-from-behind 22-17 win over the Jets.
Like all games against Gang Green, it was a marathon, not a sprint and the Patriots had to slog their way thru a variety of factors. The loss of Rob Gronkowski early in the game, Brady’s own knee injury which definitely was a factor, as his passes were uncharacteristically sailing on him all day long and the Jets themselves, who brought their A-game on an otherwise forgettable season.
The Jets had taken the lead on a tremendous catch by Quincy Enunwa in the back corner of the end zone and had to stop the Patriots and Brady just one more time to come away with their biggest win of the season. Their defense had been playing great all day. But these are the times when Brady, even a wounded one elevates his game.
“I felt good,” Jets WR Brandon Marshall said of their lead, “but I knew that Tom Brady has that thing where it kicks in. He’s a special player. He’s one of the best to ever do it. There’s never a time where he’s out of it.”
Brady appeared laser sharp when it counted most and he hit on some big passes, a 24-yard strike to Julian Edelman got things going. But the biggest was the 4th down, 4-yard pass to James White, who dove for the sticks and just barely made the key first down to keep things going. As usual, Brady deflected praise to others and called it a “championship-type” play by White.
On the next snap, he fired a laser to Chris Hogan deep down the middle to put them in the position to win. By then there was no doubt how that drive would end. Brady then hit Mitchell for the game winner, the rookie WR had a pair of touchdown catches, both against Darrelle Revis and the Patriots had an ugly but very satisfying win against their oldest and most heated rivals.
His day included a number of key milestones. Brady tied Peyton Manning for the most career wins by a QB with 200. He passed the 60,000-yard threshold early in the game and the comeback win was the 50th of his NFL career. Brady stressed the team aspects of his accomplishments and stated that it had been a long week for him and the team. And he improved overall to 22-8 against the Jets.
It was a win that characterized mental toughness and Bill Belichick knew that his comments, as well as those of Brady, echoed that sentiment. They took the Jets best shot and although far from their best found a way to win. Brady, as usual, led the way. Just like he did 199 times before.
Other observations from today’s game include:
Mitchell is rapidly becoming a trusted weapon in the offense: While Mitchell’s numbers on the stat sheet won’t necessarily wow anyone, he made five catches for 42 yards, he converted two of those into scores. The rookie WR had the first two-score game of his career and he’s earning the trust factor with Brady. His numbers on the season are a modest 16 catches for 235 yards and three scores but expect him to earn more looks as the season plays out.
The first score was a broken play where Julian Edelman ran a Jet Sweep and knocked the ball out of Brady’s hand. Brady alertly picked it up and found Mitchell at the back of the end zone, who beat Revis to end an important first half drive to tie things up.
Brady tried the deep ball in the end zone later to Mitchell, the ball was thrown about 3-4 inches too long and just went thru Mitchell’s fingertips. But it didn’t deter Brady to going back to the young WR again at crunch time. The Pats ran a bunch route on the left side and Mitchell had just enough separation from Revis to haul in the pass and just make it inside the pylon for the winning touchdown.
Welcome to New England Chris Long: Okay Long has played well for most of the season but his strip sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick was huge and arguably the biggest play of his professional life, considering he played for so many poor-to-middling Rams teams.
That caused the second and most importantly last turnover of the day for the Patriots defense. Earlier Malcolm Butler, who didn’t have the greatest afternoon, forced a fumble ending another Jets drive.
Long showed great explosion off the snap and beating his man on the edge and just got his hand on Fitzpatrick’s arm causing the fumble that the Patriots recovered and put the game away. For a defense with still in search of an identity, it was a huge moment.
Still Questions at CB and LB: The Patriots are still mixing and matching at both the cornerback and linebacker positions and we may see that depending upon individual matchups the rest of the season. But the Jets second WR, Quincy Enunwa, who had struggled for the past two games lit up the secondary for five catches, 109 yards, and a touchdown. After a hot start with five catches in the first half, Brandon Marshall had just one in the second half.
The Pats mixed up a combination of Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, and Logan Ryan and will probably stick with that for the foreseeable future. With big games looming against the Ravens and Broncos, they’ll have to step up their game.
At linebacker, they once again used several players opposite Dont’a Hightower, getting Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, and Kyle Van Noy in the mix. Each had some good and bad moments but overall the effort was good enough.
Overlooked aspect, the run defense: Coming into the game, the two keys the team wanted to stop was the Jets running game and their backs out of the backfield. And they accomplished both. The Jets were 3-0 when Matt Forte had 25+ carries and the Patriots knew this. Both Forte and Bilal Powell are dangerous receivers out of the backfield as well, something the Patriots have struggled with.
They did a bang-up job against the run holding Jets runners to just 64 yards on 23 carries, a 2.7 yard average on the day. The Jets longest run on the day was just seven yards. And they held their backs to just four catches for 30 yards out of the backfield. It wasn’t perfect, Van Noy was beaten by C.J. Spiller on a wheel route but Fitzpatrick’s pass fell short, but overall this was a big factor in the Patriots victory.
Is Gostkowski a player they can rely on? This question would have sounded ludicrous a year ago, but after 11 games it is now a legitimate one. The kicker’s struggles continue and today, he missed a very makeable 39 yarder that before was automatic. He did make three more field goal attempts on the day as well as two extra points, but he’s not the same guy he was before that costly miss in Denver.
Was the Patriots decision not to attempt a game-winning 52-yard field goal and go for it on 4th and 4 as well as an earlier attempt just gamesmanship by Belichick or was it a lack of trust in the kicker? We’ll hear more of that as the week drags on but it is the $64,000 question now.
Too Cerebral? Defense Seems to Be Passionless at times: Perhaps this is overstating it but there are times when the Patriots defense seems to be overthinking things a tad and trying to be coming up with a perfect answer and not playing with the speed that they are capable of. We know that this is a cerebral defense, but sometimes it seems like they are competing against themselves out there.
It was General George S. Patton Jr. who stated that “A good plan violently executed today, beats a great plan executed next week.” Sometimes, just pinning your ears back and attacking midrange to poor quarterbacks such as Fitzpatrick may be a better equation than always trying to outsmart them.
Granted….once again they allowed only 17 points but the game certainly had a different feel to it.
Blount and Bennett get high marks: Martellus Bennett was leaned on with Gronkowski getting injured early in this one and then he got his ankle rolled up and played the rest of the game, like Brady in pain and obviously limited. He gets big kudos for gutting it out.
Blount only got 11 carries on Sunday but against a tough Jets front seven, he made it count for 67 yards, especially when the team was trying to close things out. These two symbolized the team-first, can-do attitude that was a big factor in the team’s win.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bilal Powell Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Darrelle Revis Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Matt Forte New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Ryan Fitzpatrick Tom Brady