Brady Carries Team To Victory, Defense Makes Big Stop
The Patriots are 6-0 on the road and are back in the driver’s seat in the AFC after yesterday’s 22-17 win over the New York Jets in MetLife Stadium.
Due to the tiebreakers, and a win over a conference foe, the Patriots are back as the #1 seed since Oakland beat an NFC foe yesterday (Carolina). They also kept two games ahead of the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East who won again on a last-minute stop of the 49ers.
This wasn’t a game that the Patriots played particularly well on either offense or defense but they hung in there, played better in the second half and down the stretch and gutted out a tough win over a divisional opponent that knows them well. They did it by stepping up on both offense and defense with big plays on each. That can’t be overlooked.
So, we’ll start with the offense and the players can come forward to pick up their grade sheets.
Tom Brady didn’t have his normally razor sharp day and the Jets had plenty to do with that. But his knee was obviously bothering him, he couldn’t step into his throws properly and far too many of his passes were sailing on him. He completed only 30-50 for 286 yards and 2 touchdowns.
But at crunch time with just over five minutes to go, Brady was vintage. He moved the Patriots down the field with a couple of nice throws and decisions. Once he completed that 4th down pass to James White, one could sense it was strictly a matter of time. And the Jets, who’ve seen this film countless times before could probably sense it as well.
Brady hit a couple of career milestones on Sunday. He reached 60,000 career yards passing, won his 200th game as a QB (Tied NFL record) and had his 50th comeback victory. Overall, a pretty good day, just no more acting like a fullback.
Running Backs: B
LeGarrette Blount wasn’t expected to be a big contributor in the game plan going against the stout Jets run defense. But 11 carries were a bit low for what we expected. Still, his 67 yards and his 6.1-yard average were very solid. His final series where he iced the game was some outstanding work.
Dion Lewis looks completely healthy and had a decent game, he carried six times for 24 yards including a highlight reel 15-yarder where he really showed his outstanding change of direction and quickness. He added four catches for 34 yards.
James White had the key play of the day on that huge fourth-down pickup. He made four catches for 22 yards but none was bigger than that one. While his playing time has been cut into by Lewis, those two are quickly becoming a dynamic pair of backs. And BTW that two-point conversion was good….won’t convince me otherwise.
Wide Receivers: A-
The Patriots were their big tight end in Gronkowski for most of the game and Bennett was hurt and playing at far less than 100 percent, so the WRs had to step up…and they did.
Malcolm Mitchell had his best day as a pro last week and topped that off with an even better one. He caught five passes for 42 yards and two touchdowns against Darrelle Revis, the second of which was the game-winner. He’s quickly becoming a trusted, reliable weapon in the passing game and gives Brady a nice complement in the passing game to go along with the other weapons. Game Ball for Mitchell.
Julian Edelman had eight catches for 83 yards and his 24-yarder got the Patriots final drive kick-started. Edelman only had 11 targets this week, as Brady did a much better job of spreading the ball around.
Chris Hogan returned after missing last week and had four catches for 70 yards. His last was a tough 25-yard catch that put the Patriots inside the 10-yard line. Hogan took a thunderous but legal shot right in his side/hip area but was able to hang onto the ball.
Danny Amendola wasn’t targeted on Sunday. Mitchell having cut into his snaps.
Tight Ends: C
Gronkowski left early in the first quarter with an apparent back injury. He was targeted a few times on deep throws but had no catches.
Martellus Bennett had his ankle rolled up on in the second quarter and although was openly hobbled, toughed it out and played thru it to the end of the game. His run-blocking was clearly affected by his limited mobility but he was efficient enough to haul in three passes for 22 yards.
Offensive Line: B-
The offensive line gave up a lot of pressure early in the game, Brady was decked often early in the first half. Rushing the passer wasn’t supposed to be the Jets strength but the line and Dante Scarnechia did their adjustments and his protection improved as the game wore on.
The running game had a pretty decent day, rushing for 95 yards against a very stout Jets front seven until Brady took a knee at the end of the game. The backs averaged about five yards per carry which is good. They had to get creative and they did, although the OL had its issues trying to contain Leonard Williams.
Defensive Line: B
The Patriots defensive line had a solid effort on Sunday, but we’ll start with the not-so-good news. Other than a penetration by Trey Flowers which drew a flag and Chris Long’s clutch strip sack at the end of the game, the pass rush was abysmal. One reason middling to poor QBs continue to have a field day against the secondary is the utter lack of being hurried.
The line did an outstanding job on the Jets good running game, however. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are quite the duo and this presented a big challenge. The Jets averaged only 2.8 yards per rush on Sunday. And those two were not big influences on the game at all. The Jets rushed for just 64 yards on Sunday.
The Patriots once again did some mixing and matching at linebacker on Sunday. Depending on matchups, they played Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy in different packages opposite Dont’a Hightower.
It seems this will continue to be the norm moving forward. Hightower didn’t have a stellar game, but held things together and made all the right calls. One area where the linebackers did a quietly great job was in coverage. Forte and Powell had a combined 4 catches for 30 yards. This was an area where we highlighted that they needed to do a better job after the past few weeks.
The Patriots secondary had a not-so-stellar game and it began with Malcolm Butler. Butler who has been very solid all season, easily his worst game of the year. He couldn’t matchup with Brandon Marshall physically and then got beat on Quincy Enunwa’s incredible touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
Eric Rowe moved to more of a cover for Marshall in the second half, but Enunwa, who had been invisible for weeks, torched the Pats for 5 catches, 109 yards, and a score. Rowe had a nice pass breakup.
Logan Ryan had another nice day, with a couple of pass breakups and five tackles. But the overall stickiness of the unit has to improve. Especially when they play zone. They set it up perfectly but don’t plaster well. Butler did generate a turnover with Devin McCourty’s help which was huge.
Special Teams: B-
Stephen Gostkowski missed another easily makeable 39-yard field goal against the Jets. Although he did make three more from 28, 29 and 41 yards and his two extra points, Bill Belichick apparently didn’t trust him to make the key 52-yarder at crunch time, opting instead to go for a 4th and four.
Ryan Allen had a good day with his punts and the coverage units were solid. The return game couldn’t generate much, they missed Cyrus Jones who was scratched from the active roster due to an illness.
Bill Belichick’s clock management at the end of the first half was questionable at best. They allowed the clock to wind down wasting about 24-25 seconds and then attempting the field goal that missed.
And he was positively Andy Reid-like on the Patriots first drive. A pass to Dion Lewis was close to the sticks where the referees gave him a first down. A closer look showed that he was well short. The Patriots foolishly called timeout and with the time, the Jets decided to contest the call and the Pats were forced to punt.
Josh McDaniels called a good game, but the combination of Jets solid play on defense and the injuries to the key players limited their effectiveness. That ridiculous trickery when they were moving the ball was just another example of the Pats coaches at times over-thinking things and trying to be too cute.
Give Matt Patricia props for second half adjustments. Fitzpatrick passed for 160 yards in the first half, but just 109 in the second half. They were prepared and disciplined and were flagged just twice.
The fact that both coordinators got big, key plays on each side of the ball at crunch time shows that the team is mentally tough and they can get the players to play accordingly.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Season 2016 Patriots season Bill Belichick Chris Hogan Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Josh McDaniels Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler Matt Patricia New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Trey Flowers