FOXBOROUGH – Off year for Tom Brady and the Patriots? Not just yet.
If this were Cape Canaveral, it’s still all systems go. If Admiral David Farragut coached the Patriots, it’s still damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. If Mark Twain were the Patriot head coach, he would proudly proclaim to you that all the rumours of his death are greatly exaggerated.
In other words, all is still okay with the Patriots. Nothing has changed as January and the new year are just around the corner.
All the Patriots had to do to lock in the two seed and secure their annual first round playoff bye was to beat the 4-11 Jets at home. That turned out to be no problem at all, as the Patriots dispatched the Jets 38-3 on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots finished 8-0 at home in 2018, Tom Brady completed career pass number 6,000, and Bill Belichick stuck it to his former team with a late touchdown that was delightfully unnecessary.
The Patriots went into this game still alive for the top playoff seed. They needed both Kansas City and the Los Angeles Chargers to lose, but both won. The Chiefs took care of the lowly Oakland Raiders, 35-3 at home to clinch the top playoff seed. The Chargers went into Denver and clobbered the Broncos, 23-9. The AFC playoff seeds are, in order, Kansas City, New England, Houston, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Indianapolis. The Texans and Ravens, who both won on Sunday, will host Wild Card games next weekend.
What Patriot fans will most likely root for is for both home teams to win. Houston would then come to Foxborough, and Baltimore would head for Kansas City. The Patriots have always done well against the Texans at home in the playoffs, while Kansas City has had problems winning playoff games, especially at home, since their one and only Super Bowl win in Super Bowl IV, the last Super Bowl before the merger. Baltimore could then come to Foxborough and the Patriots would still get the AFC Championship Game at home. Going to Kansas City to play that game could be problematic for the Patriots, and a home date with the Ravens could also be dicey, but that discussion can wait.
The Patriots head into the postseason with few health issues, and their two gimme wins over Buffalo and the Jets went off as expected with no surprises. Devin McCourty saw an independent neurologist during the second half of the game, with no reports at press time as to his condition. Otherwise, the Patriots sustained no serious injuries, Brady enjoyed a comfortable day at the helm of the offense, the defense seems to be getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and even though beating the Jets at home by five touchdowns is not a major accomplishment, the Jets did not roll over and play dead and gave the Patriots their best effort for most of the game. But they are vastly inferior to the Patriots on paper, and Todd Bowles was predictably fired as Jet head coach later Sunday evening.
Brady’s numbers were glittering. He finished 24 of 33 passing for 250 yards, four touchdowns, and a passer rating of 133.8. Julian Edelman, James White, Phillip Dorsett and Rex Burkhead all caught touchdown passes. Chris Hogan enjoyed his return to offensive relevancy with a team high six catches, while Edelman had 69 yards receiving to lead the team.
The Patriots as a team had 131 yards rushing and averaged 4.4 yards per carry. Many of those rushes were jet sweeps, which explains why Edelman and Dorsett each had two carries and averaged ten yards per carry between them. Sony Michel only averaged 3.6 yards per carry with 50 rushing yards. Cordarelle Patterson missed the game due to injury.
The Patriot defense forced three fumbles, and sacked rookie quarterback Sam Darnold four times. Darnold was held to only 167 yards passing and a 74.6 rating. Darnold turned out to be the best running back on the Jets, as he had one scramble for 28 yards but Elijah McGuire was held to only 41 yards and a 2.3 average.
This game lacked any noteworthy moment or defining element other than Brady’s milestone pass completion and the playoff seeding ramifications. The only portion of the game worth talking about is the final offensive possession of the fourth quarter with Brady at quarterback. With the game seemingly secured at 31-3 about midway through the final period, the Patriots took over at the 36 after forcing a three and out by the Jets. Brian Hoyer was expected to take over at this point, but Brady came out instead.
Two of the first three plays were double-digit rushes by Michel and Edelman, the latter a jet sweep to the left. On third and four, Edelman ran another jet sweep left for a first down. With the ball at the Jet 27, Burkhead ran for 8 yards, then Dorsett gained 7 yards on a bubble screen. After an illegal shift penalty on Hogan, White took a dump pass and scampered 12 yards to the Jet 5. Brady then faked a jet sweep to Edelman and found Dorsett all by himself in the end zone. This drive seemed to have “HC of the NYJ” written all over it. Hoyer should have been in at quarterback and the Patriots should have just killed clock. Hoyer did play the rest of the game after this score.
Make no mistake, this game was all Patriots. Nothing went wrong for the home team, and the Jets were easy prey despite not laying down and playing dead like some road non-playoff teams can do at this time of the year. The Jets did in the end “get on the bus”, but they should be commended for playing like professionals all game long until they ran out of gas in the end.
The Patriots now take their perfunctory week off, wait for their next opponent (which will be the first game on Sunday afternoon, January 13), and let prep begin and wounds heal. The coaches will start to pore through all film of any prospective opponent (which is anyone other than Indianapolis), and all players will nurse their owies and get physically ready for the playoffs.
The Patriots head into the playoffs as, if you may have forgotten, defending AFC Champs. The Patriots have a shot at being the first team since Buffalo to go to three straight Super Bowls (they went to four straight). But their immediate focus will be their Divisional opponent. Whatever happens, the Patriots are still only two wins away from another big show.
So rest easy, Patriot Nation. Another year, another bye week. Party carefully Monday night, have a great 2019, and know that at One Patriot Place, all things are normal.