Fourth Time’s a Charm at Crunch Time
It has been a while since we could grade a Patriots win, four losses in a row, and a COVID-19 bye week since a Week 3 win to be exact. But forget about the “it was just the Jets” talk. They needed this one and all things being equal, it is a heckuva lot better than losing to the Jets.
However, it wasn’t pretty and they had a lot of bumps along the way, but at the end of the day, they controlled nearly the entire 4th quarter and outscored the Jets 13-0 to win the game. The Jets gave them all they could handle while Joe Flacco turned back the clock to look like the guy who breezed through the playoffs a few years ago.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Jets game. With the win, they improved to 3-5 and showed some life on offense.
Cam Newton had his best game in a Patriot uniform against the Jets. He looked in firm control of the offense, got the ball out quicker, and was throwing with much better accuracy. Although the game plan was pretty conservative, he began the night completing his first 11 passes. Newton finished the night a very good 27-35 for 274 yards and rushed for two touchdowns.
No, he wasn’t perfect, he overthrew Damiere Byrd for what would have been an easy touchdown. And blew a tire on a 3rd down in the red zone where it looked like he had some room to run. And yes…we know he was playing the Jets, but I didn’t hear much of that last week when the Chiefs put up big numbers against Gang Green.
His two best throws of the night were the 3rd and 20 laser to Jakobi Meyers that set up a Newton 4th and 1 sneak and the final pass of the game, another fastball that Meyers hauled in to set up the game-winning field goal.
Running Backs: B+
The Patriots running backs had another very good night. Remember the one area that the Jets have been strong in is defending the run, they came in 11th best in the league. And while it was a challenge and they had to claw and scratch all game long, at the end of the day, the Patriots rushed for 159 yards. And the running backs, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead had big parts of that.
Harris carried 14 times for 71 yards and hit the holes quickly, and ran very hard, being able to break tackles. He was hurt late in the game, hopefully, it isn’t a serious one. Burkhead carried 12 times for 56 yards and a touchdown. James White had a couple of catches, but they need to get him a little bit more involved in the passing game.
Wide Receivers: B+
This was an excellent game for Jakobi Meyers, the 2nd year wide receiver who was targeted 14 times and caught 12 passes for 169 yards, eight of which were for first downs. Meyers has a quarterback’s eye and can find the soft spots in coverage. He runs very good routes and has good hands. At crunch time with the game tied and the clock running out, he ran a 20-yard route and made a nice catch to put the Patriots in field goal range.
Damiere Byrd had five catches for 65 yards, but none was bigger than his 31-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter. Do we detect a trend here, with players coming up at big times?
Tight Ends: C
The tight end roster this week once again consisted of only Ryan Izzo. And Izzo probably shouldn’t have even played himself. He’s been on the injury list but gutted it out and showed up. He made a nice seal block on Newton’s first touchdown and did a good job in the running game. He wasn’t targeted in the passing game. Jakob Johnson besides being a lead blocker at his normal FB position played a few snaps at tight end. Korey Cunningham came in as an extra offensive lineman at tight end
Offensive Line: B
The offensive line was solid. They were going against a team that was selling out to stop the run and they opened enough holes for the backs to rush for 159 yards. Newton had solid pass protection all night. He got hit a few times but wasn’t sacked.
The only downside was the unit got flagged multiple times.
Defensive Line: C+
The defensive line has been short-handed all year and has lacked the true nose tackle that plays a two-gap style that they must have to play their defense. Beau Allen…remember him? He didn’t play a snap this year and they don’t have another one. To make matters worse, their best defensive lineman Lawrence Guy was out with an injury.
But Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman, Deatrich Wise, and Carl Davis played hard and partly by their hard work and partly because the Jets panicked after Mekhi Becton, their massive rookie left tackle left with an injury. Becton was manhandling anyone in front of him prior to his getting hurt. The Jets rushed for only 65 yards on 18 carries (3.6 yards per attempt). Wise came up with a huge sack, the only one by the team, and right at the right time, dropping Flacco on the Jets’ last drive.
The Patriots linebackers, like the defensive line, have been short-handed all season. On Monday night, they were missing Ja’Whaun Bentley. So they brought up practice squad LB Terez Hall, who has been in the system for the past two seasons. Fans were livid that rookies Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings didn’t get the nod, but neither one is a Mike or middle LB.
Chase Winovich was back playing a significant amount of snaps and it was needed. He put forth a good game on Monday night. Tashawn Bower got the start, but it was Derek Rivers who brought pressure on Flacco and forced an incompletion in the first quarter.
The Patriots secondary had a pretty bad start as both Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson were burned, and badly in the early going. Jackson allowed four catches for 97 yards and two TDs. The second TD was ugly as Jackson lost his footing, fell, and allowed a gift touchdown.
In the two games that Stephon Gilmore has missed, Jackson has been targeted 18 times and has allowed nine catches for 183 yards. McCourty allowed four catches for 67 yards and a TD. He was also flagged for DPI. Devin McCourty dropped what probably would have been a pick-six on the Jets’ first possession.
But late in the game, the secondary made two big plays that allowed the Patriots to come back and then win the game. Jackson redeemed himself somewhat (he was playing on a bad ankle), when he picked off Flacco. And then on the Jets final drive, facing a big third down. The Patriots went Cover-0 and Adrian Phillips blitzed right up the middle forcing Flacco to get rid of the ball harmlessly forcing a punt.
Special Teams: A-
Nick Folk gets very high marks here. Not only was he suffering from a back injury before the game that forced Jake Bailey to practice kicking field goals during warmups, so, Folk comes out for a game-winning 51-yard field goal, stretches his back a bit, and nails it right down the middle.
Bailey only punted once but it was a typical Bailey boomer, 59 yards that flipped field position. The coverage units were solid, but the return game with Gunner Olszewski still leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t know if it is his decision to run out every kick or the coaches, but he isn’t getting to the 25-yard line on the majority of his returns.
The Patriots coaching staff didn’t panic when they were down 10 points at the half and even down 10 after the 3rd quarter. But at crunch time, when Bill Belichick made all the right moves, he forced Adam Gase and the Jets to spit the bit.
There were a couple of curious play calls but overall, they made the correct play calls, some of the execution was not so stellar. But the team was prepared to play and played hard all game long.
We’re on to the Ravens on Sunday. While we’ll break this down later this week, this isn’t a great matchup for the Patriots. Especially in the aforementioned front seven… stay tuned.
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Devin McCourty James White Jason McCourty JC Jackson Joe Flacco New England Patriots NFL Stephon Gilmore