Some reactions following Sunday’s 15-10 win by the New England Patriots over the New York Jets:
1) While things certainly weren’t perfect, Mac Jones put together a solid effort in the rain at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
Jones finished with a turnover-free performance, completing 15-of-29 for 201 yards along with a touchdown. His touchdown throw to tight end Pharaoh Brown was a great pass, with Jones hitting Brown in stride as the veteran slipped deep into the secondary. Brown came down with the ball and took off for the races, diving at the end to cap off the 58-yard score and that ended up being their lone trip into the end zone.
Overall, Jones had several great throws, including one on a 3rd-and-5 from their own 41 where Jones fired it between a diving C.J. Mosely, who dove for the turnover but missed it, which resulted in an 18-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne.
It ultimately ended up being for not, as a holding call on Cole Strange forced the drive to eventually stall and resulted in a 48-yard missed field goal attempt by Chad Ryland, who pushed it wide right.
In the first half, he completed 5-of-9 on third down, all of which moved the chains, and three of them were for 15 yards or more. Those included some well-thrown passes to both Demario Douglas and Mike Gesicki, which extended drives.
In the second half, things were tougher as the rain continued to fall. Jones was just 1-of-5 on third down, connecting on a 16 yard pass to Parker, while failing to connect with Douglas (1 target), Hunter Henry (1 target) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (2 Targets).
But while the weather seemed to play the biggest role in the offense’s struggles in the passing game, this was certainly a nice outing for Jones. He stood in against a pretty good Jets pass rush and delivered several throws under pressure, which is something we’ve now seen him be better at through three games.
2) The offensive line put forward a better performance, with Trent Brown returning to the line-up, while both Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange also got the starting nod. On the other side, Verderian Lowe anchored the right side of the line.
For the most part, Jones had great protection on Sunday, and the ground game had a fair amount of success. The Patriots rushed for 157 yards on the ground on 40 carries, averaging 3.9 on the afternoon.
After the game, David Andrews said that 4-yards-per-carry is “the line of efficient running” they shoot for, so he was pleased with their improvement.
The biggest surprise on Sunday was the fact that it was Ezekiel Elliott who the team started leaning on down the stretch. Elliott finished the afternoon leading the team with 80 yards rushing on 16 carries, with 10 of those carries and 48 of those yards coming in the second half as the Patriots tried to bleed the clock and hold the lead.
That workload is Elliott’s heaviest so far here in New England, eclipsing the previous high of 7 carries he had in week one against Philadelphia.
“Zeke’s done a good job for us,” said Bill Belichick after the game. “I think we’re getting a little bit of a feel for some of the things with him and vice versa. I thought he had a couple of real good runs today.”
“We’ll look at the film and look a little more carefully, but I thought he did a nice job, he got his pads down. Got some tough yards. His vision was good on a couple of cut-back plays.”
3) Speaking of Trent Brown, his status heading into next weekend is going to be interesting.
Having received a boost to his contract recently, it sounds like there may have been some issues internally between Brown and the club, which one would have believed should have been alleviated after the club took care of him.
Unfortunately, it’s possible they may not be thrilled when they look at the film, so that might be an issue this week.
Brown was spotted on one play blocking absolutely no one on a run by Rhamondre Stevenson late in the third quarter.
On the play, Brown ran out to his left and didn’t attempt to get a hand on defensive back Michael Carter II, with Brown simply touching his chest as he jogged past, with the left tackle later tapping the shoulder of a defensive back further downfield as Stevenson was brought down.
Carter ultimately dropped Stevenson after Brown jogged past, and it was a terrible look given the massive physical advantage Brown had over him.
While I’ve yet to review the game film to see if this was a one-off, this bit of footage is certainly disturbing. And it’s probably safe to say he’ll hear about it from the coaching staff tomorrow.
As desperate as they may be up front, they can’t have a guy not giving their all on every play. You can’t hide in the film room, and it’s going to be interesting to see if Brown’s name shows up on the injury report should any internal strife develop.
Needless to say, for a guy who has a history of this type of behavior, it’s frustrating to see it appear here. Not to mention that if you’re Stevenson and were the one who took the shot because Brown didn’t block, it’s probably even more upsetting.
4) Demario Douglas saw action after getting benched following his fumble last Sunday, with the rookie seeing some snaps on offense.
Douglas saw action in the return game but also hauled in a key third-down reception, which was a 15-yard catch that got New England out to midfield and set up Brown’s 58-yard touchdown.
However, he and Jones had a tough time getting on the same page. Jones targeted him twice downfield on deep attempts, with Douglas getting interfered with on one after an irritating non-call, while the second came as he didn’t quite curl his route off or get his head around.
But after missing most of last week, it was definitely good to have him back out there. Those are things that can only get worked out with more reps, so Sunday was yet another part of that process.
Douglas was involved in a blatant interference non-call on one of his targets Sunday. (PHOTO:Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
5) JuJu Smith-Schuster remains disappointing, with the veteran having another tough outing.
He was targeted three times with just one completion, with Smith-Schuster still seemingly struggling with getting separation. He hauled in one pass for 5 yards, which happened to come on third down and moved the chains. But the fact Jones hasn’t been able to get him the ball seems like it has more to do with being an open target, which has been the bigger issue.
He remains a big concern, especially with some big games ahead. One of which will be next Sunday against a Cowboys team that lost a tough one Sunday against Arizona.
New England’s defense was terrific Sunday. (PHOTO:Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
6) Christian Gonzalez was solid Sunday, blanketing Garrett Wilson and making life tough on him as Zach Wilson struggled on Sunday.
Wilson, who is one of his quarterback’s key targets, had some tough battles with the rookie and ended up being frustrated by the time this one was over.
He was spotted on television having a heated exchange on the sidelines with his QB, after they had difficulty moving the football.
The Patriots had him mostly in check, with Gonzalez seen going back and forth with Wilson all afternoon. He finished the day with just 5 receptions after Wilson looked his way 9 times.
Gonzalez and the Patriots defense did a good job making life miserable on the Jets, limiting them to one scoring drive late that made things interesting and that came mostly after the Patriots got a little too conservative on offense. That likely stemmed from the fact the rain was coming down pretty hard in the second half, which made things difficult on the passing game on both sides.
But so far, Gonzalez’ selection has already paid dividends, especially for a secondary that was again without Jonathan Jones on Sunday.
7) Matthew Judon was outstanding in this one, harassing Zach Wilson all afternoon along with making a key play late.
Judon pulled off a safety after the Patriots had pinned New York deep, with Judon getting to =Wilson on a 3rd-and-15 from the Jets’ own 5.
The veteran forced his way into the pocket and wrapped up Wilson, who was standing in the end zone. Judon broke through and forced the safety and that play essentially sealed the win.
He had a scare at one point after he and J’Whaun Bentely collided and Bentley hit his legs. But Judon fortunately came off the field and only missed a few snaps and appeared to be in good spirits after the game.
It’s good that he avoided an injury. The Patriots will certainly have their hands full next week in a game that’s a big one for Dallas. The Cowboys got beat pretty handy on Sunday, losing to the Cardinals 28-16.
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