Some Monday thoughts coming off of Sunday’s win:
Third Down Issues Were Glaring Sunday
The contrast in third down success on Sunday from the first half to the second was significant for the New England Patriots, and it played a key role in the Patriots grabbing an edge in a game that was closer than it needed to be.
New England finished 8-of-19 (42.1%) overall on third down Sunday, but the difference between their second half success compared to what they did over the course of the first two quarters was striking.
Before going into the locker room at halftime, the Patriots had converted 6-of-10 (60%), while the Jets were just 1-of-8 (12.5%). They also outgained New York 216yds-39yds despite running just 7 more offensive plays, with their defense dominating that first half.
Overall, Mac Jones completed 9-of-18 (50%) for 142-yards over the first two quarters of play, along with his lone 58-yard touchdown pass to Pharoah Brown, which was a beautiful throw that Brown caught in stride and finished off with a lunge into the end zone.
In the second half, their third-down success plummeted. New England converted just 2-of-9 (22%), which saw Bryce Baringer punt the ball away six times over the final two quarters. Jones attempted just 11 total passes in the second half, finishing 6-of-11 for 59-yards as the ground game became the emphasis.
However, with the rain pouring down, they struggled. Their inability to sustain drives prevented them from pulling away and it left the door open for the Jets to get back into the game.
Zach Wilson, who was just 5-of-10 for 29-yards in the first half, finally put together New York’s lone scoring drive late, which came after the Jets stood up Jones on a 3rd-and-1 quarterback sneak attempt that saw some sparks fly after Jones got his head pushed back and threw himself into the defense after the whistle.
He ended up in the arms of C.J. Mosely, who slammed him to the turf.
Things got ugly at MetLife Sunday. (PHOTO: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
The officials didn’t throw a flag and Jones was fired up at that point. After trying to draw them offsides on fourth down, he wasn’t happy when the timeout was called and he clearly wanted the ball ahead of the Patriots punting.
The Jets then grabbed some momentum, going the length of the field thanks to a couple of good throws by Wilson, with an untimely defensive pass interference penalty by Myles Bryant converting a 3rd-and-9 at the Patriots 9yd line.
Instead of holding them to a field goal, Bryant’s penalty extended the drive, which led to the Jets’ only touchdown of the afternoon.
That score made it 13-10 in favor of the Patriots, with the Jets knocking on the door with a shot at pulling off the upset.
Fortunately, Matthew Judon’s safety on Wilson on their next possession ended up being a massive key in the victory, but the Jets certainly made it interesting. An unsuccessful attempt at a Hail Mary – which was nearly caught after being batted down – came up short and the Patriots ugly outing in New York thankfully came to an end.
“In the end, some keys plays in the fourth quarter,” said Belichick after the game. “Fortunately, we were able to make a couple more than they were but it’s kind of been like this three weeks in a row for us, so it’s good to come out on the good end of it.”
Meanwhile, as the rain continued, Jones and the offense had a tough time getting anything going in the second half. He completed just 1-of-5 on third down as the Jets did a good job of creating a lot of tight windows and despite several balls that were close, New England’s receivers couldn’t make a play.
The latter situation has become a glaring issue. So far, the Patriots haven’t had anyone step up and be a go-to guy on third down to this point. That needs to change.
While they put up 83-yards on the ground in the second half on 24 carries, the Patriots only ended up with four rushing first downs. While they did a good job of burning some time off the clock, the fact they couldn’t move the chains was a big problem that prevented them from closing this one out.
Jones converted a third down on a sneak on the first drive of the second half, while Elliott moved the chains twice during a possession early in the fourth quarter on the same drive where Jones got stood up on third down, which forced a punt.
Stevenson carried three times on New England’s final possession and was held to just one yard on a 3rd-and-4 with just under a minute remaining, which forced another punt and gave the Jets the last gasp that ended up being closer than it needed to be.
It was just a tough day, and while the outcome was positive, there’s still plenty of improvement left for a unit that certainly struggled over the final 30 minutes Sunday.
Additional Quick Shots
1) Despite only hitting 50% of his attempts, rookie kicker Chad Ryland was solid. Ryland hit two of his four attempts, splitting the uprights on kicks from 48 and 51 yards, while missing two others (48 and 57 yards) wide, both of which seemed to come off of bad snaps. Given the weather, things were challenging but give the rookie credit for hitting what ended up being two critical field goals in Sunday’s win.
2) JuJu Smith-Schuster continues to be a giant question mark. Jones was just 1-of-3 targeting him Sunday, all of which came on third down. Obviously, Jakobi Meyers’ name will continue to come up but not due to the overall production, but more so due to the fact they seem to have a big void on third down and Smith-Schuster hasn’t helped Jones out there at all so far.
3) Demario Douglas showed some flashes despite limited success on Sunday. The fact he was badly interfered with on the late second-quarter throw was irritating, especially since it potentially cost New England points after Ryland badly hooked the ensuing 57-yard attempt thanks to a high snap. Douglas also had another target where he couldn’t quite get himself turned as he and Jones didn’t quite appear to be on the same page. Still, it feels like there’s still plenty of untapped potential. After a couple of rainy outings, it’s going to be interesting to see what he looks like on turf in Dallas this weekend, where he’ll hopefully be able to use his quickness to get himself in space.
4) With Kayshon Boutte being a healthy scratch for two straight weeks, it’s hard not to wonder if maybe he returns the line-up next Sunday. He looked pretty fast in the opener and, his two lack of toe-taps aside, didn’t look overly out of place. While Jones has been 0-for-4 targeting him so far in 2023, this is an offense that could use some explosiveness and it will be interesting to see if they potentially put him out there against the Cowboys.
5) Give Baringer credit, he bailed New England out of multiple bad situations on Sunday. He punted eight times including six in the second half, with Baringer pinning the Jets inside their own 20 four times, including a key late one at the 10 yard line which ended up setting up the safety by Matthew Judon after the Jets were called for a holding penalty the play before that pushed them back to their own 5. He’s been solid so far, although it would be nice if the offense could get it together and lighten his workload a bit.
6) The Patriots gamble to sit Jonathan Jones seemingly paid off as they escaped with Myles Bryant making some nice plays, although he again ended up with yet another ill-timed penalty. While he’s provided them with some depth after both Jack Jones and then Marcus Jones both having been knocked out of the line-up, along with Jonathan Jones also getting hurt in practice, it’s probably safe to say that’s been less than ideal. Bryant tends to both give-ith and take-ith away, and one would hope they won’t have to rely on him as much next weekend if Jonathan Jones returns.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary