By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots survived an OT game with the New York Jets on Sunday at Foxborough, coming away with a 29-26 win. While hardly a signature win and far from the easy win predicted by many of the media in the area, in divisional games a win is a win is a win. The two game swing now puts the Patriots (4-3) in first place in the AFC East, a game ahead of New York (3-4) and Buffalo (3-4), Miami (3-3) had a bye week.
Jets Executed Game Plan- Give the Jets players and coaches credit, they had a good game plan and executed it very well. Their defense had the Patriots offense off-balance all day and they hardly resembled the unit that chewed threw Buffalo and Denver.
And they threw the ball in spots that were wide open for most of the game. Mark Sanchez threw for over 300 yards as the Jets mixed things up very well.
Ryan Drops The Ball- Where the Jets coaches (Rex Ryan in particular) dropped the ball was after the Devin McCourty fumble. The Jets already in field goal range needed just one first down to close out the game, run the clock to zero and kick a game winning field goal. Ryan blinked, played not to lose rather than win and allowed the Patriots a minute and a half to move for the tying field goal.
Patriots’ Offense Didn’t Panic- With a minute to go the Patriots had the ball on their 20 yard line with only one time out left, Tom Brady delivered. On a day where the offense never really had a good rhythm to it, he leaned on his receivers and they came through. I thought that the coach’s time management at the end of regulation was suspect as they too played for OT rather than used the time out earlier and tried for the win but the fact of the matter was, the players especially Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez who are both playing banged up, came through with a big comeback.
Secondary Play Not Helped by Lack of Pass Rush- The Patriots were victimized by Mark Sanchez all game long. Passing for more than 140 yards over their season average, the Jets had players open all over the field. While the secondary is going to continue to receive a lot of criticism, Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia deserves just as much.
The Patriots act like blitzes are investment chips that never return dividends. The four man pass rush isn’t getting it done…period. Sanchez was flat-footed for the vast majority of the game, having the time to get to his second and third progressions. And he was picking them apart with ease.
It is also interesting to note that on the play that sealed the game, Rob Ninkovich blew in on a blitz and Jermaine Cunningham was also able to get pressure as well, Ninkovich was able to cause a fumble and recover it. Some more blitzes are needed to help this secondary out, because pass pressure takes a lot of heat off the secondary.
So with that, here are 3 up and 3 down for the game:
Rob Gronkowski- Gronkowski is far from 100% physically, it’s easy to see with his lack of burst off the line. But he gutted it out and played nearly every snap on offense and turns in a big performance with 6 receptions, 78 yards and two touchdown receptions, the first a beautiful over the shoulder catch in the corner of the end zone.
Rob Ninkovich- Hard to believe that there are still some people who call out Ninkovich for uninspired play. One of the most versatile of the Patriots defenders, Ninkovich has been playing defensive end, and moved to linebacker due to injuries. Ninkovich forced his fourth fumble of the season on the sack of Sanchez that sealed the game.
Kickers Come Through- Both Zoltan Mesko and Stephen Gostkowski came through with big performances on Sunday. Mesko put four of his six punts inside the 20 yard line and did a great job of keeping the Jets deep. Gostkowski clutch kicks two FGs, one at the end of regulation, the other in OT for the win.
Honorable mention- Shane Vereen, Offensive line (w/2 starting guards out), Rushing defense (Jets 3.2 yards per carry)
Pass Rush Isn’t- With a secondary that’s being gashed by rookie QBs (Wilson) and shaky ones (Sanchez) and with both starting safeties (Steve Gregory and Pat Chung) out with injuries, the Patriots were forced to move Devin McCourty to safety along with rookie Tavon Wilson. Rather than try to help this secondary with some pressure, they stick to four pass rushers for the majority of the game and give Sanchez all day to throw. That’s not a good recipe, win or lose.
Brandon Lloyd- Lloyd had a pretty invisible game on the stat sheet and it wasn’t from Brady’s lack of looking in his direction. In a game where the Jets were getting physical with the WRs at the point of attack, this is a game where Lloyd has to make them pay by getting separation and going deep. His stat line: 1 reception for 6 yards.
Injuries Taking Their Toll- Already short-handed with starting guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly out, starting safeties Steve Gregory and Pat Chung out, the team lost two more defenders, Ras-I Dowling and DE Trevor Scott both left with injuries in the 4th quarter and didn’t return.