By: Steve Balestrieri
So the New England Patriots lost to the New York Jets 30-27 on Sunday afternoon in the Meadowlands as the Jets got a do-over after Nick Folk missed a 56 yard field goal in overtime and the Patriots were penalized for “pushing” on the kick.
Instead of taking over at the their own 46, the Jets got the ball with a fresh set of downs at the 23 where they set themselves up for a much easier Folk field goal for the win. While a horrible time to unleash a new rule on the equivalent of a Hail Mary pass in overtime, it wasn’t the reason the Patriots lost the game… far from it. More about that later, but the numbers bear out the Patriots had no business winning this one.
Number 1: The Patriots lost first because of the number 1, or the amount of third downs they converted on the day. One of 12 third downs isn’t going to beat many teams and the Jets made them pay for having transparent play calling and once again shoddy play across the board at many times by the offense.
Too many opportunities to convert first downs were allowed to slip by the boards and the third quarter was an absolute disaster for New England. Credit the Jets defense for playing well and having a good game plan, but this team has been shooting itself in the foot all season and today (as in Cincinnati) they were made to pay. No monsoon rains to blame it on. They didn’t execute.
Number 4: The amount of passes Tom Brady completed down the field where the ball traveled more than 10 yards. Brady was only four of 20 when throwing down the field on throws of more than 10 yards. Last season he was throwing around 50 percent. This season he’s at 34 percent and it is not going to get it done.
Again credit the Jets defense, but on Sunday a lion’s share of the offensive woes belongs at #12’s feet. His accuracy has left a lot to be desired in that category all season.
Number 8: Another reason they lost on Sunday, was the Patriots only completed eight passes to Rob Gronkowski which normally wouldn’t be a bad thing except that they threw to him 17 times.
Gronkowski was dealing with some rust issues but looked to be in very good physical condition; he played 51 of 79 offensive snaps and didn’t look winded on the field which is a good sign. While some of the passes to Gronkowski were defensed, there are two he’d love to have back.
A third down pass at the pylon where he couldn’t see the ball in the sun that nearly hit him in the head that would have likely resulted in a touchdown. And another on the Patriots final drive in regulation, Gronkowski was wide open inside the ten yard line and in perfect position to go in for a winning touchdown. But he opted for a one-handed grab that eluded him as he was bringing it in and the team again had to settle for three points.
Number 11: The amount of carries that Stevan Ridley got on Sunday against the Jets. While he did manage 50 yards on those carries, it was far too few for this “balanced offense” to click.
The Patriots entered the season intent on being balanced and with a renewed commitment to running the ball. So why does your best running back only carry the ball 11 times in an OT game? It defies description….
Other observations from today include:
Play calling far too predictable: The Patriots offense and particularly the play-calling of Josh McDaniel has fallen into a very predictable pattern and it was never so transparent as at the end of the first half and into the third quarter.
Passes on first down and runs on second down were attempted one too many times and the Jets stuffed the Patriots at the end of the half and the entire third quarter. The result was going from a 21-10 lead to a 27-21 deficit.
Once the Patriots opted to start attempting a few first down runs when backed inside their own 10 yard line in the fourth quarter, they gained good yardage and were able to put together a nice drive. The question begs itself, and it’s far from a new one, ‘Why did they wait so long to adjust?’
After having Gronkowski wide open down the seams early, McDaniels opted to use him on the perimeter with passes in the flat or down the sideline. Once the coaches All-22 tape is available, it will bear a second look but they went back to the seams on the final drive in regulation and were successful. So the question once again is, why go away from it?
Gronkowski Is Important To This Offense: No doubt about it, this is a different offense when big #87 is on the field and as stated earlier, he appeared to be in good shape wearing a big Barry Bonds type arm protector. His timing may have been off and we already mentioned the two passes he’d like to have back, but he didn’t seem to be suffering from any ill-effects on the many surgeries and was a big, physical presence, in other words….like Gronk.
His eight catches for 114 yards, while they represented good numbers for sure aren’t what they should have been today. Once the rust is gone, these will most certainly go up. He made a great block on Brandon Bolden’s touchdown run after hauling in a big catch down inside the five yard line in the first quarter. Overall it was a good first performance from a guy who hadn’t played in nine months.
Defense Showing Cracks: While the defense stepped up when it had to and made some critical stops to give the offense a chance to win, helped in part by some horrible play calling by the Jets as well, the fact of the matter is the Jets offense pushed them around for much of the day.
Geno Smith picked them apart early and converted the first six third downs of the game, the Patriots really missed Jerod Mayo in covering tight end Jeff Cumberland who tortured Dont’a Hightower for much of the game.
The Patriots were missing a lot of people but the Jets offense is hardly a potent unit. One thing was that the Jets were expected to test the middle of the defense and they did, but overall the unit played well. Chris Ivory gained 104 yards but on 34 carries which only averages out to a 3.1 yard per carry.
Jones Penalty, Costly: As was stated prior, the penalty on Chris Jones is a new rule and was called for the first time in the league on Sunday’s game against the Patriots which gave the Jets a new set of downs in which they ultimately won the game.
Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3, states: “Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.” Jones in fact did push Will Svitek but was initially lined up on the line of scrimmage.
Bill Belichick who was livid on the field, was adamant but more stoic after the game. “You can’t push on the second level,” he said. “I didn’t think we did that.”
It was a heck of a time for the league to enforce a rule that is broken on every kick, in overtime on a Hail Mary 56 yard field goal attempt but in the words of Belichick, it is what it is…. Somewhere Ray Hamilton feels Chris Jones’ pain.
Ultimately however it wasn’t the reason the Patriots lost but just the final number of many that put the nail in the coffin on Sunday.