By: Steve Balestrieri
The Patriots survived a scary finish against the Jets to win 27-25 on Thursday night to improve to 5-2 on the season. Although this game won’t go down as one of the team’s best efforts.
Looking at the All-22 game film on NFL Game Rewind, some things stood out. We’ll look at a few of the key plays of the game and take a closer look.
Offensively,the Patriots much maligned offensive line did a pretty decent job of protecting Tom Brady. Considering that both Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly were out. The Jets did get pressure on Brady but he was still able to look to his second and third receivers. The worst games were reserved for Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon who were beaten fairly regularly.
The run defense, which was gashed for 218 yards was certainly bad, but is eminently fixable. While the Jets offensive line was winning the battle upfront, one of the main issues seemed to be that the Patriots defensive ends were crashing down too soon, especially Rob Ninkovich and were then swallowed up, allowing Jets running backs to bounce outside for big gains.
Much of the problem areas were blamed on communication issues with the defensive linemen. Given that the team had lost Jerod Mayo only three days before the game, it is understandable that they’d struggle with that. So there is no reason to panic over this performance just yet. The team does need help in the middle however, Jamie Collins is best suited for playing on the outside, and he seems to be uncomfortable and a tad slower inside.
Dont’a Hightower continues to have nice year, he’s a thumper in the running game and is a relentless blitzer. His play in the first half coming on a blitz of Geno Smith, drew a flag, saved a touchdown and forced the Jets to go for three.
A couple of the key plays include:
First TD A Flashback To 2013: Much like the start of the 2013 Week 2 game against the Jets, the Patriots took advantage of a Jets defensive breakdown to take an early lead on their first possession. On just the Patriots fourth play from scrimmage (compared to 7th last year) the Jets totally blew a coverage allowing Shane Vereen to score an easy 49 yard touchdown.
Vereen was split wide right and was supposed to be a decoy to clear out room for Tim Wright running a short pattern along the sideline. CB Phillip Adams passed off Vereen to safety Antonio Allen but Allen, misread the play and ran hard towards Wright leaving Vereen all alone down the sideline.
Brady had all the time needed to throw but nearly overthrew Vereen who made a great leaping catch for the touchdown.
Ivory Big 13 Yard Run: On the Jets first possession of the second half, Chris Ivory took a Smith hand-off up the middle and finding it blocked, did a nice bit of running and bounced it outside for a nice run. At the snap, Ivory takes the ball from Smith and finds nowhere to run. The Jets get a decent push at the point of attack but the linebackers Hightower and Collins are in good position to support the run.
Vince Wilfork is fighting off his block to the inside, but DE Rob Ninkovich crashes down hard inside and is easily sealed off, allowing Ivory to easily bounce to the edge and turn a 2 – 3 yard gain into a 13 yard big gain. Chandler Jones and Pat Chung are coming hard from the backside and if Ninkovich sets the edge, they’ll be there to support it from the backside.
Ivory 16 Yard Run: Once again, Ivory takes a Smith hand-off and finds the middle blocked. Wilfork has stood up and blocked the point of attack. On the outside WR Eric Decker has taken CB Brandon Browner deep down the sideline clearing out help on the perimeter.
Wilfork is in good position to support Ninkovich but he again crashes down and is rolled up. Collins on both plays is in good position but is a tad too slow to react. Once Ninkovich is sealed the Jets are in great position to break to the outside and McCourty as the deep safety is the only player in position to stop him.
Smith 7 Yard Scramble: Facing a third and five in the second quarter at the New England 39, Geno Smith is able to scramble for a big third down conversion. The run kept a Jets drive alive that eventually ended up with a field goal to give them a 9-7 lead. The Patriots are in good position in the secondary and Smith is flushed from the pocket.
But Chandler Jones who was disruptive and active all game, loses containment and then his balance inside. Smith is able to easily gain the edge and runs 7 yards for the first down on the right sideline before Tavon Wilson can get there.
Chris Johnson Stuff: In the second half, the Patriots did a little bit better job of adjustments and setting the edge. On this particular play, again the Jets offensive line does a nice job of getting a push at the point of attack.
But Wilfork fights off a double-team and stands them up, Hightower on the strong side is in perfect position to support either hole. This time Ninkovich defeats Cumberland’s block and sets the edge giving Johnson nowhere to run. Wilfork strings the play along and hits Johnson and brings him down after a gain of two.
Gronkowski 16 Yard Conversion: Facing a third and seven from the NE 34 in the second quarter Brady and Gronkowski are able to convert on the way to the Pats second touchdown. The Jets dropped seven into coverage and had four defenders right across the sticks at the first down marker.
Gronkowski runs a dig about 10 yards downfield, Calvin Pryor had coverage with an inside shade, but Gronkowski beat him to the middle and separated as he was coming across the middle. This made Brady’s job much easier for a big third down conversion.
Amendola’s TD Catch: After re-watching the play numerous times, it is no wonder Rex Ryan was so furious after the play. The Patriots were facing third and goal from the 19 yard line, the Jets dropped eight into coverage and had a wall of players lined up at the five yard line.
Brady was flushed out of the pocket and drifted to his left, Amendola adjusted his route and came back towards Brady. The throw was across Brady’s body and wasn’t perfect, Amendola had to go up and twist back to snag the ball and somehow came down with it and was able to roll into the end zone.
There were plenty of other plays that stood out in the game, and while the Patriots defensive deficiencies seem daunting, they can be fixed. The defensive line should and must play much better. The Jets offensive line pushed them around at the point of attack. With the trade deadline approaching, the team could use some help at either the DL or especially at linebacker. But on a short week with their captain going down with an injury, they’ll get the benefit of doubt here, but not much.
The Bears will present a difficult opponent to match up with and with 10 days to prepare, there will be no excuses for not playing better. The offense however was pretty much a bright spot putting up 27 points with only 19 minutes of possession. That too will have to improve not only against the Bears but down the stretch as well.
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