The New England Patriots played one of their most complete games of the season en route to defeating the New York Jets, 37-16, and reclaiming sole possession of first place in the AFC East. It wasn’t perfect, with the offense, defense, and special teams each struggling at times, but each unit also had a hand in winning the game. Tom Brady was able to sprinkle the ball around to various receivers, but Rob Gronkowski was unquestionably the man with catches for 113 yards and 2 touchdowns. Special teams was able to create a turnover. Andre Carter led the defense in creating pressure on Mark Sanchez, sacking him 4.5 times, good for a Patriots single game record. Rob Ninkovich had two interceptions, one which he returned for a touchdown to ice the game.
The Patriots in this game resembled those Patriots we’ve known for the past 10 years or so.
Tom Brady, despite struggling early, finished the game 26 of 39 for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns, good for a QB rating of 118.4. In addition to Gronkowski, Deion Branch made his presence felt, catching 5 passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 9 times, below just Gronk’s 11 targets. Gronkowski, as Rex Ryan said in his postgame press conference, created matchup problems that the Jets couldn’t solve. He used his size (6-7) and athletic ability to get open and make plays. If there was ever any doubt that he was among the elite tight ends in the NFL, he erased those doubts against the Jets. Even Chad Ochocinco got involved, catching 2 passes for 65 yards, with a long of 53 yards.
How about that defense? The much-maligned unit was able to pull together and hold the Jets to 16 points. The defense intercepted Mark Sanchez twice, both by Rob Ninkovich, and sacked him 5 times. Andre Carter was the clear star of the defensive line, sacking Sanchez 4.5 times as mentioned earlier. Mark Anderson got the other half a sack. Devin McCourty suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury in the first half and never returned to the game. Despite that, and Patrick Chung’s injury causing him to be inactive for the game, the secondary was able to hold up well enough to keep the Jets back. Part of that, if not most of that, has to be attributed to the constant pressure the defensive line got on Sanchez. The secondary’s best friend is a good pass rush, and we saw that against the Jets.
Despite all of the injuries, including those that occurred throughout the game, the Patriots were able to come together and put forth a win that could propel them through the second half of the season. The Pats have the easiest second-half schedule in the NFL, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that they could run the table. As it stands now, they essentially have a two-game lead over the New York Jets due to their better record and season sweep.
Up next are the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football. QB Matt Cassel’s status is in question as he injured his hand against Denver.