The Patriots slugged their way to a three point victory over the New York Jets last night, and I have to say that it was probably the ugliest Pats game I have witnessed since 2006. There was a combined 20 punts between the two teams, and a meager 24 total first downs. Rain ruled the second half, as both teams struggled to get anything going on offense, and it was the turnovers that ultimately did in the Jets.
Here are five takeaways from the Patriots second regular season tilt of the 2013 season.
1. Offense A Work In Progress
Easily the worst unit of this game was the Patriots aerial attack. With leading receiver Danny Amendola out with a groin injury, and superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski still out from his back surgery, the Patriots offensive unit is a decimated one. This showed last night as they managed to generate more punts than first downs. Brady is just not on the same page with his new rookie receivers 95% of the time. Of course, they didn’t do themselves any favors by dropping the ball 1,000 times. The only guy that Brady seemed to trust throughout the game, was Julian Edelman, and that will not cut it when it comes time to play playoff caliber teams. However, I do think that this game was important for the young guys because they got some game action reps that will help them improve down the road. 10 weeks from now, when everybody is clicking, I think we can possibly look back to this contest as the low-point, and probably the best learning point for these rookies. But as of right now, the rapport between Dobson and Brady as well as Thompkins and Brady is not good, and 13 points to go along with 185 passing yards against their chief rivals makes it perfectly clear that they will have to make some severe adjustments.
2. Defensive Unit Stepped Up Big-Time
As bad as the offense was, the defense really turned some heads in this game (in a good way). Granted, it was against the Jets, whose offense was nearly as putrid as the Patriots offense was, but anytime a Patriot defense keeps New England in the game, and comes up big in waning moments, it is a noteworthy event. The secondary was solid in their coverage, as Geno Smith attempted to go at every single guy back there, and failed against each one. The front seven struggled at times defending the run, but they straightened themselves out towards the end of the contest. What impressed me the most about this unit was how they finished the Jets off. There were a number of times that the Jets could have gone right down the field to tie, or take the lead late in this game. But unlike previous years, the Patriots D stood strong, and essentially won the football game. Aqib Talib came up with two huge fourth quarter interceptions, with the last one clinching the win for New England.
3. Julian Edelman Emerging As Top Threat
As I mentioned above, the only guy that produced on the offensive side of the ball for the Pats was Julian Edelman. He seemed Welker-esque in his short route running, and reliability. He caught 13 passes for 78 yards to follow up his two touchdown performance last week against the Bills. Edelman has shown in these last two weeks that he is capable of being a number one receiver in this Patriots system, and he may have to do this for a little bit longer as we still don’t know the severity of Danny Amendola’s groin injury.
4. Ryan Allen
Allen was called upon to punt the football 11 times last night, and he did so admirably in my opinion. He had a few that were not executed as well as he would have liked, but overall he did a tremendous job at keeping the Pats in the game from a field position standpoint. He dropped four inside the twenty yard line as well as tying a Patriot record with 514 total punting yards.
5. Running Game Quiet
Most of the talk concerning the Patriots that will follow this game, will be concentrated on the passing offense and the lack of connection between Brady and his receivers, and deservedly so. But the Patriots running game did not do anything to help out Brady and those new weapons of his throughout last night’s game. Now the Jets front seven is a talented group, and the Pats knew that running against them would be a tough task, but 54 yards on 24 carries is unacceptable. The Pats tried using Stevan Ridley as well as LeGarrette Blount, but neither of these two guys could get anything going. A solid ground attack could have made a huge difference in the way this game transpired, and it could have helped the passing game flourish a little more than it did. Over the next couple of weeks, let us not only keep an eye on the struggling passing attack, but also the struggling group of running backs.