The New England Patriots, as expected, were able to squeak by the rival New York Jets last night 13-10 in what was a rough, hard-fought game between two bitter, division rivals. Below are five things that I think we learned from last night’s contest.
1. Aaron Dobson is ridiculously raw
We knew coming into this season that Aaron Dobson is a raw receiver who will need time to get a handle on things, but I don’t think anybody thought that Dobson would be this bad. And yes, let’s face it, he was terrible last night. That 39-yard touchdown catch? That was an absolute gift for Dobson, and it came as a result of an amazing playcall from Bill Belichick. They had Dobson aligned off of the line a bit behind the LOS, and they ran a play action with him running to the outside. That’s a “gimme” TD, as there was just nobody in his zip code; all it took to make that play happen was Tom Brady lofting it over a linebacker.
Dobson was responsible for three drops, and he caught just three passes on ten targets. It’s safe to say that he was the worst player on the Patriots last night, and he’ll need to do better with Danny Amendola most likely out next week.
2. This secondary can ball
The New England Patriots secondary came into the season as an underrated unit overall, and while their two performances have come against rookie QBs, they were amazing last night. Geno Smith threw three interceptions on three bad throws in the fourth quarter, but you have to give a lot of credit to the Patriots DBs for having that kind of tight coverage. Aqib Talib made huge plays with two interceptions (the first was more Clyde Gates dropping it than Talib) and a fumble forced, Kyle Arrington looked great again, Alfonzo Dennard looks like the best cornerback on the team again, and Devin McCourty looks like the best defensive player on the team. And Steve Gregory? He looked solid last night, and that’s definitely a positive to take away. This secondary will have to be great against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, but they have done nothing to make me believe that they aren’t capable of holding their own against the Falcons.
3. Rob Ninkovich is wrecking
Rob Ninkovich looks incredibly determined out there, and he had a huge game last night to go with an impressive performance against the Buffalo Bills. Running the ball to the right side is a dicey proposition for opponents the way Ninkovich is playing, and his run defense continues to be exemplary. That’s always been the strong point of his game, and he turned in a performance with six tackles, two tackles for loss, and a hit on Geno Smith. Ninkovich is a force out there, and he disrupted a lot of plays against the run.
4. Pass Rush shows up
Chandler Jones and Michael Buchanan combined for three sacks, as the New England Patriots sacked Smith a total of four times in a really nice game for the pass rush as a whole. Jones and Buchanan had five QB hits together, and the Patriots hit Smith a total of nine times last night. While the pressure still wasn’t as consistent as it should be, the sacks were there and the Patriots pass rush did its job in keeping Smith on the edge of his seat.
5. Julian Edelman the safety blanket
With Danny Amendola out, Julian Edelman, as expected, became the primary option as Tom Brady’s safety valve on short routes. He averaged a meager six yards per carry, but he came up with 13 catches and was vital in moving the ball for the Pats offense. They needed somebody to be consistent, and hauling in 13 passes on 18 targets is the definition of being a primary option and a safety blanket. The Patriots would have easily lost this game without Edelman, and he was the only player who seemed to know how to run routes and catch the ball. The rookie receivers will get better, but it’s going to take some time. Next week will be another huge week for Edelman, and he’s looked great this season.