I finally got around to re-watching the Patriots win over the Jets last night, and I honestly wished I hadn’t done it, because it was even harder watching the Pats offense operate the second time around. However the defensive unit’s performance was promising, and despite the offensive struggles, I think I managed to pick out a few positive things that did have the last name Edelman.
Overall it was a rocky and ugly game, but I highlighted three key points from both the offensive side of the ball, as well as the defensive side of the ball.
Offensive Struggles Are Fixable
The main positive thing that I took from the offense’s outing, was that their problems are fixable, and this past week will probably end up being the low point of the season for them. Obviously, the drops from the rookie receivers were a big issue, but if you can look past that, there were some positive things to find. The first thing is concerning Aaron Dobson. Despite dropping four balls in this game, he got open better than he did all preseason long, and in this particular contest, better than fellow rookie wideout Kenbrell Thompkins. He got a little physical, and used his big body and long strides to gain some separation. Now this means absolutely nothing if he can’t hold onto the football, but I am going to attribute his sudden case of the drops to three things. The first is first game jitters, everybody has them, even professional football players. The second reason is the rain, and any receiver (even our man Wes Welker) drops some passes in the rain. The third, and most concerning reason is his disconnect with quarterback Tom Brady. This isn’t just a problem with Dobson, Thompkins still doesn’t seem to be on the same page with Brady, despite a terrific preseason. This was evident way too often on Thursday night, as one of these two guys either wouldn’t have his head around in time, or he wouldn’t break off his route at the right spot, and then the wrath of Brady would ensue. As the season progresses, both of these guys have to learn what Brady wants from them and eventually their rapport with the three time Super Bowl champion will be strong. It is not as if Thompkins and Dobson lack talent, because we know that is not the case. But if they can learn to develop their talent and work on their connection with Brady, then they will start to explode. This is also why I think when the playoffs roll around, this offense could be extremely dangerous. If the rookies work out their chemistry issues with Brady, then they present a solid outside threat to go along with Edelman, Amendola and Gronk terrorizing the middle of the football field.
Defensive Game-Plan Interesting
Aside from a few isolated sequences where the Patriots front four got a lot of pressure on Geno Smith, it seemed that he had all day to sit back in the pocket and decide where to throw the football. It was obvious that the Patriots weren’t going 150% at Smith with their pass rush, because Smith can be a threat with his feet, but when they allowed him to sit and read the defense for four or five seconds, and he often made the correct throw. However when they either sent five or more rushers at him, or someone like Chandler Jones really went full blast at him with a pass rush, he seemed to struggle. With this being said, Smith did struggle throughout the game regardless of the kind of pressure around him, but in my eyes, I think he struggled a little bit more when he was forced to throw before he wanted to (from what I gathered, roughly between two-three seconds after the snap as opposed to four or five). In my opinion, this game would have been a lot more comfortable for the Patriots if they had sent more pressure at Smith and forced him into even more turnovers.
Secondary Even Better Than Expected
The defense definitely won this game for the New England Patriots, and surprisingly enough, after going back and watching the game again, the secondary was the best unit on the field for the Patriots. Their front seven was solid, but they had a few moments where they got gashed on the ground by New York. But the Pats’ back end was great throughout the night. Geno Smith was 15/35 for 215 yards to go along with four sacks and three interceptions, and by my estimates, two of the four sacks were forced by the defensive backfield. Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard both came up with interceptions, and slot man Kyle Arrington once again had a terrific game in coverage, as well as making plays on the ball (see Talib’s first interception). Another surprise was the tandem of Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty at safety. We all knew that McCourty is quickly becoming one of the best free safeties in the game, but Gregory has really stepped up. He was excellent in run support, and despite an apparent injury early in the game, he returned to continue his high level of play. The biggest defensive lapse in the secondary that I saw, was a third down completion to Clyde Gates on the Jets first possession of the second half. It appeared that Alfonzo Dennard had man coverage on Gates with safety help over the top, and McCourty was just a tad late in coming to the sideline to help Dennard out. Dennard was beat earlier by Stephen Hill for a 37 yarder, but this was just a case of Hill using his five inch height advantage to go over Dennard and make the play. Overall it was a very good game for the secondary, as they locked up the Jets receivers for most of the night, as well as coming up with three huge interceptions in the most important portion of the football game, the fourth quarter.