The Patriots went into MetLife Stadium this Sunday afternoon, and flat out sucked it up, specifically in that crucial second half. Tom Brady had another off game, the offensive line struggled once again, and the running game was nowhere to be found. I was incredibly disappointed with how this offense played in this game, especially given how much guts and heart their banged up defense put forth for them.
Obviously everybody is going to be talking about the interesting call that did in the Patriots in overtime, but for now I will just focus on what the Patriots could control in this game.
1. Gronk Is Back
Okay, I know there are a lot of other things that demand discussion from this game, but I thought Rob Gronkowski was awesome in his 2013 debut. He was on the field for 51 of 79 snaps (per Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston), and he hauled in eight catches (17 targets) for 114 yards. After missing the first six games of the season, I was expecting him to produce, but certainly not to the extent of eight catches for 114 yards. One negative of Gronk returning, was Brady began to force it to Gronkowski. This fixation on Gronkowski looked to cause the Jets 23 yard interception return for a touchdown early in the third quarter. Gronkowski displayed his trademark “mismatch qualities”, as he dominated any linebacker, cornerback and safety that had the tough task of corralling number 87. There were a few instances where Gronk and Brady appeared to be on a different page, but I am sure that a few weeks of game experience will help the duo get back to the level that they were at in previous years.
2. Brady Struggles
Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks to ever grace the face of the earth. He has three Super Bowl wins, two MVP awards, and a supermodel wife. He is a sure-fire lock to be in the Hall of Fam when he retires, but his play thus far in 2013 has been pretty bad. His accuracy is not up to par, he has made some questionable decisions, and his declining touch on deep throws is beginning to rear its ugly face (4-20 on passes that went more than 10 yards downfield in this game, according to ESPN Stats & Info). His struggles continued in against the Jets, as his final stat-line suggests. Brady completed 22 of 46 passes for 228 yards and one horrid interception. TV cameras showed him concerned with his right hand throughout the game, which may have contributed to his bad performance. But Brady didn’t play well at all, and just as when we hand out praise to the golden boy, we have to criticize him, and today he deserves all the criticism in the world with his awful outing.
3. Offensive Line Great In First Half, Terrible In Second
It was a tale of two halves for the big fellas on the offensive line. In the first, they gave Brady all day to throw, and it resulted in a 21 point outburst (7 from Logan Ryan’s pick six). But on the last play of the first half, Calvin Pace and Sheldon Richardson combined to sack Brady, which ended the Patriots drive, and opened the floodgates for the Jets defensive front. It went all downhill from there, as Brady was sacked three more times in the second half, and was hit plenty more. It disrupted the offense’s rhythm, and was definitely a big reason why New England lost this football game.
This group wasn’t that much better on the ground, as the final numbers for the Pats run game came out to 90 yards on 20 carries, which averages out to 4.5 yards a carry. I think that a portion of the blame for the struggles on the ground have to be placed on the running backs, and a portion on the coaching staff (20 carries isn’t nearly enough), but the offensive line struggled as well. They were repeatedly getting thrown back off of the line of scrimmage by the talented Jets front, and the running backs were hard-pressed to find a hold in the defense.
4. Despite Injuries, Pats Defense Holds Up
We knew that being without Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Tommy Kelly and Aqib Talib would hurt the Patriots in this game, and the Jets took advantage of their absences to the tune of 30 points, 383 total yards of offense, and 177 rushing yards. However I think that given the circumstances, the Pats defensive group played very well, and they kept New England in this ball game. Having Joe Vellano and Chris Jones as your starting defensive tackles in the middle will make things tough for any defense, but the Pats stayed strong, and held the Jets to a 3.4 average on the ground. Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower combined for 22 total tackles, and although they struggle mightily in the passing game, they prove why they are on this team when it is time to put a lock on the running game.
Chandler Jones continued to show why he is one of the top young pass rushers in the game, coming up with two sacks of Geno Smith, and he nearly got a couple more. He dominated left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson all game long, setting the tone for what was a solid outing for the Pats front four. Chris Jones, the man who committed the back-breaking penalty in overtime, had two sacks of his own, which should be a small consolation for him, after the horrible events of the overtime period.
As for the secondary, they settled down after a rough start, and they adjusted to life without Aqib Talib (for now) quite nicely. Alfonzo Dennard had a nice game on the outside, including a big pass breakup late in the fourth quarter as the Jets were trying to run out the clock. Rookie Logan Ryan had the play of the first half, showing excellent anticipation on his 79 yard interception return for a touchdown. This was definitely the highlight of the day for Ryan, but I thought he played a solid overall game, playing tight, physical defense on the Jets wide-outs. Kyle Arrington struggled in the slot, getting absolutely torched by Jeremy Kerley, and he ended up getting replaced by Marcquise Cole. Geno Smith had some success through the air, but the depleted Pats defense managed to hold the Jets passing attack to 209 total yards, in addition to their one takeaway early in the contest. As a side-note, this interception stretched the Patriots streak of consecutive games with a takeaway to an impressive 34 games.