Instant Analysis: New England Patriots Hold-off New York Jets 17-16


Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) is sacked by New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson (91) in the first half during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots traveled to MetLife Stadium to face the New York Jets on a cold and gray December game in week sixteen. At 11-3 the Patriots were heavy favorites against the 3-11 Jets, but as always head coach Rex Ryan brought out the best of his players for a match-up against his arch rival, Bill Belichick. The Patriots had to gut out a tough win with a strong second-half as they clinched a first-round bye with a 17-16 win over the Jets.


Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan shakes hands with New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) before a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets were able to top 100 yards rushing, but never had a big play with sixteen-yards being the longest run of the game. Jets quarterback Geno Smith had one of his better games at quarterback as he threw for 201 yards and was 17 of 27 passing, but two key mistakes sunk the Jets. His interception set-up the Patriots game winning drive and later his taking a sack pushed the Jets out of easy field goal range and resulted in a partially blocked 52-yard attempt.


For New England, quarterback Tom Brady threw for just 182 yards as he struggled once again facing a motivated Jets defense. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden carried the load rushing the ball as they combined for 70 yards on eleven rushes. Danny Amendola stepped in for an injured Julian Edelman and caught eight passes for 63 yards and had a key punt return in the second quarter.


At the half, the Patriots trailed the Jets 10-7 after Danny Amendola gave the offense a short field with an explosive punt return and later converted a key third down through the air. Tight end Rob Gronkowski scored from three-yards out to give New England an early 7-0 lead. However, the defense allowed the Jets to storm right back behind the arm of quarterback Geno Smith completed five straight passes moving the Jets downfield to tie the game. He led another scoring drive that gave the Jets the lead.


The Jets defense was a force in the first half as they sacked quarterback Tom Brady four times and held New England to just nine yards on the ground. Quarterback Tom Brady was just 11 of 15 for 79 yards and a touchdown. The Jets rushed for 59 yards in the first half while Geno Smith was 11 of 16 for 117 yards and a touchdown in the first half.


After three quarters the Jets still led 13-10 but the Patriots were showing signs of life on offense and defense. The hurry-up offense was moving the ball and putting the Jets defense on their heels and New England created the first turnover of the game with some pressure at last. Brady was 20 of 29 for 156 yards and a touchdown. Rob Gronkowski had six receptions for 31 yards and a touchdown, Danny Amendola had seven catches for 37 yards, and Brandon Brandon LaFell led the way with seven grabs for 64 yards. Shane Vereen led the way on the ground with six carries for 38 yards. Chris Ivory led the Jets with 10 carries for 51 yards through three quarters and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley continued his strong play against the Patriots with three catches for 54 yards.



Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) runs away from New England Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung (23) during the game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The statistics told the entire story of the first half. New England with three rushes for five yards. Three first downs gained and three sacks allowed resulting in three sacks. Tom Brady was six of eight passing for 44 yards but with the three sacks it resulted in just 20 net yards of offense.


The defense kept the Patriots in the game allowing just one first down to the Jets giving up just 26 yards on the ground, with 13 of them coming on one rush by Ivory for the Jets only first down.  The Jets punted three times in the first quarter and started the second quarter with a punt after their third three-and-out. Geno Smith was three of six passing for 14 yards.


Neither team showed any proclivity for making anything happen on offense in the first quarter. For New England, taking a sack on third-and-three, unable to find a receiver near the first down sticks on third-and-eight, and taking a sack on third-and-fourteen were the first quarter drive killers. The only third down conversion was Brady keeping it on third-and-one and diving ahead on a quarterback keeper.


While the New England defense was stout in stopping the New York running game and sniffed out the runs by Percy Harvin without difficulty, the Jets continued their run of uninspired offense as they seemed intent on keeping Geno Smith from making mistakes in the passing game. New England appeared to have Marcus Cannon at left tackle and Nate Solder at tight end/tackle eligible next to Sebastian Vollmer. That just invited the Jets to overload the left side and attack Cannon and second-year guard Josh Kline for their early sacks.



Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) is upended by New York Jets safety Calvin Pryor (25) during a punt return during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The second quarter got off to a better start for New England as Jets kicker Ryan Quigley out-punted his coverage and Danny Amendola brought the punt back 39 yards to set up New England at the New York 36-yard line. Brady converted on third-and-three to Amendola over the middle in the Julian Edelman role at slot receiver. A completion to Shane Vereen out of the backfield for a dozen yards. The drive concluded with a back-shoulder touchdown to Gronkowski with safety Calvin Pryor outclassed trying to cover him without help as the Patriots jumped to a 7-0 lead.


The ensuing drive saw the Patriots defense bit by missed tackles. A drop by a wide-open Jace Amaro set-up second-and-ten for New York. The Patriots had Chris Ivory stopped at the line of scrimmage but Ivory simply outworked Rob Ninkovich and Jamie Collins and turned it into a six yard gain. That set-up a third-and-four that was converted by third-down back Bilal Powell out of the backfield on a seven-yard reception.


Tight end Jeff Cumberland, Powell, and slot receiver Jeremy Kerley began taking turns driving the Jets down the field. Kerley had 18 and 11 yard receptions beating cornerback Logan Ryan. Powell had a 14 yard run on a direct snap. Geno Smith completed his last five passes on the drive as New England got zero pass rush and his final pass was a 20 yard pass to Cumberland who simply ran past safety Patrick Chung on a go route to catch a wide-open touchdown. That tied the game at seven apiece with just over six minutes to play before the half.


Another three-and-out by New England saw two poor throws by Brady and the team unable to convert a third-and-two. Brady tripped over his own feet and threw incomplete to running back Jonas Gray. Brady was pressured on third down as he tried to throw to Brandon LaFell, but the ball was nowhere near the receiver sailing high and wide. The Patriots missed a huge opportunity as Amendola had a 47-yard return on the kickoff negated by a Brandon Bolden holding penalty that saw New England starting the drive inside their own ten yard line.


The Jets took over on offense and continued picking on cornerback Logan Ryan as Geno Smith sat back in the pocket without any pass rush whatsoever by New England. A huge illegal contact penalty on Ryan in coverage of Kerley extended the drive for New York as instead of it being fourth-and-seven and New York punting, instead they had a first down at the New England 42-yard line with two minutes to play in the half. The Jets got conservative after Percy Harvin beat Darrelle Revis for 25 yards and settled for a 26-yard field goal with less than a minute before halftime.


Rather than making a play before the half, it was Brady getting sacked for the fourth time on first down and then taking a knee and going into halftime trailing 10-7 after an uninspired first half.



Dec 14, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) after catching the ball to score a touchdown during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots won 41-13. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots came out of the half playing no better as Brady remained under duress when passing on the first drive, the running game contributed nothing, and the Patriots punted away again. Once more, a stupid penalty on special teams negated a strong play as Ryan Allen nailed a 56-yard punt which would have pinned the Jets inside their 15-yard line. Instead, rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler was called for a 15-yard personal foul as he ignored the fair catch and wrapped up the returner.


The Jets continued to out-hustle, out-work, and simply be more aggressive on both sides of the ball against the Patriots. The Jets just ran all over the Patriots on this drive. Six straight running plays move d the Jets into New England territory where Kerley again burned the Patriots with his third reception of the game this time for 25 yards giving him 54 yards total through the air. New England again tightened up in the red zone as usual, but Nick Folk’s 23-yard field goal made it 13-7 New York making it 13 unanswered points for the Jets.


Shane Vereen rushed for eight yards on first down to double the team’s rushing yards. Brady converted a key third down with a 12-yard completion to tight end Tim Wright. New England finally went no-huddle and hurry-up, spreading the Jets defense out and moving quickly downfield with short passes and giving space for Vereen to run the ball. Vereen rushed six times for 38 yards on the drive. However, New England stalled out at the five-yard line and New England settled for a 24-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to cut the Jets lead to 13-10.


New England finally forced a turnover as linebacker Jamie Collins stepped in front of tight Jace Amaro to pick-off Smith. Smith was pressured by outside linebacker/defensive end Chandler Jones who hit him as he threw the ball and forced the underthrow. The Patriots took over at the Jets 38-yard line after the interception. A 14-yard catch and run by Brandon LaFell took New England into position to take the lead as the third quarter ran out. Another pass to LaFell right at the sticks on third-and-ten at the Jets 23-yard line ended the quarter with the Jets up 13-10 still.



Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker (87) catches a pass during warmups before a game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots for the second week in a row saw themselves feeding off the emotion of quarterback Tom Brady and his pump-fake-and-run as he gained 11 yards down to the two-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter. Jonas Gray muscled the ball into the end zone on a couple of runs from the two to give New England a 17-13 lead.


The Jets converted a third-and-eight after an incompletion and a short run. The Patriots blitzed and were burned as Cumberland converted. The next play the Patriots were burnt again on the blitz as fullback John Conner slipped out for 26 yards. Another 15-yard catch and run by Cumberland breaking more tackles had the Jets inside the New England 30-yard line.  Another third-and-long was converted by the Jets as Eric Decker beat Brandon Browner for a 13-yard completion.


A huge sack of Smith by Chandler Jones on second-down forced the Jets to again settle for a 37-yard field goal as the Patriots’ defense tightened up inside the red zone again. The Jets were unable to connect with tight end Cumberland again on third-and-seventeen as the field goal just cut the lead to one point with New England hangin on with a 17-16 lead with under eight minutes to play in the game.


Disaster struck on the next drive as Brady threw and interception to Jets cornerback Marcus Williams at the thirty-yard line trying to connect with LaFell. Brady was hit as he threw and the pass was far off target. The Jets interception set them up to take the lead, but two runs set-up a third-and-four at the New England 24-yard line. A ten-yard sack by a blitzing Dont’a Hightower pushed the Jets back to the 34-yard line where they had to attempt a 52-yard field goal. Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork slightly deflected the kick and it was no good and the Patriots were ahead still.


Taking over with great field position, the Patriots faced a third-and-seven at their 45-yard line.  A wide receiver screen to Amendola got New England right to the first down marker. Initially there was a measurement and it looked like the Patriots were just short. However, the officials ruled it a first down and after a challenge from the Jets it was upheld as a first down with just over four minutes to play.


Amendola continued to step-up for the Patriots as he caught a deflected pass to Gronkowski for seven yards on first-and-fifteen. On second down he beat cornerback Antonio Allen for twelve yards and a huge conversion to let the clock run down to the two-minute warning after a six-yard run by Brandon Bolden.


The Jets burned their final timeout after another run by Brandon Bolden made it third-and-one at the Jets 25-yard line. Bolden rumbled for 17-yards to the Jets eight-yard line on third down sprung by a crushing block by fullback James Develin. The Patriots were able to get into the victory formation and take a knee to close out a game that was much closer and much tougher than it should have been for the top-seed of the AFC.