By Traci McCartney // @traciamc
Patriots 24 -17 Jets
The Patriots went into the Meadowlands Sunday with a record identical to their opponents’, something no one could have predicted at the start of the season. The media had been talking about an 0-16 season for the Jets, but coach Todd Bowles, quarterback Josh McCown and the rest of the team have proved the media wrong. Whoever came out on top in this game would lead the AFC East, but this didn’t look like 2 good teams fighting it out for the division.
Let’s get the bad out of the way first – the defense, especially in passing, looked awful. I would have never predicted that the Super Bowl Champions would return and deliver the 32nd ranked defense in the National Football League, but here we are. They have given up an average, an AVERAGE of 440 yards of offense per game. Most of that, of course, through the air.
In fact, at some point during the game, the Jets had a 3rd and short and elected to throw the ball. Dan Fouts questioned the play call, suggesting they should have tried to run the ball. I turned to my husband and said, “Why would they? McCown has already thrown for over 200 yds. Our passing defense is terrible!” Now, there are always notable examples of good plays: cornerback Malcolm Butler and free safety Devin McCourty both had interceptions which led to drives for a touchdown and a field goal respectively. But McCown was able to complete passes over the middle, between the linebackers and the secondary, and the linebackers seemed slow and sluggish.
There were also a couple of instances where McCown was flushed out of the pocket and able to complete a pass to wide open receivers. On the Jets’ last drive of the game, the Patriots had sacked McCown and had put them in a 3rd and 17. McCown completed a pass for 5 yards and they had to go for it on 4th and 12. McCown completes a pass for a 32 yd gain to a wide open Robby Anderson. The defense allowed over 350 yards receiving.
The defense was also called for 2 defensive holding penalties in a row, virtually unheard of, which lead to a would be touchdown by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, overturned by a controversial interpretation of the rule that says that fumbling a ball out of the end zone turns the ball over and is a touchback. Although the replay showed Seferian-Jenkins losing control of the ball, the sticking point was where did he regain control and was the video evidence indisputable. Instead of the Jets being down by 3 points, it became Patriots’ ball on their own 25 yard line.
The defense did deliver four QB sacks on McCown for a loss of 20 yards: two for line backer Kyle Van Noy, and one each for line backer Dont’a Hightower and running back Malcolm Brown. Two of these sacks came on the Jets’ final drive. The defense also held the Jets running game to 74 yards, allowing an average of 3.1 per carry, so there was some good there.
There were some bright spots in other areas in this win as well. First of all, with this win, quarterback Tom Brady passed both quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brett Favre to have the record for the most regular season wins by a quarterback in NFL history. He now holds the record for most regular season wins, most post-season wins and most wins overall. Brady also managed to engineer two touchdown drives to put 14 unanswered points on the scoreboard to tie the game at halftime.
The running game looked pretty good, and running backs Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee both had good days: Lewis had 52 yds on 11 carries with a touchdown, and Gillislee had 10 carries for 44 yards. Instrumental in the running game’s success once again was Fullback James Develin, who blocked and occasionally pushed the back for positive yardage. Gillislee did fumble the ball when it was punched out from behind and that led to a Jets drive for a touchdown, but that was the only fumble of the game, also something Gillislee doesn’t do often. This was only the 2nd rushing fumble in his career.
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks and tight end Rob Gronkowski both had good games for 93 and 83 yards receiving respectively. Gronkowski had 2 touchdowns, giving him 72 and doubling the number of touchdowns scored in the 2017 season.
The Patriots held on to win this game, 24-17, but once again there are a lot of improvements needed to continue to win. Next week, the Patriots host Matt Ryan and the 3-2 Falcons for a Super Bowl rematch. The Falcons have lost 2 in a row to two of the Patriots’ AFC East rivals, the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins, can the Patriots make it 3 in a row?
Talk Patriots with Traci on Twitter @traciamc