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Friday, 17 October 2014

New York Jets At New England: Three Things We Learned

Just a year ago, the New England Patriots edged out a victory over the New York Jets on a rain drenched field in Foxboro, MA. This year, the same venue was pretty wet, but the rain subsided in time for the two teams to play a fairly clean game.

Both offenses were able to move the ball, the Jets with a lot of success on the ground, but not on the scoreboard. The Patriots favored the air attack, as has been their plan for the third week. It took until the second half for the Jets to wrest the lead (and TDs) from the Patriots, but their dominance on the clock and the ground was reaping huge rewards.

It was a close game that gave us something to think about:

1. The Patriots struggle against the run.

It seems rather obvious, but worth noting that this is the biggest weakness on this defense. The Patriots paid a lot of attention to the secondary, but were counting on Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, returning from major injuries last year, to hold the line. That has not been enough, and now Mayo is gone again, leaving a huge void that has not been, and may never be, filled. The Jets did most of their damage on the ground, gashing the Patriots for 218 yards and a TD. That could very well have been the story of the game.

2. The Jets need to clean up mistakes to put points on the board.

Untimely gaffs forced the Jets to settle for field goals time and time again, and stalled otherwise promising drives. Four clock-consuming, back-breaking drives ended in field goals instead of touchdowns. The difference is immeasurable. It could have been a Jets rout. Instead of taking advantage of a 100% advantage in time-of-possession, the New York game plan fell apart as they shot themselves in the proverbial foot.

3. Tom Brady can scramble.

Except for the occasional, odd juke-out (like against Brian Urlacher) nobody considers Brady a runner. Yet twice he scrambled to extend the play and complete big passes tonight. One was a TD to Danny Amendola that helped to put the game out of reach.

A two-point win is heart-stopping, and the Patriots really took their chances giving the ball back to the Jets with a minute left in the game. But a rare blocked field goal, with the clock ticking to zero, saved it in the end, bringing the Jets up short in their bid for a big upset.

New England did just enough to win, a theme that has haunted them at the worst times in recent years. Losing their top running threat put them in a deep hole. It is worth noting that the run game hasn't been strong, and that deficiency could grow in significance as the season progresses.

The Jets should be able to look at this game as a positive despite the "L" on the board. They took the perennial, first-place Patriots to the brink and showed that they can do some damage with a young QB. They have a lot of things to fix, but nothing that can't turn into positives down the road.

One final note:

The New England front line has been doing a superb job of late keeping Brady upright in the pocket. That was the biggest knock on the team for the second year, and there has been marked improvement. Not only is Brady thankful for the protection, he has shown his gratitude with much better passing in three straight games. He is spreading the ball around and that means great things for everybody involved.


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