Monday, October 16, 2017

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 24-17 win over the Jets

 Let’s be honest — the Patriots got a little lucky. Between a questionable pass interference penalty on Jamal Adams covering Rob Gronkowski that brought the Patriots down to the 2-yard line for their first touchdown, and a highly suspect instant replay decision that took a Jets touchdown off the board and gave the Patriots a touchback, the Patriots benefitted greatly from a 14-point swing. I didn’t think there was incontrovertible evidence that Austin Sefarian-Jenkins fumbled the ball, but the NFL league office made the call. The Patriots will gladly take it.

 The Patriots’ defense didn’t have Stephon Gilmore or Eric Rowe, but there’s still no excuse for getting picked apart by the Jets’ woeful offense. Josh McCown became the sixth consecutive opponent to throw for 300 yards against the Patriots (354), and owned the Patriots on third down, converting 9 of 17 including several from 8 yards or longer (plus a fourth-and-12 conversion late in the fourth quarter). The Patriots are still dealing with coverage breakdowns, as we saw on a 44-yard catch for Jermaine Kearse in the fourth quarter. And the pass rush was abysmal, giving McCown all day in the pocket to find open receivers.

 Malcolm Butler gambled and lost early on in the game, trying to undercut a route and instead getting burned for a 31-yard touchdown to Kearse, but he also saved the day. His interception late in the second quarter set up a key Patriots touchdown right before halftime, and Butler knocked the ball out of Sefarian-Jenkins’s hands down on the goal line to prevent a touchdown and get the ball back for the Patriots. McCown seemed to complete a decent number of passes Butler’s way, but he came up big when the Patriots needed him. Surprisingly, the Jets didn’t test Johnson Bademosi, their Patriots’ fifth cornerback who played his first snaps of the season on Sunday.

 Tom Brady looked a little off. He completed only 20 of 38 passes for 257 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, and made some questionable decisions with his reads. He threw deep to Chris Hogan in triple coverage, forced a throw to Brandin Cooks along the sideline on third down that had no chance of being completed, and then threw deep to Phillip Dorsett in double coverage late in the second quarter, an unnecessary risk that was intercepted.
 That said, Brady and the Patriots scored 24 straight points to take a commanding lead in the fourth quarter. Most impressively, he led the offense 63 yards for a touchdown in just 26 seconds to close out the half, then went 75 yards for a touchdown to start the third quarter and another huge 14-point swing.

 The stats say Brady was only hit four times all day, but it sure felt like a lot more than that. Kony Ealy, the Patriots castaway, got a hand on two consecutive passes by Brady, and drove him into the ground on the second. The Patriots certainly could have used him on Sunday, as McCown had all day in the pocket to find his receivers.

 Dion Lewis had a much bigger role in the offense for the second straight week, and was fantastic, rushing for 52 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and making several defenders miss. Mike Gillislee fumbled for the first time all season, and Bill Belichick sat him for about two quarters, but still gave him the ball in the fourth quarter. The Patriots seemed to stick with the run a little bit more this week.