Patriots

CONFIRMED: The Jets and Bills stink

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CONFIRMED: The Jets and Bills stink

I’m sitting here watching the Bills play the Jets in Week 1. If the offseason told us anything about the Bills and Jets, it was that they were going to stink this year. If the 10 minutes I’ve watched so far has told us anything, it’s that the Bills and Jets stink this year. 

Honestly, just forget about the Jets. Given how few good players they had last season and how many of them were cut or traded (Sheldon Richardson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, David Harris), there was no shot they are going to be good this season. Some call it tanking. You can also call it the Jets just being worse than usual. 

The Bills looked like they were also kind of throwing in the towel based on their offseason (seeing Stephon Gillmore and Mike Gillislee make the increasingly popular trip from Buffalo to New England, trading Sammy Watkins), but they at least appeared to be markedly better than the Jets. 

Sunday didn’t start that way. 

On the Bills’ first drive, Buffalo marched from its own 25 to the New York 2. Then Mike Tolbert lost six yards on a run. Not the end of the world. Then Tyrod Taylor got a pass batted down. No sweat. Then on third and goal, Charles Clay tipped a pass into the hands of Jets corner Justin Burris for an end zone interception that was returned 48 yards. Not great, Bob.

Is it dumb to judge a team -- and also kind of an entire division -- on one drive? Possibly, but not when it’s the AFC East. The AFC East usually stinks outside of New England, and though I don’t expect the Dolphins to take as big a step back as some, I don’t think they’re going to be a Wild Card team. 

In the time since I started writing this, by the way, the Bills have scored a touchdown and the Jets have kicked a field goal. I was starting to feel like maybe I was overreacting, but then Steven Hauschka missed a field goal wide left and Matt Forte dropped his like 41st pass of the game. My friend Evan, a Bills fan, also texted saying he's rooting for his team to lose to prevent the Jets from getting the first overall pick. It's Week freaking 1. 

Anyway, isn’t yet halftime but both of these teams’ seasons are over. Patriots are going to make it 14 division titles in 15 years. None of this is news. 

QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

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QUICK SLANTS PODCAST: Belichick ignoring noise? Or trying to change the narrative?

3:00 Why has Bill Belichick been so surprisingly positive of his team’s performance in tight wins?

6:30 Phil Perry breaks down what grades he gave the Patriots on his report card following the win over the Jets

15:00 Reaction to the Austin-Seferian Jenkins overturned touchdown, and what changes need to be made in the NFL replay system. 

23:00 Why was Patriots offensive line much more effective against Jets?

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

25:00 Patriots-Falcons preview, how did Falcons blow a 17 point lead to the Dolphins?

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

What's missing from Patriots? A defense that has a clue

FOXBORO - We’re not quite at the point of fire and brimstone coming down from the skies, or 40 years of darkness, or even dogs and cats living together, but this Patriots season isn’t headed down the right path, despite a 4-2 record and the top spot in the AFC East. 

There are several elements that appear missing at this juncture - chief among them a defense that actually has a clue. Please don’t celebrate holding the Jets to 17 points - I’m looking at you, Dont’a Hightower. Josh McCown threw for just 194 yards against the Cleveland freakin’ Browns for goodness sake, but he got you for 354 and two scores?! Even the 2009 Patriots defense is offended by that.

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We’d be foolish to think the Pats can’t get this leaky unit fixed for reasons so obvious I won’t state them in this space so as not to waste my time or yours. We also know - long before Bill Belichick’s 6 1/2-minute explanation on the Monday conference call - that it's not supposed to be perfect right now. Actually, it’ll never be perfect. That’s not how this game works. 

Yet week after week, we see uncommon breakdowns and one defender looking at the next as if to say, “I thought you had him?” or more to the point, “what the hell were you doing?” It started Sunday at MetLife on the third play of the game. Malcolm Butler, playing 10 yards off Robby Anderson, looking as if he’s never played the position before, inexplicably turning his back on Anderson even though the wide receiver makes no real move to the post. That results in just about the easiest completion of McCown’s life, a 23-yarder on third-and-10. 

On the same series, on another third-and-long, the Pats rushed four and dropped seven into coverage. Defensive end Cassius Marsh continued his season-long trend of rushing so far upfield he ended up in Hoboken. With Deatrich Wise ridden outside on the opposite edge, McCown wisely stepped up and found prime real estate with New York City views. He wanted to throw and could have when the Pats fouled up a crossing route from the backside of the play. But with that much room to roam, McCown took off, scooting for a quick 16 yards and another first down.

Fittingly, that drive ended with a Jets touchdown on yet another dumb play, this one courtesy of Mr. Hit or Miss, Elandon Roberts. Channeling his inner Brandon Spikes, the second-year pro blew off his key and responsibility on third-and-goal from the 1, charging hard to the line. This, despite one of the most feeble play-action fakes you’ll see. In fact, I’m not even sure it was a real play-action fake. Anyway, score it as a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins and an indictment on David Harris, who apparently can’t vault past the erratic Roberts on the depth chart.

Similar to the week prior in Tampa, the Pats found better footing after that. They forced three straight three-and-outs in the second quarter and then helped turn the game when Butler intercepted an ill-advised throw by McCown just prior to the half. They got another turnover to start the third, with Butler coming off the edge on fourth-and-1 and forcing McCown into panic mode. The veteran QB fired an off-target throw to - get this - a wide open receiver who went uncovered on a drag route and Devin McCourty was gifted an interception.

But this group frowns on prosperity. It took a little-seen rule to prevent a Seferian-Jenkins touchdown in the fourth, and on the game’s final drive, the Pats allowed a 32-yard completion on fourth-and-12. Then, on what turned out to be the Jets final play, the Pats let Tavaris Cadet leak out of the backfield and run unchecked 20 yards down the field. Had McCown not soiled himself again, Gang Green would have had a first down and at least one crack at the end zone. Then, who knows what the heck happens?

It was just a season ago that the Patriots led the entire NFL in scoring defense. If you’ll recall, we spent a better part of the year wondering if that defense was championship quality. Turns out they were. Right now, we’re wondering once again if this defense is of that ilk, but through an entirely different prism. It’s on the players and staff to change the current outlook, or those cats and dogs will have to figure out their shared space.