Best and Worst: Patriots 30, Jets 23
BEST start on defense
BY KEVIN O'CONNOR
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick forgot to protect the football while scrambling on the second play of the game, leading to a strip sack as Chandler Jones stuck his paw out and ripped the ball loose. So much for that Harvard education; Fitzpatrick should know the Patriots have one of the NFL’s top-ranked defenses. The Patriots were unable to convert the turnover into a touchdown, but they did pick up three points via the leg of Stephen Gostkowski.
WORST first half hands
The Patriots weren’t able to snatch an interception despite deflecting four passes in the first quarter. Rob Ninkovich got his hands on three and Malcolm Butler had a ball fall through his hands. Butterfingers weren’t just a problem for the defense, though. The
Patriots offense also at a handful of drops in the first half, with four -- yes, FOUR! -- from Brandon LaFell, who was in action for his first game of the season. Brandon LaDrop might join Aaron Dropson in Bill Belichick’s doghouse if he keeps this up.
BEST QB sneaker
Usually a red zone target for Rob Gronkowski is an automatic touchdown, but Tom Brady was 0-for-2 for targeting Gronk from the 1-yard line during a second quarter drive. But on fourth down the Patriots decided to go for it with a QB sneak. Brady took the snap from rookie center David Andrews and dove over the top of the pile like superman to tie the game 10-10.
WORST third down defense
In past years the Patriots defense had trouble getting off the field on third down, and Sunday’s game was very much a blast from the past. The Jets converted 5-of-8 third downs in the first half, which helped them build their early 10-3 lead. Eric Decker ate up Malcolm Butler, with 52 of his 59 yards coming on third down.
BEST Michael Vick impersonators
The two leading rushers at halftime weren’t LeGarrette Blount and Chris Ivory – they were Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The starting quarterbacks decided to channel the ghost of Michael Vick, with Fitzpatrick rushing for 26 yards on four carries. Brady rushed twice for 12 yards and one touchdown.
WORST halftime adjustments
Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia obviously tried to fix the Patriots’ third-down defense woes, but whatever they did didn’t work. New York converted three third downs during its seven-minute drive in the middle of the third quarter, which included another conversion by Eric Decker. The drive concluded with a wide-open Chris Ivory catching a touchdown pass that put the Jets ahead 17-16, as the Patriots’ bend-but-don’t-break defense began to crack, trailing 17-16.
WORST second half hands
The Patriots wide receiver core might need to talk to a sports psychologist after today, because they’re uncharacteristically dropping passes at an alarming rate. Julian Edelman dropped an easy touchdown to open the half -- his fifth drop in the last two weeks. And on third-and-nine late in the third quarter, Brady fired a sideline pass to Brandon LaFell, who dropped his fifth ball of the game. Not only was it a crucial drop, but a catch also would’ve allowed the Patriots defense to rest after the Jets just marched down the field on a seven-minute drive. The Patriots trailed 17-16 through three quarters.
BEST luck for Patriots defense
The Jets, apparent third down studs, had the Patriots right where they wanted them to start the fourth quarter. The Jets, then 8-of-12 on third down, were at the New England 12-yard line on third-and-7. Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped back and passed to a wide-open Brandon Marshall. But the ball clanked off Marshall’s hands and the Jets were forced to kick a field goal. The Patriots needed it, as they trailed only four points, 20-16, with 12:54 to go.
BEST clutch bromance catch
Tom Brady and Julian Edelman have a beautiful bromance, and that chemistry has allowed them to make a number of clutch plays. They came up huge again on Sunday, taking advantage of a Jets defense playing soft coverage on 3rd-and-17. Trailing 20-16, the Patriots absolutely needed a conversion, and Brady fired a dart to Edelman for a 27-yard gain. The Patriots eventually scored on this drive, courtesy of Brady's other bro, Danny Amendola, and took back the lead, 23-20.
BEST receiver redemption
Danny Amendola (sort of) made up for the Patriots’ dropped passes with a sensational grab late in the fourth quarter. Leading 23-20, the Patriots were in a position to put the game well out of reach for the Jets with a touchdown drive. In Jets territory, Brady slightly overthrew Amendola down the right sideline, but Amendola plucked the ball out of the air. Sadly enough, Brandon LaFell had another drop on that drive (his sixth of the game), and tight end Michael Williams had added one too, but Amendola saved the day.
WORST Jets clock management
The Jets trailed 23-20 at the two-minute warning with the Patriots driving down the field to put the game away. But Jets head coach Todd Bowles inexplicably chose not to use any of his three remaining timeouts. It’s a total head-scratcher of a decision, since the Patriots let the clock burn. Once they did extend their lead to 10 with a Rob Gronkowski touchdown, only 73 seconds were remaining in the game. Maybe the Jets would've had enough time to mount a miracle comeback if they used their timeouts earlier.
Rob Gronkowski came to eat in the fourth quarter, catching 5 balls for 55 yards and one touchdown. Gronk’s touchdown put the Patriots ahead 30-20 with 1:13 remaining, and it was arguably the easiest score of his career. The Jets blitzed six players, including one corner and one safety, and Gronkowski released on his route. Tom Brady flipped the ball over the blitzing defenders and Gronk waltzed into the end zone. Gronk's best highlight came earlier in the fourth, when he dragged a Jets defender an extra eight yards on a 23-yard catch. Typical Gronk, abusing poor defenders every single week. Gronkowski finished with 11 catches for 108 yards and one touchdown.
WORST onside kick coverage
The Patriots just had to make this game interesting. After the Jets kicked a field goal to cut the Patriots' lead to seven, they tried an onside kick that went through Jamie Collins five-hole. It wasn’t as bad as Bill Buckner’s “slow roller down the first base line,” but this is the second week in a row the Patriots had trouble recovering an onside attempt. Special teams will certainly be a point of emphasis this week for Joe Judge and Bill Belichick.
BEST way to stay undefeated
The Jets had 14 seconds to score a touchdown after recovering their onside kick, but they came up just short. On first down Ryan Fitzpatrick found Eric Decker up the middle for a 12-yard gain. With no timeouts left, the Jets hustled back to kill the clock. But Brandon Marshall committed a false start penalty, which caused a 10-second runoff to end the game. The Patriots stay undefeated, winning 30-23.