Gresh's Grades: Pats good enough over stretch
By Andy Gresh
Special to CSNNE.com
Let's make no mistake, there are things to be concerned about with this Patriots squad. But I'll try and put things in perspective and quiet down some of the overreaction that's been going on out there in Patriotland. The bottom line is, they got through a stretch of 4 games in 18 days and are at a point record-wise that has them in the hunt for a bye come playoff time.
The time of possession absolutely stunk. The Jets deserve credit for making it difficult on them all night, but the Pats had some self-inflicted wounds in the way of penalties and drops by receivers. A revamped offensive line, despite having some moments, did a solid job. I don't think the Pats have confidence in their running game unless Bryan Stork and Dan Connolly are in the lineup. Brandon LaFell is continuing to come on and even Danny Amendola chipped in at a crucial time. It wasn't pretty, but it was effective.
This grade is higher because of a handful of drops by receivers and a realistic view of the offensive line and its play. When protected, I thought Tom Brady played pretty well. He did a superb job of managing the game and making sure they were in the right play. Field position wasn't always great, but they battled and made use of what time they gave themselves. The trust in Amendola to throw that ball up where he did, at that point of the game, was a step forward for both players.
RUNNING BACK: B+
Shane Vereen is a fantastic talent. His ability to read the passing game adds a dimension to this offense that even Kevin Faulk didn't provide. I like his ability to run tough when needed, and use the outside and his quickness when he can. Solid in pass protections as well. He's underrated by fans. Jonas Gray was just okay. Nothing special.
WIDE RECEIVER: B-
Too many drops by this group. But we saw a development. While the numbers weren't mind blowing --Julian Edelman had a rough go -- TB12 leaned on others and kept the passing game functional. LaFell is really coming on with his understanding and confidence with this offense. It shows every week in his route-running and decision making. Amendola gave you something in both the return and passing game. That was a clutch catch by a guy who could've gone in the tank by now. Have to fix the pick play. Too many penalties this season on that.
TIGHT END: B
Rob Gronkowski is back to being Gronk. He's flying around the field, diving after balls, and is getting more confident at the point of attack in the run game. If he goes down, this team is in trouble. I was disappointed there wasn't one pass thrown the way of Tim Wright. The '0' set worked well last week and I was expecting more of the same this week. Hoo-man is Hoo-man. Yeoman's work and didn't hurt the team.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B
I am convinced without a shadow of a doubt that Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick don't think they can run the ball unless Stork and Connolly are in the game. That contributed to some of the offensive inefficiency, but this group did a pretty nice job in the passing game. Brady was hit seven times and that's a lot, but given who was in there, combined with some of the extra pressure the Jets brought, they somehow got it done.
Giving up 200 yards rushing is just way too much, but let's try and have some perspective. Geno Smith did have some runs out of the pocket to keep drives alive and helped contribute to massive wear and tear on a team that was hurting from a physical Buffalo game. The pass defense let them down on that final drive, though I do think BB gave Smith too much respect and didn't keep the pressure on. Pressure flushed him from the pocket at times, but the Pats didn't get home as much as they could. The red-zone defense this year continues to be a strength as they held the Jets to field goals instead of touchdowns. And if their third-down conversions got better, I wouldn't have to highlight how good the red-zone defense is.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-
The amount of rushing yards allowed was alarming, as was the Jets’ ability to run the ball inside. Vince Wilfork can only do so much; they continue to move him across the front and he's played with great push all season long. Chandler Jones still struggles in the run. There’s only so much Casey Walker and Chris Jones can help. They were slanting and stunting along the front but were inconsistent in their effectiveness.
Jamie Collins got some work inside with Jerod Mayo done for the year, and it was rough. He doesn’t get off blocks well and at times seemed a little lost in zone coverage. When he's manned up, he can lock on and cover. In zone where there's a little more thought involved, his reactions slow. Dont'a Hightower played well coming back from the knee injury. He moved well and is getting better at the point of attack.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B
I thought up until the final drive for the Jets, this group did a solid job. They covered so well that it led to some of the Smith runs for nice gains, so there's a catch-22 to good coverage against that style of quarterback. I liked what I saw from Darrelle Revis again. His impeccable technique allowed him to have a chance on the ball to Eric Decker that was highlighted in the broadcast. The safeties have to be a little tighter in coverage around the goal line, and didn't do a very good job on the tight end. Brandon Browner had some issues (though I think one of his penalties shouldn't have been called). He needs to work on his technique and wind before we can really start evaluating him. He was just okay. But overall, given the circumstances and the amount of time on the field, I thought they did good work.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
One bad kick return spoils the night. Stephen Gostkowski had three touchbacks on five kickoffs and was 2-for-2 with field goals. Ryan Allen had two nice punts inside the 20 and ripped a 55-yarder. The punt-return game didn't get going on either side. Amendola provided a spark on kick returns that none of us saw coming. I like him there and it may do something for his confidence.
'IT AIN'T BROKE'
1) Danny Amendola. Finding was to get him involved and it paid off.
2) The offensive line. Nice job with two backups in.
3) The running back spot. Losing Stevan Ridley stinks, but isn't a death blow.
'BUT IT NEEDS FIXING'
1) The run defense. May need to consider adding another DL to help LB's
2) Sustained drives. Start by cleaning up the penalties. That'll help.
3) Recovery. The more normal schedule will help with performance.
Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for 10 years has worked pre and post game analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.” Follow him on twitter @greshandzo.