Patriots Report Card: Pats make Jets lives miserable
The Patriots did enough early on Monday night that they made their jobs a little bit easier later on. They jumped out to a commanding early lead by scoring on three of their first four drives with varied personnel packages. They confounded Sam Darnold early and forced him to play spooked to the point that he made mistakes even when he wasn't pressured into them.
It wasn't perfect. And the grades reflect that. But it was yet another dominant effort from Bill Belichick's point as they get closer to the season's midway point.
Tom Brady's numbers were OK -- 31-for-45, 249 yards, one touchdown, one pick -- but would've been better had it not been for three drops from Ben Watson, Julian Edelman and Sony Michel. His touchdown pass to Phillip Dorsett was a beauty, as was his fourth-down conversion throw to Watson on the same drive. His toss to Jakobi Meyers for 23 yards in the second quarter was also well-placed. His pick, though he held onto the ball for an extended period of time, was due to a hit he absorbed from his blind side. And he picked up another intentional grounding penalty, which didn't help this grade.
RUNNING BACKS: C
Hard to give these guys a much better grade when they averaged 1.93 yards per carry as a group. Of course, a lot of what they were able to produce was based on what was blocked for them. And three of the runs resulted in goal-line scores for Sony Michel. But the run-game production continues to be an issue for this offense. In the passing game, this group was better (minus Michel's drop), resulting in the middling grade. James White came through with seven catches for 59 yards, and Brandon Bolden had arguably the best catch of the night when he toe-tapped along the sideline for a 28-yard gain on a back-shoulder throw.
Jakobi Meyers might see his role reduced with Mohamed Sanu in the fold, but against the Jets he was impressive. He caught all five of his targets for 47 yards and drew two penalties when targeted. The second -- a pass-interference call on Trumaine Johnson -- came on a nice double-move from the undrafted rookie that might've led to a touchdown had Johnson not interfered with him. Julian Edelman dropped a pass that would've led to an explosive gain and was called for an illegal block, but he still caught seven passes for 47 yards. Phillip Dorsett came back from a hamstring injury and was dependable in a limited role, as usual, catching three passes for 46 yards and a contested throw into the end zone for six.
TIGHT END: B
Ben Watson played 62 snaps while Eric Tomlinson played 38 snaps, and both made positive contributions. Ben Watson's first target bounced off his face mask, but he was sure-handed thereafter. Tomlinson caught his only target for one yard, but that's not what the team signed him for. He played as a fullback out of the backfield as well as an in-line blocker and used his 6-foot-6, 263-pound frame to his advantage. That he was able to play as much as he did in his first game in a new offense impressed his teammates. The Patriots leaned on their two tight end 12-personnel grouping throughout their first drive of the game, a 16-play series that ended in Michel's first score.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C
The Patriots performed well enough in the passing game as Tom Brady was only pressured seven times and hit twice, according to Pro Football Focus -- and one of those hits came when Brady held onto the ball for a beat too long. But to have the issues they did in the running game has to fall on this group to a certain extent. The average yards per carry number isn't ideal, but more than that, the inability how they run the ball at the end of the game to salt it away was probably not what Dante Scarnecchia was looking for. They ran eight times for 10 total yards in the fourth quarter.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Jake Bailey had another monster game, with four of his seven punts landing inside the 20, including one that rolled out of bounds at the Jets three-yard line. He also had a 59-yarder that was fielded at the Jets' 13 and returned seven yards. Late in the game, the Patriots created a turnover when old pal Braxton Berrios muffed a punt that was recovered by Matthew Slater. Mike Nugent made all five of his kicks -- four extra points, one field goal -- giving him his first clean game as a member of the Patriots.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-
Deatrich Wise got his first start of the season and chipped in with two quarterback hurries and a run stuff. Danny Shelton and Lawrence Guy were impact players in the run game, and Adam Butler played his usual role as an interior pass-rusher in sub situations. The Patriots based their pass-rush plans more on overwhelming the Jets with numbers as opposed to stunting them to death with Butler and linebackers working in conjunction to generate pressure, but hard to nitpick much of what this group did. The Jets did pick up 4.1 yards per carry, but in a game where they were behind for the vast majority of the time, the Patriots would be OK with that number.
John Simon and Kyle Van Noy combined for a game-altering strip-sack and fumble recovery. Dont'a Hightower made his presence felt with a jarring hit on a swing pass to Le'Veon Bell. And Chase Winovich came through with a pair of pressures. The reality is, the Patriots didn't need a whole heckuva lot from this group because the opposing quarterback was so rattled by the all-out blitzes he saw early in the game, that the Patriots didn't even need pressure to get home to make him screw up.
Devin McCourty got his fellow defensive backs going before the game by reminding them that Sam Darnold was going to be coming after their "weakness." They responded early. Check that. McCourty responded early with a pick on the second play of the game. Credit the rest of the group for understanding the pass-rush plans at the line of scrimmage and understanding they'd have the ability to jump routes early in the down because pressure would be bearing down on Darnold. They got another pick from Stephon Gilmore on a zero-blitz -- no safety, seven players showing rush -- and another from Duron Harmon with no deep safety. Terrence Brooks picked off a fourth pass in the Patriots end zone when Darnold lofted another ill-advised pass of his back foot. The Patriots made Darnold uncomfortable. They knew it. And they capitalized.