Patriots

Patriots-Jets takeaways: Marcus Jones' punt-return TD caps bizarre win

Patriots

If you like offense and watched the first 59 minutes and 55 seconds of Sunday's New England Patriots-New York Jets game, we deeply apologize.

The AFC East rivals combined for just six points until late in the fourth quarter and seemed destined for overtime until Patriots rookie Marcus Jones sprung loose for an 84-yard punt return with just five seconds remaining in regulation.

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Jones' heroics helped New England steal a much-needed 10-3 victory and continue its dominance of the Jets: The Patriots now have won 14 straight against their division rival, which is the longest active winning streak by an NFL team against a single opponent.

The victory vaults New England ahead of New York in the AFC East standings; both teams have 6-4 records but the Patriots own the tiebreaker with a 2-0 record head-to-head. It also keeps the team's playoff hopes alive, as Bill Belichick's club is just one game back of the Miami Dolphins (7-3) and Buffalo Bills (7-3) for the division lead.

Here are four takeaways from a wild one at Gillette Stadium.

Offensively bad offenses

Marcus Jones saved the Patriots from disaster with his game-winning touchdown -- and saved viewers from watching more of an ugly offensive display.

While New England had its struggles, New York was horrific on offense, mustering just six first downs while punting 10 times. The Jets gained a total of two yards in the entire second half and averaged just 2.1 yards per play.

 

The Patriots have found ways to win ugly over their current three-game winning streak, but this might be one of their ugliest wins of the Belichick era.

Stats don't always lead to points

If we told you that Mac Jones completed 85 percent of his passes with zero interceptions, you'd call that a successful day, right?

Well, that was Jones' stat line Sunday -- 23 for 27 for 246 yards with zero touchdowns and zero picks -- yet the Patriots mustered just three offensive points. What gives?

While Jones and the offense found decent success moving the ball in their own territory, they sputtered once they crossed the 50. New England reached the red zone just once and went 4-for-15 on third down, as Jones missed a several key throws that would have helped move the team closer to field goal range.

The Patriots also ran 10 plays that resulted in negative yardage after having 28 negative plays combined through their first nine games. This three-play sequence after the Patriots moved the ball to the Jets' 7-yard line summed up the team's day offensively:

  • Third-and-2: 10-yard holding penalty on Yodny Cajuste
  • Third-and-12: Carl Lawson sack on Mac Jones for loss of 9
  • Fourth-and-21: Nick Folk misses 44-yard field goal 

Jones looked better than he did in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts, but there's still major room for improvement with this offense.

Offensive line injuries take their toll

Losing two starters on the offensive line in the first half didn't help New England's cause.

Center David Andrews, playing in his first game since Week 7, exited in the first quarter due to a thigh injury, while left tackle Isaiah Wynn departed in the second quarter due to a foot injury. James Ferentz took over at center, while Trent Brown, who was benched behind Wynn to start the game, replaced Wynn.

The Jets took full advantage of the Patriots' short-handed offensive line, getting to Jones for six sacks and repeatedly blowing up running plays in New England's backfield. It was that kind of day for a Patriots offense that actually moved the ball well at times but set itself back with multiple costly mistakes.

Patriots still have Zach Wilson's number

Zach Wilson seemed eager to face the Patriots again following his three-interception performance in Week 8. We're not sure why.

The second-year quarterback was awful once again Sunday, completing just 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards. While he didn't throw an interception, he missed several wide-open throws and should have had a pick that Patriots safety Devin McCourty dropped.

New England's defense deserves plenty of credit for continuing to flummox Wilson. The front seven consistently flushed Wilson out of the pocket and forced him to make throws on the run, while the secondary gave Wilson few options when he got a clean pocket.

 

But Wilson still had the opportunity to make plays and simply couldn't deliver when it counted. His career stats against the Patriots are eye-poppingly bad: 0-4 record, 50.9 completion percentage, two touchdown passes, seven interceptions and a 50.6 passer rating.