Tom E. Curran's review of New England Patriots vs. New York Jets
FOXBORO -- The Patriots scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions and that was all it took for the Jets to pretty much agree to go quietly. This was the kind of win the Patriots were hoping to secure in their season finale – a soup-to-nuts afternoon of competency in which the passing offense looked more fluid than it has in weeks. Almost as important, the Patriots exited the game in good health and enter the bye week before the AFC Divisional Playoff in better shape physically for the postseason than they have in years. They’ll need it.
WHEN THE JETS RAN
Pretty much as advertised. The Jets can’t get much going on the ground against anyone. The fact they ran for 104 yards on 23 carries comes with the caveat that 28 of those came on a Sam Darnold scramble and another came on a 17-yard run by Elijah McGuire. Do those runs not count? Why of course they do. But the Darnold run goes more on lack of awareness in pass defense (seemingly on Kyle Van Noy) while the McGuire run was simply Van Noy being slow to plug a hole. Bottom line? In the meat-and-potatoes running game, the Jets averaged around 3 yards per carry. And the score made it impossible for them to focus on anything but throwing.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RAN
After last week’s ground game bonanza, this one was more workmanlike. The Patriots ran 30 times for 131 yards. In terms of standard, meat-and-potatoes runs, it wasn’t a spectacular game. Sony Michel had 50 on 14 carries and 14 came on one of those so it’s not like he was tearing off gains otherwise. But the back-of-the-playbook stuff that’s moved to the forefront in terms of jet sweeps and end arounds did have an impact. Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett broke off 18 and 11-yarders respectively. James White carried four times for 30 yards. Rex Burkhead continues to be the backfield version of a long reliever/setup man, chewing up carries and catches that Sony Michel or James White would be better off getting.
WHEN THE JETS PASSED
Sam Darnold’s out there with a slingshot in a gunfight but the rookie gave a decent accounting of himself. Despite a 1 for 6 start, he went 15 for 22 for 159 after that. His best target, Robby Anderson, was effectively taken away by Stephon Gilmore (three catches, 24 yards). The Jets’ longest completion were 25 and 22 yards and there was nothing else over 20 yards. That’s a solid performance regardless of the competition. The Patriots got a lot of reps for their defensive back depth with J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen playing a ton. Devin McCourty left with a possible concussion in the second half so that was a concern but with a week off that hopefully resolves itself. The Patriots came up with four sacks.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASSED
Tom Brady went 16 for 22 in the first half for 165 yards and threw three of his four touchdown passes. After last week’s post-Gordon game when the Patriots passing attack was feeble, this was a very necessary performance. The most targeted receiver my a longshot? Chris Hogan. He had 11 targets. The only other time he saw that many for the Patriots was last year against Tampa. He caught six of them for 64 yards but also had a drop on a downfield pass that he was partially screened on. The more important aspects were Brady, throwing with more confidence and pocket presence than he has in weeks; Julian Edelman (five catches on six targets for 69 yards) moving really well and Rob Gronkowski blocking and running routes fluidly. Phillip Dorsett was also dusted off for five catches and 34 yards including a 9-yard score. The Jets didn’t give an amazing amount of resistance but, regardless, it was a very good confidence builder.
Bill Belichick specifically credited his special teams group with holding down the Jets fairly explosive return game. Andre Roberts only had one punt return for no gain and two fair catches. He did have a 32-yard kickoff return but the Patriots made sure to steer clear of him later in the game.