The hype surrounding the Patriots was pretty significant following their blowout victory to open the season over the Bengals last Sunday. Suddenly, that hype is gone after a second half debacle and 28-14 loss to the New York Jets.
On offense, the Patriots came out and controlled the clock. Brady spread the ball around well to his slot receivers, the Patriots took a lot of time off the clock. However, the drive stalled and the Patriots made one of many miscues on the day. Stephen Gostkowski hit his first field goal, only to have it nullified by a delay of game. On his second try, Gostkowski misssed to the right.
After a three-and-out by the Jets, the Patriots took back over and moved down the field again. Brady made completions to Randy Moss, Julian Edelman, and Aaron Hernandez, capping the drive off with a six yard touchdown to Wes Welker.
Once the Jets got the ball back, they began moving down the field quickly, I'll avoid the details. The last positive part of the game for the Patriots came on a two-minute drive that was capped with a 34 yard one handed catch for a touchdown by Randy Moss. The play, which has to one of the greatest of Moss' career, gave the Patriots a 14-7 lead just before halftime.
It all went downhill from there. The Patriots made Mark Sanchez look good. They made him look great. While the team got a decent pass rush in the first half, it was essentially non-existent in the 2nd. Darius Butler was completely picked apart, and had one of the worst games I've ever seen from a Patriots cornerback. He made two costly pass interference plays, and was constantly targeted by Sanchez. He really couldn't stop Braylon Edwards at all. If there's a positive to all of this, it was that Devin McCourty held up decently well, and was rarely targeted. Still, there's no question that Butler had an awful, awful game.
Going into the game, I was afraid of Dustin Keller on the play action. My fears came true and the team couldn't stop Keller either. I don't know who had Keller the majority of the time, but I'll get a better idea when I go back and re-watch the game (if I have the stomach to). The Patriots also struggled to stop the run in the second half, consistently allowing LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to pick up those lethal four, five, and six yard games.
The Patriots had an especially lackluster performance in the 2nd half on offense. Tom Brady was inaccurate, he kept missing throws left and right (literally). He also stopped spreading the ball around. It seemed that every time he dropped back to pass, he would try to force a pass to Randy Moss, who was always double covered. It was painful to watch and led to two interception. The Patriots also abandoned the run in the 2nd half. Fred Taylor and BenJarvus Green-Ellis were ineffective. The only yards the Patriots were able to manage on the ground came on Kevin Faulk draw plays. Once the Patriots finally got things rolling and began to spread the ball around, the Patriots were down 28-14 with five minutes left. With the Patriots approaching the end zone, Matt Light (who had a good day overall), was absolutely burned by Jason Taylor, who hit Brady and forced a fumble that was recovered by Bryan Thomas of the Jets, essentially ending the game.
If I took any positives from this game, it would probably be the play of three rookies, one team veteran and one newcomer veteran: Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Spikes, Gerard Warren, Tully Banta-Cain and Jermaine Cunningham. Aaron Hernandez came up huge as a receiver/tight end. He has good hands, is deceptively fast, and is very elusive after the catch. Gerard Warren had two sacks in the game, and really looks like a solid pickup. Tully Banta-Cain made a couple of nice plays against the run and had one sack, although he probably should have had two. Rookie linebackers Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes also played well. Spikes looked solid against the run and Cunningham got a couple of quarterback hurries (one of which led to a sack by Gerard Warren) and also had a couple of nice plays against the run.
Overall, this game reminded me of the 2nd half from last year's week two game against the Jets. I could complain about the referees and their strange double standard when it came to contact in the defensive backfield, but the Patriots were simply outplayed in the 2nd half. I was a little bit worried about the Patriots rising confidence level in the lead up to this game, and my fears came true.
Luckily for the Pats, they should have an easy rebound game against the Buffalo Bills next week. But for the majority of the upcoming week, this one will sting.