Word of the Week: Track. I think the Patriots are back on it.
1. New Weapons - Here are the Jets' passing numbers of the five top receivers before garbage time:
TE Dustin Keller - 2 rec, 37 yards
WR Plaxico Burress - 3 rec, 39 yards, 1 TD
WR Santonio Holmes - 4 rec, 66 yards
RB LaDainian Tomlinson - 1 rec, 6 yards
WR Jeremy Kerley - 2 rec, 29 yards
Total: 12 rec, 177 yards, 1 TD
Don't get confused by the final box score. The Patriots secondary absolutely shut down Mark Sanchez for the whole game. The defense almost matched their Round 1 performance, apart from one lapse in performance on a Keller throw up the seam. Keller had become Sanchez' favorite target over the past few weeks and the Patriots managed to shut him out, with a stamp put down on Rob Ninkovich's pick-6. The other receivers were kept in check for the majority of the game and there was no clear weak point in the secondary. Huge win for the injury-ridden Patriots.
2. Establish the Run - This did not happen. To be fair, this did not need to happen. The Patriots were finding pockets in the secondary all game and, once Tom Brady found his rhythm (I believe it happened with the perfect throw to Rob Gronkowski for their first touchdown), the offense could not be stopped. Brady has in an early funk and the run offense didn't help, but it seemed as if the Jets were willing to give up some throws in the air in order to stop the run. The Patriots adjusted (hooray!) and aired it out. Once the passing offense was in its full rhythm, Danny Woodhead had a solid day as a change-of-pace running back out of the no huddle. However, BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a quiet and ineffective day, as did Stevan Ridley and, most clearly, Kevin Faulk. It looks as if Faulk might be on his final season. Looking at the day as a whole, it's clear the run game needs some improvement. Loss for the Patriots.
3. Still Throw the Ball - I guess the Patriots found a way to throw the ball. Five receivers had over 40 yards. It was odd that Chad Ochocinco was quiet after his explosive first quarter (I still need to see that happen), but Brady managed to spread the ball all game instead of focusing on Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski. Well...actually, Gronkowski was targeted all day and had an incredible performance. If he's not a first team All Pro, it will be a shame. Deion Branch took advantage of Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson and some soft coverage in the no huddle, while Aaron Hernandez and Welker put together some quality support games. It would be nice to see Brady put the ball more on target on a few plays, but the offense seemed to find itself. Win for the Patriots.
Pat on my back:
You know what should happen, right? The Patriots offense has only been able to move the ball in the 4th quarter from the no huddle and throwing to the tight ends. Solution: operate from the no huddle and throw to the tight ends.
4. Special Teams - Special teams had a solid day. Stephen Gostkowski had a great rebound of a day, with three crucial field goals before the score was blown open. Julian Edelman had a mixed bag day in the return game, with one solid return, followed by some terrible fair catches inside the 10 yard line (let those go!). He redeemed himself with some solid cornerback play (yeah, right?) but since this is a Special Teams section, it doesn't count. Danny Woodhead continued to return the ball on kickoffs and continued to struggle by running directly into the backs of the lead blockers. He needs to sit down, especially due to his value in the no huddle offense. Some other player must emerge. Looking overall, the Patriots special teams did okay; not fantastic, but just okay. Half a win for the Patriots.
5. Under Pressure - Andre Carter set the franchise record for sacks in a single game. Mark Anderson was phenomenal. Vince Wilfork was generating push. The Patriots were rushing the passer with only three linemen. That's incredible. This was a breakout game for the pass rush and they did it without Albert Haynesworth. I need to re-watch some of the pressure to see what the defensive tackles were doing, but the defensive ends were relentless, which usually means that the defensive backs were doing well in coverage.
On the offensive side, it took a while for the offensive line to gel and they struggled with a safety and a terrible snap early on. Still, once they got into their groove, they were fantastic. The Jets registered only one quarterback hit on the day (according to ESPN) and Brady had all day to throw the ball as the Jets dropped back into coverage. Brady got fidgety after the safety, but he settled down once he realized how much time he had and he elevated his game. Humongous win for the Patriots.
The Patriots win 3.5/5. Keep in mind that the game was a story of two halves- or really a story of 28 minutes and then 32 minutes. As soon as the Patriots marched down the field to end the first half, the offense seemed to click and they realized how to beat the Jets defense- don't let them settle and create their own match-ups. Still, the Patriots offense struggled for almost the entire first half, which prevents a better final rating. (Not?) surprisingly, the defense was stellar the entire game, despite all of the injuries.
This was a great win and now the Patriots can move on to a less difficult portion of their schedule.