First, let me say I am STOKED for Matt Cassel. It's a long season, but he just started a professional football game at quarterback and walked away with a win. Did I mention it was his first start since High School? Way to go, Matt. Way to go.
In trying to find a word describing this game, the only thing I could think of was efficient. Every team plays to its strengths, but I think this game was won, in large part, by the coaching staff or, more accurately, by the coaching staff's careful examination of Matt Cassel's pre-season performance. In so doing, they were able to get a very clear picture of how to assist Matt in managing the game. Not to draw comparisons between Brady and Cassel, but Brady has far more decision making freedom on the field because he's Tom Brady. To be fair, did he have that much decision making authority in 2001? No way. In time, I believe Matt will have that game management skill that so many top quarterbacks have. Until then, he's really doing well, taking few chances and winning games. 2-0 BABY!!
- This was a grind it out victory. Cassel's numbers (16/23 for 165 yards) were enough to provide a good cushion and win the game.
- The best rusher of the game, LaMont Jordan, posted only 65 yards in 11 carries, but they were critical carries.
- Ellis Hobbs was lighting up the field with a number of key blocked passes and excellent coverage. Just looking at this game, he's showing he's THE veteran cornerback in the Patriots' system.
- The Patriots didn't emphasize the pass rush in the first half, opting for strong defensive backfield coverage. It seemed to work as it shut down Favre's targets.
- I was fairly convinced Hobbs or Jordan were the MVPs of this game, totally forgetting Gostkowski absolutely smacked the ball into the end zone for 5 touchbacks - FIVE!! That's key. Five of the Jets' drives had to start on their 20 yard line. Huge...
- Belichick tried some trickery by leaving the offensive unit on the field and making Mangini think they were going for a 4th down conversion. He then quickly put the punting unit on, creating a lot of confusion for the Jets. If it had worked, the Jets' safeties would've been the return guys. Unfortunately, Hanson kicked it into the endzone for a touchback, 1 of 2 for our punter. I wouldn't want to be Hanson on the bus ride home from Joisey.
- The passing game was interesting and very telling at the same time. Welker was tops with 7 for 72 yards, followed by Faulk with 4 for 50. Moss went 2 for 22 and his longest was 14 yards. A dropped pass changed his numbers, but it's interesting to see that the majority of the Cassel led passing game was short, underneath, high percentage passes and curious to see a running back, Faulk, with the second highest receiving yardage. That just goes to show how important the running backs have become and could indicate the kind of offense the Patriots will be utilizing.
All in all, a very satisfying win. I'm very happy for Matt and I'm stoked for the team. Now let's get some of those O line starters healthy. 3 sacks on Cassel is 3 too many, especially when he limped away from one of them.