What the hell was that?
Mark Sanchez just went Peyton Manning on the Patriots '08 secondary, despite a tremendous effort by the Patriots defensive front seven. We've learned a couple things this week, and here they are:
1) The Patriots should never, ever, ever play soft coverage. Their game plan was to challenge Mark Sanchez to make the throws and he did. All day. All freaking day. If the defense was supposed to change under Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and Pepper Johnson, it definitely didn't show. Their game plan fell apart in the 2nd quarter- and they decided to keep using it in the second half. There was no adjustment as they let Sanchez complete throw after throw. Terrible coaching by the New England Patriots.
Just like how the Bengals went aerial in the second half of Week 1, the Jets were able to go through the air most of the day. It was ugly. The Patriots were able to generate plenty of pressure with the defensive front seven, yet the secondary was never able to capitalize on the bad throws. If the Patriots continue to get to the quarterback that many times, the secondary must, must, MUST be playing tight coverage to make moves on plays.
Stat: 0 passes defended. Yeah. The Patriots defended ZERO passes. That's inexcusable and the fault of the terrible defensive planning.
Find out after the jump what else we learned.
2) Jets secondary got the Colts treatment. For every call that was called against Darius Butler, a penalty by Antonio Cromartie was let go. Butler was called for a penalty on the stake-in-the-heart drive by the Jets that was clearly not pass interference- Mark Sanchez threw a short ball, Butler was watching the ball, made a play and was called for a penalty. Horrible calling. On the other team, Cromartie was tugging jerseys, hands and arms of Randy Moss all day and wasn't called. It was very similar to Colts games. Eerily familiar. No it did not change the outcome of the game. It's just something that happened.
Also, the Jets receivers were pushing off the secondary the entire game. It was absurd. That said, the play calling allowed the Jets to exploit Butler and McCourty all day. Butler needs to play closer to his receivers to utilize his athleticism, or else he's going to get lit up the entire game. Two weeks in a row.
3) Tom Brady gave up. It was visible and it was painful to watch as a fan. His body language after the sack by Jason Taylor meant the game was over. He was underthrowing balls the entire game- except for the Cromartie interception on the 3 yard line- and was never giving his receiver a chance. Even though the Jets were playing more physical defense than is normally allowed, the Patriots should have adjusted and returned the favor. The team has not changed its mentality from last season. The other team pushes the Patriots around and they let them. That's not the intensity the team should be showing, especially in a division game.
4) Ron Brace and Gerard Warren played well- but Sanchez throwing the ball around drew the Patriots defense away from the line and opened lanes for the running game. Brace looks to continue to develop as a solid defensive lineman and Warren was fantastic in generating pressure. However, the defense as a unit was horrible. Sanchez and Dustin Keller forced the linebackers deep, which allowed LaDainian Tomlinson to get through the line for some big gains.
5) Offensive and Defensive Playcalling is still awful. I'll keep touching upon this. There were no offensive adjustments the entire game, despite the fact that they were playing against the league's best defense. There were no defensive adjustments, despite the fact that they were being lit up. Inexcusable coaching. The effect of losing so many coordinators over the years has started to show up the past couple seasons- and the team might have to reach out and pick up a free agent coordinator to rectify the situation.
6) The Patriots are back to being one dimensional. Fred Taylor was able to run well against the nonexistent Bengals defensive line. Cool. Well, the running core was unable to do anything against the Jets. At all. The team definitely needs to remodel the position as soon as possible. The team won't be able to compete if they remain a pass-only offense since defenses can just drop into coverage and knock down passes.
Oh yeah. The Jets knocked down 7 passes over the course of the game. That's how a defense should play. When their defensive line was creating pressure, their secondary was sticking close to the Patriots receivers. Which leads me to my next point.
7) Bend-don't-break only works when the offense is able to consistently move the ball. If the offense can't score, and the opposition keeps chipping away with field goals and the occasional touchdown, what's the point of the defense? There isn't one. That defensive style relies upon the offense outscoring what the defense gives up. A team can't play that against great defensive teams like the Jets, who are fully capable of stopping the offense. This defense won't work against teams like the Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens or any other team that has a top 10 offense and top 10 defense. The earlier the coaches learn this, the better this team will become.
8) Mark Sanchez outplayed Tom Brady.
9) While the defense reverted to 2008, the offense continued its 2009 style. Force the ball to Moss even though it will clearly result in some terrible turnovers. If that doesn't work, drop down to Wes Welker. If that doesn't work...panic? Except at least this season, the offense has Aaron Hernandez, who had a great game. But why wasn't his number called more often? I understand getting Moss involved in the offense, but it becomes such a detriment to the team when Brady plays with blinders and only looks at Moss and Welker.
Hernandez had some great mismatches. So did Gronkowski. Brady was unable to hit Gronkowski due to throwing the ball short (which is something he had trouble with all game). Hernandez needs to become a bigger part of the offense. So does Brandon Tate. Please, please, please go back to the early decade "throw to the open man" game plan.
10) Patriots missed Brandon McGowan against Dustin Keller. McGowan was a physical presence who could shut down tight ends, or at least limit them. Keller was running wild all game. The teams needs to find a player who can stop tight ends, or else every single playoff-caliber team will go nuts against the Patriots because they have a solid tight end.
11) Revis couldn't shut down Moss- but Cromartie + Safety help could. Look for the similar match-up later in the season as Revis eliminates Welker while Cro + safety take out Moss. That will leave great match-ups everywhere else on the field, but if the Patriots don't capitalize on those match-ups, the offense will continue to sputter.
12) What happened to the great tackling of Week 1? All those body tackles quickly devolved into arm tackles, which led to some big plays by the Jets, after the initial contact.
13) Brandon Meriweather was pulled in favor of James Sanders. That's not good news for Meriweather, who was supposed to team up with Pat Chung and make a fantastically athletic backfield.
14) The overall protection by the offensive line was great- I only saw one bad play by Sebastian Vollmer and one bad play by Matt Light. Unfortunately, the bad play by Light ended the Patriots comeback drive. Brady was given plenty of time to make plays, but he was clearly too focused on Moss and Welker to capitalize. I guess that's the word of the game. Capitalize (or the inability to do so).
15) Brady needs to stop playing stupid. He's going 2007 and airing out the ball, except he doesn't have the 2007 accuracy. I'm going to keep harping on Brady. I said leading up to the game that I'd rather see Brady not throw the ball over 25 yards, as long as he was accurate on passes that were 15 yards down the field. He's fantastic on mid-range throws, but (I know he got a touchdown to Moss, but that was mostly Moss) he can't drop the ball in the hands of his receivers on big throws. All opposing cornerbacks need to do, and they've been doing it, is knock the receiver off his timing at the line and stick with him as he runs down field. Maybe our secondary can take note?
I'm sure that there's plenty more things to discuss and I'm sure they'll be brought up later. This is all I have for now.
Keep in mind that the ceiling's not falling. A young defense, with an inexperienced defensive coordinator was picked apart. That's nothing to really be highly concerned about. A one dimensional offense was stopped by the best defense in the league. Nothing to really be surprised about either. The real worry should be how the Patriots face this adversity. How will they adjust? Will they adjust?
If the Patriots don't make changes by Week 4, start worrying. But for now, it's a young team that was taken advantage of, with plenty of time to improve. Don't hide under your tables just yet.