Last season, the Jets faced the Colts in the AFC Championship Game and they played a strong first half, only to see the game slip away with Manning's arm leading the Colts to victory. During the off-season, most people wrote off the Patriots and the Jets declared that they were building their team to beat the Colts. During Week 2 of this season, the Patriots' vertical offense was shut down by the Jets as Antonio Cromartie shut down Randy Moss, causing the Patriots' offense to stall.
My, how things have changed.
The Jets feature one of the most dominant secondaries in the league, with Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery as the cornerbacks on the roster. While each cornerback has their respective strengths, each has their own weakness. Read about how the Patriots match-up against the Jets after the jump.
#1 in the league in completion rate against (52%)
#2 in the league in total number of completions against (only 128 completions)
#3 in the league in total passing yards against (181 yards/game)
They're a great secondary, there's no doubt about it. However, I believe that the Patriots match up well against the Jets. Here's why:
Darrelle Revis has made his living shutting down whatever player he is lined up against. He has the ability to change direction, run down the field, defend both sides of the field and basically just sit in their receiver's pocket wherever he goes. His one weakness comes in his guarding of the hitch route. The Patriots' offense features the hitch route, especially with Deion Branch. Tom Brady throws Branch the hitch route throughout the game. Now, the hitch won't work every time because Revis is a smart corner- he'll start jumping the route. However, if the Patriots can expose Revis for a couple completions, or even isolate him on one side of the field, then they can eliminate their best weapon on defense.
Antonio Cromartie is a great vertical defender. In fact, I would say that he's the complete opposite of Kyle Arrington. Cromartie is a great return-man, Arrington's a great return-defender. Arrington is weak against the deep coverage, but is a great cover corner on underneath routes. Cromartie is built to stop Go routes, but he struggles mightily underneath. Wes Welker is his kryptonite. Welker runs across the field and away from Cromartie, leaving him open for a quick sprint up the field.
Add in the fact that the Patriots have Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Brandon Tate and Danny Woodhead as legitimate receivers, it seems like the Jets are outgunned. Unfortunately, the Patriots cannot dictate how the Jets will use their personnel to cover the top two receivers. Looking at the previous match-up on December 6th, the Patriots have figured to get around the Jets' elite coverage- stay away from the cornerbacks. During the course of the game, Revis and Cromartie combined for four tackles, three against BenJarvus Green-Ellis and one against Sammy Morris. Not a single tackle came against the receivers. The players who registered tackles against the Patriots' receivers? Their safeties and their linebackers.
Brady ate the Jets alive by throwing the ball in the middle of the field. The Patriots often played a receiver wide to run Revis away from the actual play and exploited the mismatches the tight ends were creating against safeties. The Patriots also used slip screens in the middle of the field in order to use the linemen as blockers against the Jets' defenders. Play action slip screens give the appearance of the deep ball, forcing the safeties and cornerbacks to stay with their receivers down the field, but they also force the defensive linemen out of position, leaving only the linebackers to beat for the receiving "slip back".
Also, keep in mind that the Jets, despite tying the Patriots for second most sacks in the final eight games of the season, struggle to generate consistent pressure against the quarterback without blitzing. The Jets cannot afford to blitz the Brady because of his quick releases to Welker and his receivers. They also cannot afford to give Brady time in the pocket to pick apart their defense with passes to the quick receivers.
So let's take a look at what the Patriots can do to beat the Jets with their passing game:
1. Utilize the middle of the field. By staying away from Revis and Cromartie, the Patriots can march up the field without fear of a pass defended or intercepted.
2. Force mismatches with the tight ends. Gronk and Hernandez are both mismatches for whoever attempts to cover them. By using unique alignments (coming out of the backfield, spread wide, etc), the Patriots can move the chains by not revealing to the Jets where the receivers are starting the play.
3. Take what is given. Don't force the big play that isn't there- that's the lesson from the Week 2 loss to the Jets. If the Jets only give hitch routes, then take those yards and move the chains. The Jets are going to try and control the clock by running the ball. Counter that strategy with long drives of quick passes and fast yardage.
If the Patriots follow those three steps when passing the ball, the Jets won't be able to stop the aerial attack of Brady. I believe the Patriots can pass the ball on the Jets much better than Manning and the Colts passes the ball because I believe the offensive weapons of the Patriots match up against the Jets secondary much better than the Colts' offensive weapons match up.