Redemption? Yeah. That was nice.
1. Defend the Outlet -
Week 1: Reggie Bush, 9 receptions, 56 yards, 1 touchdown
Week 3: Fred Jackson, 5 receptions, 87 yards
Week 5: LaDainian Tomlinson, 1 reception, 2 yards; Shonn Greene, 2 receptions, 9 yards
Well, I think the Patriots found a role for Gary Guyton. The main issue with Guyton, for this season, is that he struggles to square up and shed blockers in order to make the tackle in run defense. Well, his athleticism is fantastic for one thing- watching the outlet receiver. Guyton's skill set consists of speed, generally solid tackling, and generally solid pursuit angles. His weaknesses are lack of strength and inability to wade through the traffic at the line of scrimmage. Against the Jets, Guyton was his usual self while stopping the run, but his coverage assignment was the running back instead of his usual coverage of the tight end. As a result, not only did he limit Greene to 2 receptions for 9 yards (Brandon Spikes took down LT), but he covered the outlet receiver for a fair amount of the game.
Guyton, Spikes, James Ihedigbo, and Rob Ninkovich did a quality job of preventing Mark Sanchez from looking towards his outlet receivers and, as a result, limited his production. This was a major win for the Patriots. Hopefully, the team can continue to progress and leverage their improvement into even greater defensive production down the road.
2. Watch the Tight End -
Week 1: Anthony Fasano, 5 receptions, 82 yards
Week 4: Kevin Boss, 4 receptions, 78 yards
Week 5: Dustin Keller, 1 reception, 7 yards
This is where James Ihedigbo comes into play. Ihedigbo was charged with watching the Jets' #1 most productive receiver and limited him to a near empty stat sheet. The Patriots had players like Rob Ninkovich bump Keller at the line and had Ihedigbo sitting at the first down marker in order to prevent any looks in Keller's direction. It worked. Keller was not just eliminated from the game, but his reduction in production stifled the entire Jets offense. Tight ends who have found success against the Patriots in the past usually find a weakness in the zone defense to exploit. The Patriots didn't let the Jets have a chance by using man coverage on both the outlet and the tight end. This is a win for the Patriots.
3. Create Pressure - Here's a stat window from Pro Football Focus:
No Pressure: 20 drop backs, 20 atts, 13 cmps (65% cmp rate), 135 yards, 6.7 YPA, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 0 Sacks, 117.5 QBR
Pressured: 8 drop backs, 6 atts, 3 cmps (50% cmp rate), 32 yards, 5.3 YPA, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 Sacks, 66.0 QBR
Eight pressures. That's it. Blitzing isn't the answer because they blitzed seven times and they didn't generate pressure on at least three of those blitzes. The Patriots need to find a way to be more effective in generating pressure because opposing quarterbacks have a field day when they aren't pressured. Whether that involves sending linebackers on delays, or even a few defensive back blitzes, something has to be done to shake up the opposing quarterback.
It wasn't the pass rush that did a great job in hurting Sanchez's production, but it was the coverage. They were phenomenal in the game and did not allow their receivers to break free. While the Patriots saw success when they had a pass rush, they rarely had one. As a result, this is a loss for the Patriots.
4. Protect Brady - The Jets generated pressure on 9 of Brady's 37 plays. Yes, that means the Patriots had a higher success rate of generating pressure. However, Brady was sacked on 4 of the 9 pressures, and completed only 2 of the 5 passes he managed to let loose. That said, the Jets blitzed 19 times and if they could only record 9 total pressures (with some pressures not a result of the blitz), the Patriots offensive line should receive some kudos for not getting confused by the numerous defensive looks. Brady never looked shaken during the game, even though he was hit hard. This is a tie for the Patriots.
5. Don't Rely on Welker - Three receivers with over 3 receptions. Three receivers with over 50 yards. The return of Aaron Hernandez, apart from his untimely interception, did wonders for the offense. Hernandez always manages to open up the field for Deion Branch and created mismatches in coverage all over the field. Wes Welker was generally shut down by Darrelle Revis, but unlike other games this season, Brady was able to find second or third targets down the field. Brady took the yards yielded by the Jets' defense (and that usually involved handing the ball off) and limited the possible mistakes. The Patriots had an extremely well balanced offense that will, hopefully, avoid injuries and continue to operate at a high level. A win for the Patriots.
The Patriots won 3.5/5. The team must find a way to protect Brady against great pass rushing defenses like Dallas, while managing to generate some pressure of their own. The defense has been improving every week, but Dallas will be great competition to see how much the secondary has improved against the league's elite receivers. Dallas has a few great receivers in Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten. Look for Devin McCourty to square up against Miles Austin and for the hopeful return of Ras-I Dowling against Dez Bryant.
On to Dallas!