Word of the Week: Track. The Patriots must get back on track. They must run laps around the Jets as if they're a track. They must track the Jets receivers. The Patriots receivers must be more than track stars on downfield routes.
1. New Weapons - When the Patriots played the Jets only four weeks ago (Round 1), the Patriots limited the Jets receivers. Santonio Holmes had 60 yards, Plaxico Burress had 42 yards, and Jeremy Kerley had 35 yards, and all other receivers had under 10 yards. Since that game?
TE Dustin Keller, 168 yards (56/game)
WR Plaxico Burress, 120 yards (40/game)
WR Santonio Holmes, 116 yards (39/game)
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, 88 yards (29/game)
WR Jeremy Kerley, 70 yards (23/game)
Numerous players have found their roles in the Jets offense. While Keller was one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets before Round 1, the Patriots found a way to limit his production. However, it's clear that the Jets offense has found its way and has realized how to complement the defense. The Patriots must find a way to limit Keller the whole game and find a cornerback who has the size to stop Burress.
2. Establish the Run - You know all the talk of the Jets reestablishing their run game prior to facing the Patriots in Round 1, and how silly that was because the Patriots boasted one of the worst pass defenses in the league? Well, the Patriots need to find their mojo on offense, and it won't be with their all-star passing offense. The Jets secondary seems to have gotten better since Round 1, and the Patriots passing offense has gotten worse. The Jets run defense, however, seems to have stayed the same with defensive end Mike DeVito forced to sit out the past few weeks with a knee injury. DeVito looks primed to return, but could be limited in snaps. The Patriots must find a way to control the tempo of the game and be a force in the run game.
3. Still Throw the Ball - Still, the Patriots have to find a way to throw the ball. The Jets will continue to stifle the passing offense and should be able to, especially seeing how the other Ryan, LeBeau, and the Giants have been able to stall the offense for long periods of time (until the 4th quarter). 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. Deion Branch will be taken out of the game, unless the Jets start running the zone defense. Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski must be involved in the passing game from the get-go.
4. Special Teams - The Patriots seemed to pick up Tiquan Underwood to help the Patriots return game. However, they released him in exchange for Ross Ventrone, which seems to play a part in the special teams coverage game. This leads me to think that Taylor Price or some other return player may be ready to emerge in place of the greatly ineffective Danny Woodhead or Stevan Ridley. Also, Stephen Gostkowski needs to have a good rebound game.
5. Under Pressure - As always, pressure will play a huge role. Can the Patriots offensive line keep Brady away from pressure? Center Dan Connolly needs to play an exceptional game to instill any confidence in the coaching staff, and the guards must create a pocket for Brady to step up into. Brady needs time in order to take advantage of the likely man-coverage the receivers will be facing. Also, can the Patriots defensive line put Sanchez under pressure? Albert Haynesworth is gone and, no matter what you thought of him, he was the only defensive tackle to consistently generate pressure when asked to rush the quarterback. Andre Carter and Mark Anderson will need big games and Vince Wilfork will have to push the pocket. In order to win this game, the Patriots will need to watch the pressure on both sides of the ball.