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Patriots vs. Jets: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 17-16 victory over the New York Jets.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Phew.

There's really no better word to describe yesterdays matchup between the Patriots and Jets. It was a game that the Patriots absolutely should have won, and a game that they desperately needed in order to maintain the inside track for homefield advantage, and they were just barely able to squeak out the W. And while it obviously would have been nice if the Jets had Buttfumbled their way into another blowout and allowed us all to relax for the afternoon, it's games like yesterday's that make football great. No matter how bad one teams is and how good one team is, when it comes to divisional matchups, absolutely anything goes. Records, stats, game film, and expert analysis doesn't matter in the slightest, and it's ultimately going to come down to the team with the most discipline. And once again, as it has been so many times in the past, that team was the Patriots. As much as I would have loved to send Rex Ryan packing with a more convincing win, at the end of the day a bye is a bye, and I'll take it. The Jets are now out of New England's hair until next fall, and that's just fine with me.

  • I was among the New England fans in the stands for yesterday's game, and I have to say, we represented pretty well. We were still outnumbered, a fact that only mildly surprised me, but overall it was a solid showing from those of us who made the horrible life choices that caused us to end up living in the New York area.
  • The negative of being at the game live is that I write up these notes after I get home and watch a DVR'd version of it, and because of that some of the urgency gets lost and everything I jot down is with knowledge of the outcome already. So if this article is a swing and miss, I'm blaming it on that and not on my exceedingly generous contribution to ensure that Bud Light remains the official sponsor of the NFL.
  • I really, really hate the way New England tends to make bad quarterbacks look good. In Geno Smith's case, it was more a case of making bad quarterbacks look OK, but a complete lack of pass rush meant that Geno had way more time than he should have to throw to his crappy receivers. That pass rush needs to rediscover itself, and soon.
  • I also really, really hate what I saw out of the offensive line yesterday. A lot of switching guys in and out, a lot of missed blocks, and a lot of sacks. Credit where credit is due, as New York has one of the best front fours in the league, but the Jets' secondary is hot garbage and Tommy B just didn't have any time to settle.
  • Nate Solder got straight up pwned yesterday. It didn't even matter who it was; whoever was lined up across from him immediately grabbed his wrists and pushed him directly backwards while saying "quit hitting yourself! Quit hitting yourself!" all day. Of the 27 sacks that Brady took in the first half, Solder was responsible for 25 of them.
  • I don't want to panic too much about the line; I already did that in Week 4, and things worked out juuuust fine. A few injuries along the line contributed as well, and so there's plenty of reason to think that we'll be OK going forward. But with the Bills coming to town with absolutely nothing to play for other than making Tommy B miserable...well, let's just stop right there and move on.
  • Once again, defense and special teams take the day. I can't think of a single game, win or loss, in which New England's special teams didn't have a positive impact on the outcome of the game. So often overlooked, but absolutely crucial.
  • I know that, overall, yesterday's game wasn't the blowout we all wanted to see. But you have to think about a few things before you up and start bashing the performance:
  • What did Rex Ryan have to lose? Nothing, that's what. He threw every blitz and defensive scheme he has ever known at the Patriots yesterday.
  • This was New York's Super Bowl. In a lost season, there is nothing they would have loved more than knocking the Pats out of the one seed. It ended in failure, of course, because it's the Jets, but hey - thumbs up for them. They brought it.
  • The Jets almost always play the Patriots tough. It's easy to look at the records and shake your head over how close this one was, but that's the beauty of divisional rivalries. None of that stuff matters. And the Patriots were still able to pull out the W.
  • The entire first half of this game consisted of short out routes and power runs for very few yards. There were a few times when Brady had more time to throw than he thought he did, but in what has always been the case, get to Tommy B early, the rest of the game is affected.
  • Of course, I got to Tommy B early about 14 years ago now, and he didn't miss a beat in filing that restraining order. So you can't rattle him in all aspects of life.
  • New England's first touchdown drive of the day was all Amendola. Not only did he have that great punt return to set up field position, but he was in on a huge third down conversion and drew the linebackers away from Vereen on another conversion. I know people aren't too high on him, and I agree that his contract doesn't match his on-field production, but the bottom line is that he almost always delivers when he is called on, and his lack of production isn't on him as much as it is the offensive gameplan and the rise of Edelman.
  • Note to Peter Jackson: you seem to love making movies about little people who defy the odds and run around taking out monsters. Might I suggest The Rise of Edelman for the title of your next film.
  • Gronk's 54th career touchdown catch was absolutely nothing special, and that's what makes it so special. Lined up in single coverage against a corner, Brady saw it, and threw it back shoulder for the easy score. If Gronk has anything but double coverage, it's automatic.
  • Tackling was an issue yesterday. Gotta wrap those guys up instead of going for the strip. On more than a few occasions the Patriots were in position to make the stop, but went for the ball instead of the runner and ended up giving more yards.
  • The level of Solomon Wilcots' idiocy knows no bounds. There were a few times where I was fairly certain he said something, forgot that he said it, and then chuckled at whoever that funny guy was who made a ridiculous comment.
  • My personal favorite: "You gotta get off the field on third down, but stay on the field on third down when you're on offense." Of course! How did I not see it before!
  • New York's equalizing drive was really demoralizing. Classic case of Jets imposing their will and a classic case of me sitting in my recliner making these weird, jerky motions with my arms while Geno ran around back there making plays. And Chung bit on that playaction harder than a toddler on a candy cane to cap off what may have been his worst game as a Patriot this season. 
  • Early reports are nothing on Nick Mangold is broken, which is great to hear. Nobody has anything but the utmost respect for that man, and I hope he comes back better than ever.
  • If not...the Jets can always put a phone call in to his sister.
  • One last Mangold tidbit...when the Jets drafted him, it was specifically to counter Vince Wilfork. So it was nice to see big Vince wish Nick well as he got carted off.
  • Nothing like answering a long Jets touchdown drive with a three and out, eh? Am I right, folks?
  • Really thought that Jonas Gray could have made a bigger impact yesterday if given the chance. The jets sold out on the blitz on multiple occasions, which would have made them ripe for a draw play. But since the run wasn't working early, it was never even a possibility.
  • The Patriots seem to treat the run game the way I treated the bass guitar, baseball, hitting on women, and dieting; if it doesn't work right away, they just say screw it and move on. If the Patriots are going to have success in the postseason, the running game is going to have to be a factor, even if it doesn't work early on. I'd much rather see four straight three and outs where New England runs the ball than three early running attempts and then nothing but passes all game after that.
  • Overall, not a horrible performance from Geno Smith. He harnessed his inner Geno when it mattered most, taking some huge sacks and registering a pick, but New England appears to just be one of those teams he excels against. Wonder if he'll be holding a clipboard for NYJ next year...
  • Jamie Collins continues to shine. He was all over the field, blew up a few runs, and was one of the few consistent tacklers yesterday.
  • The play of the game was Collins' interception, which was a nice combination of his awareness, Geno's tendency to take too long to make decisions, and Chandler Jones getting some nice pressure.
  • That said...Collins has to learn to hold onto the ball after he recovers it. He made an unnecessary lateral to Browner on that pick that could have ended horribly.
  • Speaking of Brandon Browner, no flags thrown his way yesterday.  That's a first, so congrats to him. I know that's the NFL equivalent of congratulating two pounds after a particularly memorable trip to the bathroom... but baby steps here.
  • The difference between the Patriots that huddle and the Patriots that operate out of the no-huddle is quite marked. More quick reads, mismatch exploitation, and audibling at the line to keep the pass rush at bay. Their best no-huddle drive of the day stalled in the red zone, unfortunately, courtesy of Ryan Wendell getting casually tossed aside like a stale Christmas cookie by Sheldon Richardson, but compared to the struggles the Patriots had earlier in the day, it was a huge improvement.
  • Another solid day from Brandon LaFell. He and Tommy B have really settled into a nice groove with the quick out route. LaFell ran it to perfection to close out the third quarter to pick up a pivotal first down which may have sneaky been the play of the game.
  • As for that conversion it was out of a 2 back set from shotgun in which Brady diagnosed the inside pressure and knew that LaFell had single coverage on the outside against Marcus Williams. Brady stared LaFell down the whole way and threw before he even broke out of his route, which was right at the sticks. It was a perfect strike to keep a drive alive and set up the go-ahead score.
  • Tommy B getting it done on the ground again. For a second I thought he was going to harness his inner John Elway on that scramble and dive headfirst towards the end zone. Very, very glad he slid instead.
  • The best part of the Jonas Gray touchdown? Rex Ryan's reaction to it. It's the kind of motion I make when I get asked to leave a Chinese buffet restaurant. I searched far and wide for a .gif of him on the sidlelines having a seizure, but I couldn't find it, so I'll just leave you guys with this gem instead. Man I'm going to miss that guy.
  • You know what's crazy? If you look at Brady's interception yesterday and his touchdown pass to Gronk last week against the Dolphins, it's almost the exact same pressure and throwing motion. Inside pressure, forcing a back foot throw, a defender in his face...
  • Luckily for New England, the Patriots defense came up with what was the other play of the game in their 10 yard sack of Geno Smith. Bilal Powell misdiagnosed the pressure by easing off Dont'a Hightower as Rob Ninkovich came off the edge, allowing Hightower to stunt right around Breno Giacomini and drop Smith for a huge loss.
  • When I first saw the usually reliable Nick Folk completely shank what would have been the go-ahead field goal, I thought that the Patriots once again got a hand on it for the block. Looking at it again, I then thought that he just straight up Schruted it. But then after another look, it appears that Wilfork got one of his big, meaty palms on just enough of the ball to throw off its trajectory. How many FGs can this unit block in one season?
  • The confusion from the stands on the Amendola screen that appeared to come up short but was actually a first down was both nerve-wracking and hysterical. Everyone thought it was a fourth down, nobody knew why the hell Rex was challenging it other than maybe instead of 4th and inches it should in fact be 4th and 1, and then when the refs came out of the booth to say that the play stood and it was 1st down all those New Yorkers, God bless em, really made sure that Mayor Lenny Clotch's famous words still ring true.
  • Obviously what happened was that both the commentators and the television booth got it wrong, and it's a classic case of not relying on the TV angles to dictate what happens. At first I thought that Rex was challenging that it wasn't enough of a fourth down and he wanted it to be a little bit fourth downier, but I guess he wanted to...oh jeez I don't know. Classic Jets.
  • Plus, what a great opportunity for all the Patriots haters and New England conspiracy truthers to add some more ammo to their "the Patriots get all the calls" gun. We wouldn't want them to go anywhere anytime soon.
  • Extremely happy to be able to write that Danny Amendola gets my game ball. Did a great job in the return game, made some huge catches, and was absolutely the go-to guy when the Patriots needed a 1st down conversion.
  • What a great playcall to ice the game. The Patriots had been running inside all day and waited until the last play of the game to take it out wide. Monster block by James Develin there to seal the edge.
  • Patriots sweep the Jets in 2014 by a combined three points. Sounds about right.
  • Once again, a blocked field goal becomes the difference in the game. I wonder if "blocked field goal" will now become a Vegas betting line when these two teams meet going forward.

We're on to Buffalo. But first, we're on to Christmas. Happy Holidays to everyone, and here's hoping that Santa had time to check his list twice this year and will be delivering one Peyton Manning a huge lump of coal in the shape of a wobbling, weak, poorly thrown pass that costs his team the game tonight.