The New England Patriots looked terrible for the entire first quarter. QB Tom Brady was clearly limited by his knee injury, TE Rob Gronkowski left with a back injury, head coach Bill Belichick declined a pretty obvious penalty that would have knocked the Jets out of field goal range, and the defense played like a wet paper bag.
The Jets roared out to a 10-0 lead as nothing went right for the Patriots. Brady missed open receivers as he locked in on his first read or on Gronkowski. The offensive line was manhandled by the Jets star-studded defensive line. CB Malcolm Butler looked lost in coverage against both WR Brandon Marshall and WR Quincy Enunwa.
The Jets took their opening drive to the Patriots 33 yard line, where they were called for a holding call on 3rd down. Belichick declined the penalty as Jets K Nick Folk connected on the 51-yard attempt to take a 3-0 lead. The decision to decline the penalty was an admission that he didn’t think the defense could hold on a 3rd-and-18 opportunity.
Ryan Fitzpatrick picked apart the Patriots secondary on his third drive, hitting Enunwa for a 40 yard grab to flip the fields, and then connecting with Marshall in the end zone to take a 10-0 lead.
Brady and the Patriots offense failed to generate anything on their first three drives, managing just 12 plays and 35 yards. Brady was hit and struggled to connect with his running backs in the passing game- the usual recipe to defeat the Jets defensive front.
Although Brady did have a nice play as a full back.
But the offense woke up in the second quarter once Gronkowski went to the locker room. Brady connected with TE Martellus Bennett and WR Julian Edelman, becoming the 5th player in NFL history to surpass 60,000 career passing yards, and marched the Patriots to the Jets 10 yard line before stalling and settling for a field goal and a 10-3 deficit.
The Jets looked like they were about to drive on the subsequent drive, but Butler forced a fumble and recovered it to set up the Patriots offense at midfield. This was the Patriots first takeaway since week 7. Brady moved the offense down the field and connected with WR Malcolm Mitchell over CB Darrelle Revis.
Fitzpatrick and the Jets offense responded and drove down to the Patriots 36 yard line right before the two-minute warning. Folk lined up for a 54-yard field goal attempt, but DT Malcom Brown blocked the kick and LB Dont’a Hightower recovered, giving the Patriots the ball around midfield.
Brady hit Mitchell and WR Chris Hogan to get the Patriots down to the 21-yard line, but K Stephen Gostkowski whiffed on a 39-yard field goal attempt, keeping the score 10-10 as the teams head into the half. Belichick seemed content draining the clock, despite having a timeout remaining that could have been used to set up a shorter field goal attempt- or used to set up Gostkowski by the left hashmarks where he’s clearly more comfortable.
The Patriots need to keep spreading the football, as Edelman, RB Dion Lewis, Bennett, Hogan, and Mitchell all have more than 20 yards on the day. Someone has to step up and have a big second half because Brady’s knee is a major problem- and if he’s not going to sit for QB Jimmy Garoppolo, then someone else has to step up.
New England also needs the defense to elevate its level of play because Fitzpatrick is currently 12 of 17 for 160 yards and a touchdown; good for a passer rating of 119.7. Someone has to stop Brandon Marshall.
The Jets get the ball after halftime.