Here are the players of note from the Patriots 22-17 victory over the Jets.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
I think we can all agree that Edelman has been a different player since returning from the bye week. He picked up 83 yards on 8 touches against the Jets, after picking up 89 yards and a touchdown on 10 touches against the 49ers and 99 yards on 7 touches against the Seahawks. That’s 271 yards and a touchdown on 25 touches, or 90.3 total yards per game.
His return in production has coincided with an injury to TE Rob Gronkowski, so it’s possible that Edelman is usually just down the totem pole of targets, but three straight games of excellent production should give Edelman a boost down the final stretch and into the playoffs.
Winner: WR Malcolm Mitchell
One week after picking up 98 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers, Mitchell picked up 42 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Jets. He and QB Tom Brady have an excellent rapport on the slant route and are getting better on back shoulder routes. He’s running every route that WR Brandon LaFell ran and he’s shown a good nose for the scramble play.
Mitchell has 235 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. He won’t set any rookie records, but his production and development seems different that rookie receivers of the past.
Loser: RB James White
White saw 9 targets and collected just 4 for 22 yards. He caught just 1 of his first 4 targets for a whopping 0 (zero!) yards. You have to tip your cap to the Jets defense, which played an excellent game against the Patriots running backs. Even RB Dion Lewis only caught 4 of his 7 targets for 34 yards.
But White also made a serious mental error on the two point conversion.
Bill Belichick is gonna be maaaaaaaaaaad pic.twitter.com/w2d87A9klP— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) November 28, 2016
It doesn’t matter that White’s entire body is in the end zone; so long as the ball doesn’t cross the goal line, it doesn’t count. The rule permits the ball to be out of bounds if it crosses the plane when the player is out of bounds, but the ball never crosses the plane.
Loser: TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski didn’t have to play on Sunday. He was dealing with a chest injury and internal bleeding and, I mean, come on, he’s the most important player on the team other than QB Tom Brady. But he came back and was taken out of the game after three catchless drives with a new back injury.
Now the initial belief is that Gronkowski won’t miss any time, but this was a waste of a game with Gronkowski.
Winner: OT Marcus Cannon
Did you hear Cannon’s name at any point during the game? He kept his quarterback clean against extremely talented players like Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams. The Patriots picked up 21 yards on 5 carries to the right side. Cannon has been a rock on the right side of the offensive line and has been the team’s best lineman this season.
If the Patriots can extend Cannon for just a few more years, the Patriots could finally have the offensive line consistency they’ve craved in recent seasons.
Loser: CB Malcolm Butler
Butler allowed 6 completions on 6 targets for 106 yards and 2 touchdowns, if you ask Pro Football Focus. NESN’s Doug Kyed had Butler targeted 7 times, giving up 7 catches for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sure, he forced and recovered a fumble, but it didn’t matter who was charting: the Jets had a lot of success throwing towards Butler.
Butler was mistiming his jumps to attack the ball and he was a step or two late at times. In fairness, Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick delivered a number of passes that only the receiver could catch, which was atypical for the quarterback. But it is worth noting that’s Butler’s worst games this year have come against the likes of WR Brandon Marshall and WR Antonio Brown.
For however much Butler has grown this season, he’s still not quite a shutdown corner.
Winners: CB Logan Ryan and CB Eric Rowe
It seems like the Patriots can’t have everyone in the secondary playing well at the same time, but Ryan and Rowe put together solid performances. Ryan had a pass break-up in coverage of Brandon Marshall. Rowe had a pass break-up in coverage of Jalin Marshall.
Brandon Marshall beat Ryan on a crossing route on a third down. Robby Anderson got a 9-yard gain against Rowe on a nice comeback route on first down. Quincy Enunwa made a nice 23-yard grab against Rowe in the slot in the 4th quarter. That’s kind of all these two allowed all day.
Loser: K Stephen Gostkowski
Any time Gostkowski misses a kick shorter than 45-yards, he is going to end up on this list. Gostkowski hit three field goals and an extra point, but he missed a field goal right before the half and that changed the complexion of the game.
There would have been no necessary defensive stand at the end of the game. The Patriots offense wouldn’t have needed a touchdown drive to win- they’d already be ahead 19-17. New England would have had a lot more breathing room if he had connected on the field goal.
Winner: P Ryan Allen
How about the Patriots punter flipping the field while the offense worked out all of their issues? Allen punted from his own 29-, 38-, and 47-yard lines on the first three drives as both offenses were ineffective in the first quarter; Ryan just kept slowly shifting the field in the Patriots favor.
He punted just one more time over the rest of the game.
Loser(?): Bill Belichick’s first half decision making
There were two moments that stood out as questionable decision making by head coach Bill Belichick.
First, the Jets had the ball on the Patriots 33-yard line on 3rd and 8 and were called for offensive holding. Accepting the penalty would have set the Jets up on 3rd and 18 on the 43-yard line, well outside of field goal range. If the Patriots could hold the Jets’ next play to less than 10 yards, it would be a win.
And yet Belichick declined the penalty and the Jets knocked home a 51-yard attempt. Now the only reasonable logic is that the Patriots thought the odds of Jets K Nick Folk missing the field goal was better than the odds of the defense getting a stop on 3rd and 18- or at least giving up fewer than 10 yards- which is a serious indictment of the defense.
Second, the Patriots grossly mismanaged their end-of-half drive. Patriots QB Tom Brady completed a pass to WR Chris Hogan to give the Patriots 1st and 10 from the Jets 21 yard line with 32 seconds left on the clock and one timeout left.
And for some reason the Patriots let the clock bleed down to 12 seconds. Instead of getting four chances to throw into the end zone, the Patriots were only able to get one throw into the end zone, and then K Stephen Gostkowski missed his field goal attempt.
Why not call the timeout earlier to have more opportunities to score? Or, heck, why not use the timeout to center the kick for Gostkowski? This was a real head scratcher.