Another slow, sloppy start
The Patriots found themselves in a quick 14-point hole on a day where the secondary was without Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe — allowing the Jets offense to consistently execute in one-on-one match ups down the field.
As the Patriots’ front seven failed to generate a pass rush, an undisturbed Josh McCown was able to keep drives alive with his legs. The Jets converted on five of their first six third downs before a 31-yard second-quarter touchdown by Jeremy Kerley gave New York a two-score lead.
As poor as the defense’s start was, the offense didn’t fair much better throughout its first three drives — resulting in a punt, a Mike Gillislee fumble, and another punt. After trimming a the deficit to seven following a Dion Lewis score, Tom Brady abruptly ended the unit’s next possession with a deep interception down the middle of the field on a double-covered Phillip Dorsett.
Stars stepping up
Across the board, the Patriots leaned heavily on their big-name veterans to the necessary play to shift the game’s momentum.
With the team down by two scores, and with the offense having just punted in response to the Jets’ second score, D-Mac helped separate Robbie Anderson from a deep ball down the right sideline against Malcolm Butler, and then impressively closed on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins on a short third down pass to force a punt.
Perhaps targeted one too many times in the after some early struggles in coverage, Malcolm Butler made Josh McCown pay on an ill-advised, late toss on a well-covered out route late in the second quarter. Butler’s interception directly led to the offense’s patented “double-score” that New England fans have become so accustomed to over the years.
Plain and simple: Gronk was back on Sunday. From high-pointing the football in coverage, to punishing tacklers in the open field, he made his presence felt everywhere. He was also the spark the team has been desperately needing in the red zone — snagging two Brady passes for scores.
The run game
The Patriots were finally able to control the line of scrimmage in the ground game on both sides of the football on Sunday.
The Jets finished the contest with 24 carries for 74 yards. 21 of those carries came from running backs (with an ArDarius Stewart sweep mixed in), for 53 yards. The front seven also made a few critical stops in short-yardage situations, specifically in the second half.
On offense, the Patriots accumulated 119 yards on 24 carries (4.95 per carry). Dion Lewis started the contest, and was given a lions share of the work following Gillislee’s fumble. Looking as healthy as ever, Lewis created extra yardage in tight quarters with tacklers bearing down on him, and helped keep the offense on schedule.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ fourth-quarter fumble over the end zone pylon, ruled a touchdown on the field and then overturned to a touchback, became the critical play that would ultimately doom the Jets.
The “controversy” was mainly generated by a dumbfounded Dan Fouts. To no one’s surprise, Fouts once again showed a clear deficiency in rule book knowledge throughout the entire game, and continued to fan the flames over the remainder of the broadcast, calling the reversal “the worst call I think I’ve ever seen”. Bitter Jets fans, and “ASJ” fantasy owners were those joining in Fouts’ outrage on Twitter.
The bottom line is this: When you fumble the ball in mid air, it is literally impossible to regain control of it without establishing yourself back in the field of play.