The New England Patriots have improved to 4-2 on the season thanks to a 24-17 victory against the New York Jets. The win was by no means flawless as the Patriots struggled mightily early in the game before settling down in the second quarter but it still brought plenty of positives with it.
With that in mind, let's take a look at 10 things we learned during the game:
1. Dion Lewis is still electrifying: Apart from Mike Gillislee's fumble, New England's running backs had a good game against the Jets – and none of them looked better or was more productive than Dion Lewis. The 27-year old finished with 52 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and displayed his trademark speed, quickness and elusiveness. This play from the first quarter perfectly illustrates this:
Dion Lewis gained a yard on this play. pic.twitter.com/X68mn8QrJm— Pats Pulpit (@patspulpit) October 15, 2017
2. The pass defense still has a ways to go: To be fair, the Patriots were without two of their top three cornerbacks on the day. However, the pass defense had some issues that extend beyond Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe being out: The pass rush struggled to generate consistent push while the unit had multiple coverage breakdowns early in the game. The unit also had some good moments, though, and came away with two takeaways and a total of four sacks.
3. The run defense was very good: One of the improved defensive areas for the Patriots was stopping the run. Apart from three scrambles by Jets quarterback Josh McCown, that gained a total of 21 yards, New England held its opponent to only 53 rushing yards on 23 carries. An encouraging performance with short-yardage stops being the most notable plays.
4. New England can win even when Tom Brady is not perfect: Statistically speaking, Tom Brady had his worst game of the season: He completed only 52.6% of his pass attempts for 257 yards and threw an interception to go along with his two touchdowns. Against the Jets, however, the performance still was enough to rally his team back from a 14-point deficit. Brady does not need to be perfect for the Patriots to win.
5. Alan Branch responded well to last week: Alan Branch did not travel to Tampa Bay last week despite being healthy. Instead, the team made the veteran a healthy scratch – similar to what happened to Jabaal Sheard last year. And just like Sheard, Branch was able to bounce back. The 32-year old played 22 snaps and looked good in terms of creating upfield push from the interior of the defense. He also had a tackle for loss.
6. Brandin Cooks is a big play waiting to happen: Brandin Cooks' day started slow but late in the second quarter, the speedster had a big play to set up the game-tying touchdown. That's what makes Cooks so dangerous: He might fly under the radar for a quarter or two but you can never count him out from making a big play. His 42-yard catch - one of six on the day – is a good example for that.
7. Pylon cameras would have come in handy: One of the most controversial calls of the still relatively young NFL season came in the fourth quarter when a touchdown by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins was changed to a fumble out of the end zone for a touchback. A bizarre call whose origins could only partially have been explained by the pictures shown in the broadcast. Pylon cameras, as previously lobbied for by Bill Belichick, would have helped clear up the confusion.
8. Dwayne Allen continues to be a non-existent part of the offense: New England's top offensive skill position players were all healthy – and it is clear that tight end Dwayne Allen, at least at this point in time, is not one of them. The first-year Patriot was on the field for only five snaps and did not register any stats.
9. The offensive line performed well: The Patriots' much-maligned offensive line faced a touch challenge in a talented Jets defensive front and it held up very good. The unit was solid against the run and helped its backs gain 119 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. It also performed well against the pass and typically gave Tom Brady room and time to operate in – all while not giving up a sack.
10. Defensive back blitzes were a successful recipe: As noted above, New England struggled to apply consistent pressure on New York's quarterback. However, one method that did work was blitzes from the defensive backfield – and the players themselves looked good performing them. Even though none of them registered a sack, the pressures helped create multiple favorable plays for the Patriots.