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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’ 24-17 victory over the New York Jets

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Another week, another nail-biting game in which the New England Patriots barely pulled out a win against a team that everyone thinks they should have beaten handily. Another lousy QB with a 300+ yard game, and another group of receivers wide, wide, WIDE open for huge gains.

It’s the middle of October now, so it’s not like we can keep playing the “it’s early” card. The season is almost half over. This might just be what we’ll have to deal with going forward. This is the most bizarre NFL season I can remember experiencing in a very, very long time.

Buckle up, everyone.

  • Everyone predicted a 3-way tie for first place in the AFC East coming into this game, right? With the Dolphins, led by Jay Cutler, taking out the Falcons on the road? Look out for that vaunted AFC East.
  • So Stephon Gilmore was inactive yesterday with a “concussion.” He wasn’t in protocol all week and this weekend was the first anyone had heard of the injury. Hmmm.
  • His replacement? Johnson Bademosi, who was signed by the Browns as an UDFA back in 2012. And seeing how he literally has the name “bad” in his name, I wasn’t holding out much hope. But I don’t think I heard his name called once yesterday, which I’ll take as a win.
  • Of course, it was Dan Fouts calling the game, so I should be amazed he got any names right at all.
  • I don’t know how many more Patriots games Fouts is slated for...but I think I’ve officially hit my quota. The first time is always funny, but this last game started to grate on me after a while. I don’t think I want to be around to hear him call another one.
  • It isn’t just his total idiocy that chaps my cheeks; it’s how completely, utterly, and unequivocally wrong about everything, followed by some nutbag explanation as to why he’s actually right and the world is wrong. Enough.
  • When the New York Jets take their first drive of the day 88 yards on 13 plays, are perfect on third down, and Josh McCown picks up 16 fricking yards on the ground, it makes you start to wonder if maybe the 2017 Patriots simply aren’t all that good. We’re in Week 6 here, so the “feeling out” phase is over.
  • Luckily for us, the NFL as a whole totally stinks, so not that good will likely be enough for a deep postseason run.
  • I’m also wondering if there has been a single play this season where the opposing QB has decided to tuck the ball and run in which he hasn’t picked up a first down. I’m guessing no.
  • On the plus side - I don’t know about any of you, but I’m well used to this by now and am prepared to just accept it. QBs large and small, fat and thin, great and terrible, are just going to light this defense right up. It defies all logic, makes zero sense, and there isn’t a team of scholars anywhere that will ever be able to explain it...but what can you do.
  • Speaking of quarterbacks - here’s who the Patriots have left to face in the 2017 regular season: Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Trevor Siemian, Derek Carr, Jay Cutler, Tyrod Taylor, Ben Roethlissberger, Josh McCown. In other words, eight Hall of Famers.
  • In terms of the game itself... your guess is as good as mine when it comes to figuring out what the identity of the 2017 Patriots are. Last year they were motivated by a bogus suspension and embraced the “us vs them” mentality behind the greatest QB of all time and a scrappy, opportunistic defense. In 2014 they had a punishing secondary and an offense capable of beating you any way you let them. In 2017? They’ll be running the ball well, then call six straight passing plays. They’ll surrender a huge play, then hold the offense to consecutive three and outs. They’ll give up a bunch of QB pressures, then Tommy B will be upright for the rest of the game. I feel like I’m a bored boyfriend at the mall waiting for my girlfriend to try on twenty different outfits, knowing full well that even though she asks me what I think each time, my opinion doesn’t make a lick of difference and she’ll find the one that works for her eventually.
  • The commercial breaks in this game where unbearable. I blame it on the Jets all of those long, sustained drives that ended in points. The league had to squeeze ads in there whenever they could.
  • I also have to give the Jets a tremendous amount of credit - they came out with an incredible gameplan to attack the major weakness of this Patriots defense. I don’t know all the intricacies of it, but I know the primary fundamental is “pass.”
  • The New England offense deserves just as much blame as the defense does. Dating back to last week against the Bucs, the O went almost an entire NFL game without scoring a TD before Dion Lewis punched it in.
  • On the plus side, while the downs were as far down as you can get, there were some real positives to take away as well. Until his fumble, Mike Gillislee was trucking through gaps and picking up YACs. Dion Lewis seems to be back to his 2015 form, breaking ankles left and right. Brandin Cooks continues to integrate himself into the offense and seems to be good for one incredbile catch per game. The defense got creative by dialing up a few corner blitzes, which were quite effective against Josh McCown.
  • Probably my least favorite part of yesterday’s game was when Brady when deep to Philip Dorsett, and he more or less gave up on the play after he lost it. He was relying on getting a flag on contact that was questionable at best, then just kind of stood there as Skrine made the pick.
  • Once again, I have absolutely no clue what constitutes DPI anymore. Brady went deep to Gronk on two occasions in the 2nd quarter. The plays were identical. One play drew a flag, the other didn’t. This needs to change and it needs to change now.
  • I could also say the same thing about OPI, particularly that pick play that the Patriots seem to get flagged for once or twice per game.
  • Sure am glad the Patriots cut that dead weight Kony Ealy, who had a pass batted down and was chasing Tommy B down all day. Although to be fair, he was going up against Nate Solder, so maybe he still stinks and Solder is to edge defenders what the defense is to every NFL quarterback.
  • As much crap as I rightly give Dan Fouts on a regular basis, I have to give him credit when he said that “Danny “Amendola has been hot from the slot!” Not because that’s all that funny or creative, but you could absolutely tell how proud of himself he was to have put two rhyming words together. Everyone deserves a win now and again...so great job, Dan!”
  • Another area where Fouts was 100% accurate was when he said “This has been a problem for the Patriots, facing mobile quarterbacks.” Dan Fouts said that about Josh McCown, and he was right. Crap.
  • Is it me, or does Buster Skrine look like he’s always wearing makeup?
  • One area where the Patriots have been pretty consistent is opening drives of the 1st and 2nd half. Their best drive of the day was the one that opened up the third quarter - eight plays, 75 yards, spreading the Jets defense out and gaining yards in chunks. The drive ended with a 33 yard catch and run from Gronk that was his 2nd TD of the day.
  • Is it some sort of standing rule that Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts have to question the validity of every single flag thrown in New England’s favor?
  • Speaking of calls going in New England’s favor...the only thing anyone is going to talk about from this game is the touchdown that wasn’t, an Austin Sefarian-Jenkins catch that looked to be a score, but upon further review was ruled a touchback for the Patriots. Absolutely everyone has their own opinion on this one, but here’s what looks blatantly obvious to me:
  • Jenkins definitely loses possession of the ball prior to crossing the goal line.
  • But Jenkins kind of doesn’t lose possession, the ball is in the air but it goes right back into his hands.
  • Jenkins regains possession in mid-air, then comes down right around the pylon.
  • But Jenkins kind of doesn’t regain possession, as there aren’t any clear angles of the ball moving or not moving and nobody can see where his knee went down.
  • Jenkins holds onto the ball as he slides out of bounds.
  • But Jenkins kind of doesn’t hold onto the ball as he slides out of bounds, as maybe it was moving a little bit.
  • If all of that doesn’t add up to incontrovertible evidence to overturn the ruling on the field, I don’t know what is!
  • The NFL rule in place is basically that if a player loses possession of the ball in the air, he has to re-establish possession in the field of play. So I guess if a player has the ball in the middle of the field and starts running up the sidelines, only to get clobbered and sent flying, if the ball comes loose at all at any point during that time spent in the air, the player needs to have control of the ball with his feet on the ground in order to advance it forward? Or something? I have no clue. You can get a ref’s explanation of it here, but all I know is this: the NFL seems to believe that definition of the word “incontrovertible” is as fluid and vague as the words “integrity,” “player safety,” as “transparency,” because I can’t for the life of me figure out how there was enough replay evidence to convince anyone without a shadow of a doubt that the call should be overturned. The call on the field should matter, and if there isn’t enough to overrule it, it should stick, even if there are question marks. That hasn’t been the case for a while now, but it should be.
  • I’ll also say that if that play had happened to the Patriots and a Gronk catch for a TD turned into a fumble and a touchback, I’d be furious this morning. We have to call it both ways, and that call was crap. You call it a fumble for a touchback right away? Fine, call stands, not enough to overturn it. You call it a TD? It should stand, not enough to overturn it. I hate this league so much.
  • Maybe this was all just a makeup call for that Chris Jones unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that cost the Pats the game in OT a few years back - a penalty that has never been called before or since.
  • OK, enough of that. I’m sure there are plenty of other places on the internet highlighting how few NFL rules actually follow common sense. So let’s get back to the game.
  • Oh, last thing: we’ve now hit our yearly quota for a rule that benefits the Patriots that the league will change next season. So we can all check that one off the list.
  • I’ve been screaming to get Dont’a Hightower back in the middle of the defense where I think he belongs; he was back in the middle yesterday, and I think there’s a difference. Generating pressure is still a problem, but the Patriots have been excellent against the run, and several of their sacks on McCown came from Hightower diagnosing the blocking scheme and crashing through the vacant gap to either register the sack himself of force McCown out of the pocket.
  • When the season is over, I’d love to know what gave the Patriots more problems in 2017 - QBs running for huge gains, receivers wide open with nobody within 10 yards of them, or tight ends continuing to convert. If I had to guess, I’d say it was the latter.
  • Anybody who was on the “Stephon Gilmore is the reason guys are getting so open” train can get off at the next stop. It’s not all on Gilmore. He was out yesterday and guys were still busting free. On the plus side, Malcolm Butler has been known to overcommit on the out routes and gets burned by double moves all the time. I think the few times that guys were all alone, it was because Butler pulled a Butler.
  • Whoever has the ball last in 2017 will be in position to win the game. We just need to accept that. The Patriots could play the Tiny Tigers Pee Wee team, and up-and-coming quarterback Billy Jacobson would have the ball late with a chance to win it if his tight end is able to stop crying because his shirt got dirty.
  • I shouldn’t be terrified that Josh McCown has the ball at his own 27 with one timeout and 1:53 on the clock. But here we find ourselves.

In seasons past, I would take absolutely nothing away from this win, and this win would feel like a loss. A bogus penalty that could have altered the course of the game ended up going New England’s way, and the Pats were barely able to hold on. However, this is the NFL landscape in 2017. Everybody stinks, including the Patriots, so it’s just a matter of surviving and advancing. The good news is that the Patriots are home for almost a full month, with Atlanta and Los Angeles coming to town before the bye, so players will be able to get rested, focus on practice and not travel, and maybe figure out what the hell is going on this year. I’m not holding out too much hope that it’s going to get all that much better going forward...but hey, at least it keeps things interesting, right?