While the 7-3 New England Patriots enter today’s game against the 3-7 New York Jets as the clear favorites, the Patriots’ AFC East rivals still have plenty of potential to make life hard for the team. The latest episode of the Belestrator, the film breakdown series with New England head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback-turned-commentator Scott Zolak, illustrates this:
Belichick and Zolak open their film study by looking at the Jets’ special teams units. The first aspect they analyze is the punt return, headed by dangerous returnman Andre Roberts. “The Jets lead the league in punt returns and Andre Roberts has done a really good job for them,” Belichick says about the NFL’s leader in yards per punt return (16.8). “Has good quickness; he’s not really a big guy but he’s a strong runner. He’ll be a tough guy to handle.”
New England’s head coach then turns his attention to New York’s kicker, Jason Myers, who he says has a “big leg”. “Myers is having a really good year for them on special teams as a placekicker — he’s had several long kicks,” he says. “He’s touching back on over 75% of his kickoffs as well, so it’s hard to get the kick returns going with the long kickoffs he has.”
“Their special teams have been really good in the return game and with kicking the ball,” Belichick concludes. One area that has not been that good this season is the team’s offense — one that will miss starting quarterback Sam Darnold due to injury today. New England cannot underestimate the group, though, especially when it comes to big plays. “These guys can score in a hurry and they can have a lot of big plays quickly,” Belichick says.
One player that stands out to the head coach is running back Isaiah Crowell. “They have a very strong running game and Crowell is an excellent runner with very good speed,” he says about the first-year Jet. “He’s able to break a lot of long runs [...] he starts inside and bounces it to the outside. A very explosive guy that runs hard, he’s hard to tackle, got good lower-body strength, good balance, good vision — makes a lot of big plays in the running game.”
Finally, Belichick and Zolak take a look at a Jets defense that has been excellent on third down all year long. “[They are] second in the league on third down defense,” Belichick points out about the team. “Over 40% of their defensive series have been three-and-outs, so they do a very good job getting off the field on third down.” New England’s head coach then notes why New York does such a good job in these high-pressure situations.
“They do an excellent job of getting on the receivers, making the quarterback hold the ball down, hold it just a split-second, and that gives the rush a chance to get there. That’s why they are one of the best teams in the league on third down,” Belichick said about the Jets’ third down defense. While the group — and team overall — are not standing out in many categories, this is one that could very well decide today’s game.