This is what we learned from the game.
Patriots clinch a first round bye for 9th-straight season
The Patriots finish the 2018 regular season with an 11-5 and with a first round bye in the AFC playoffs. If both the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers lose in the afternoon games, then the the Patriots will be the top seed in the conference.
The Houston Texans claimed the #3 seed in the AFC and they’ll play the victor of Sunday Night’s game between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts for the #6 seed. A divisional game will always be a tough one in the postseason.
Tom Brady looked incredibly sharp
Brady finished the day completing 24 of 33 passes (72.7%) for 250 yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions for a passer rating of 133.4. A handful of his incomplete passes were either drops or throwaways as he was on target for most of the game- excluding a weird “chuck it deep” drive in the third quarter after a penalty. Brady looked great against a depleted Jets secondary, even though it’s obvious that this is one of the least-talented receiving corps of Brady’s career.
Brady finishes the regular season with a passer rating of 97.7. That’s better than his 2014 season with a passer rating of 97.4. Brady’s good enough to win and the Patriots can beat anyone that crosses their path in the postseason.
Patriots trying to get Chris Hogan more involved
The New England Patriots need a #2 receiver to emerge with Josh Gordon suspended indefinitely and with Rob Gronkowski limited as a receiver at this stage in his career. Julian Edelman is reliable as Brady’s top target, but a second receiver needed to emerge: enter Chris Hogan.
Hogan finished the day with 11 targets, the most on the team and well ahead of the #2 receiver (Edelman with 6). He turned those targets into 64 yards. While he’s still not entirely on the same page as Brady, he’s getting open in the end zone and eventually Brady will connect with him. If Hogan can be a 60-80 yard per game receiver in the postseason, the New England passing attack will be fine.
New England can run the ball well, too
The Patriots finished the day with 134 rushing yards on 27 carries (4.96 YPC) as they’ve shown an ability to rely on the ground game. Sony Michel continues to pick up chunk yardage on the ground, even if he still has to improve on his short-yardage ability. Rex Burkhead is boom-or-bust, but the fact that the Patriots trust him as a receiver makes him dangerous in the red zone. And James White is James White- the most reliable player on the Patriots offense every single week.
The trio of Michel, Burkhead, and White are going to help carry the offense in the postseason because they’re more trusted than most of the receivers on the roster.
Patriots defense played their most complete game of the year
The Patriots held the Jets to 3 points, the lowest production of any opposing team all season. The Jets gained 239 net yards, the second-lowest of any opposing team all season (Dolphins gained a laughable 172 yards in week 4).
The Jets couldn’t run the ball or pass the ball and while they’re the Jets, they’ve averaged 25.5 points on offense over their past four games against good defenses like the Titans, Bills, and Texans. Give credit to the Patriots defense for their most complete game of the season.
New England secondary is outstanding
The Patriots secondary finished their regular season in fantastic fashion, with only one Jets receiver exceeding 30 receiving yards- rookie Deontay Burnett with 5 catches for 73 yards, with depth cornerback Keion Crossen in coverage.
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty limited the Jets receivers all day, with Robbie Anderson collecting a mere 3 of his 8 targets for 24 yards as Gilmore locked him down all day. The Patriots treated tight ends Chris Herndon and Jordan Leggett as receivers, too, as J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, and Patrick Chung helped limit them to 2 catches for 15 yards on 7 targets.
Add in Devin McCourty having another solid day (hopefully he’s okay with his head injury) and Duron Harmon playing well and the Patriots top six defensive backs are playing as well as I’ve ever seen in the Bill Belichick era.
And with the Patriots run defense all of a sudden showing up over the past two weeks- after vanishing against the Dolphins and Steelers- the New England Patriots might have one of the most complete defenses in the entire postseason. Hopefully this Patriots team will be able to continue to play at such a high level during their playoff run.
Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame show! The Patriots finished the regular season strong and cruised to a win over the Jets today, clinching a first round playoff bye in the process. Send us your questions and comments!Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 30, 2018