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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’ 38-3 victory over the New York Jets.

New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Happy New Year, everyone!

If you’ve been following my writing for any amount of time, you know that I usually try and spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the Salmon of Capistrano. And this year was no different, so greetings from sunny Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, where I watched the Patriots take out the Jets on the pool deck with my computer in one hand and a Mai Tai in the other. I’m usually a beer and whiskey guy, and gladly so, but tropical weather and palm trees isn’t very conducive to enjoying a nice Jack on the rocks, so you’ll excuse me the indulgence.

But indulgence is indeed the name of the game today, as the Patriots have locked up a first round playoff bye for the ninth straight year and will now be enjoying a nice week off - although hopefully it will be significantly more fitness-oriented than the one I’m currently rocking. The Patriots completely dominated their division rivals and built some nice momentum for the postseason. At no point was this game in doubt or even close, so here’s hoping New England can keep this momentum going and finally bring some normalcy to what was one of the strangest regular seasons I can remember.

  • I don’t want to tell you the hoops I had to jump through to get this game to stream on my iPad, nor should I share how ridiculous I looked to my fellow vacationers whose priorities yesterday were rightly focused on sun, sand, and surf. But to those people who gave me an odd look as I hovered over my beach chair, towel shielding my tablet from the sun, long cord running behind the bar to keep my laptop charged, headphones in, I say this: you vacation the way you want to, and I’ll vacation the way I want to.
  • Patrick Chung continues to be one of the most underrated players in the entire league. His role in taking return duties from the injured Cordarrelle Patterson aside, he’s one of the better coverage safeties in the NFL, provides solid run support, and rarely misses a tackle.
  • I think if I’m the Jets, I’m cautiously optimistic about the next few years. Sam Darnold had a fairly solid rookie campaign, and as the league moves more and more towards mobile quarterbacks with a strong arm, they seem well positioned to reboot the team around him, Anderson, Adams, and a few other players on the roster. I imagine their goal is to try and time their relevance for when Tommy B finally hangs it up in 2045.
  • I think I’ve seen enough of Rex Burkhead. He’s just never turned the corner, and with White, Michel, Develin, and Patterson in the backfield, I just don’t know what extra he brings to the table.
  • I literally typed the period on that sentence maybe 16 seconds before Burkhead scored a receiving TD in which he found a mismatch in a linebacker. You’re welcome.
  • That TD looked exactly like the TD he scored against the Saints in Week 2 of last season, and to be honest, I always thought that’s where Burkhead was best suited for this offense - as a receiver first, runner second, to be motioned out wide in order to create mismatches. I don’t really like him as a runner.
  • New England’s first TD drive of the day saw Tommy B hit five different receivers, including Gronk and James White, bolstered by quick screens, option routes, and mismatch-based slants. Maybe more of that and less stretch runs and zone blocks?
  • Speaking of James White, his seven receiving touchdowns on the season tied a Patriots record for most receiving TDs by a running back. Congrats.
  • Brady also hit yet another milestone yesterday, eclipsing 6,000 career completions. That’s about one completion for every calorie of beer I consume per week during football season. Brady and I seem to be approaching middle age with two very different goals in mind.
  • Overall, a very solid day from Tommy B. He threw a few high as he continues to dangle precariously off that cliff of his, but for the most part, he was throwing lasers out there yesterday. Man do I love it when the media knocks him for how lousy he plays.
  • To be fair, though - regarding those high throws, from what little I understand of throwing mechanics, much of a quarterback’s accuracy comes from a smooth transition of weight onto the front leg as he twists his hips into the throwing motion and brings his arm down on the release. If Brady’s apparent knee injury is actually a thing, that may account for those throws. But who knows.
  • That also might be why he has simply stopped sneaking it on 3rd and 4th and very short. There’s really no other explanation.
  • I mean come on - late in the 3rd, up 28-3, it was fourth and maybe half an inch, and the Pats punted.
  • Did Geico REALLY need to let us know that their Best of DVD collection isn’t a real thing? Were there people out there looking to purchase a bunch of commercials for an insurance company?
  • I think my favorite play of the day was the Devin McCourty fumble recovery, which he picked up at the 24 yard line. He was then met by the Jets offensive line at the 18 yard line, but got carried about 10 extra yards to set the Patriots up on the eight.
  • That fumble was all Trey Flowers.
  • I only wrote that single note, with no explanation, because it’s true of all of New York’s turnovers yesterday. Take your pick.
  • What’s especially great about that fumble is that it actually resulted in a touchdown. In weeks past that would have been three points - the difference yesterday for the Patriots was red zone production. Instead of settling for field goals, they punched it in.
  • On multiple occasions, the Patriots have faced goal to go well outside the 10 yard line. On these occasions, New England has tried to got for it all at once rather than get some yards back and make the drive more manageable.
  • I know that it was the right call by the book...but it’s absurd that the Jets were flagged for roughing the passer on a play where Brady was barely touched. That’s some fine acting, though, Tommy.
  • Tom Brady has gone 15 years between his first and last SB win. That’s nuts.
  • Once the Patriots went up 21-3, a deficit the Jets simply aren’t built to come back from, New England switched to a smaller front, backed the secondary up, and gave up a lot of the underneath routes to kill clock. Zone defense can be boring and frustrating...but when you mix it up with an occasional blitz, it completely catches the opposing QB off guard, particularly a rookie like Darnold.
  • Prime example: the Jets were going for it on fourth down just outside the Patriot end zone. Kyle Van Noy came through on a blitz. He over-pursued, but it forced Darnpld to adjust and regain his sight line, by which point the receivers had all run their routes and the play was broken up.
  • Broken up by Stephon Gilmore, that is. That man is an absolute animal. Sticks to receivers like me to the toilet seat when my nephew comes over at forgets to put it up. When passes are thrown his way, he has an incredible ability to get his arm right in between the receiver’s hands and prevent him from securing the ball. Gilmore and JC Jackson on opposite sides of the secondary bodes well for the playoffs and beyond.
  • As Jackson continues to impress. That isn’t even to say that Jason McCourty has played poorly or anything like that; I just think that Jackson’s instincts are spot on and he has that lateral quickness and catchup speed you need to be a corner in this system. The real test is going to be next year, and whether he hits that dreaded sophomore slump that Patriots defensive backs often fall into.
  • Other than a freak play against the Dolphins, the Patriots defense has been fantastic in the last quarter of the season. They stopped the Jets on 4th and short twice. They held the Steelers to 17 points. They kept Buffalo out of the end zone until garbage time. The held the Jets to a single field goal, and other than that one long run early in the game, completely rendered Darnold ineffective as a runner. They have some extremely potent offenses on the slate as the playoffs descend, so we’ll see how they match up against more talented teams.
  • “Man, Sony Michel almost broke that one to the house” may be the thought that went through my mind the most this season.
  • I realized yesterday that Sony Michel is the running back that Laurence Maroney should have been. Michel has that exact same stutter step behind the line as he reads the linebackers and waits for the blocks to develop. Where the two backs differ, however, is that Michel then makes a cut and picks up positive yards. Maroney was more of a “ make a few more cuts, stop dead in his tracks, pirouette, pause for a selfie, then get tackled for a loss” kind of runner.
  • Thanks for another great season, Dan Fouts. It’s lines like “it’s going to be beneficial for the Jets to get back into this game if they can score touchdowns instead of field goals” that I’m going to miss most this offseason.
  • There was also the “now we’re going to see if the Patriots are going to punt this ball...to Roberts” as the Pats faced a 4th and 20 following a 30 yard Gronk catch and run negated by a OPI penalty. Fouts paused between “ball” and “to Roberts,” and I didn’t miss a beat. That Fouts might question that the Patriots should go for it on 4th and 20 inside their own red zone isn’t by a stretch out of his wheelhouse.
  • He did sneak in a Longest Yard reference, though - “shut up, Brent” may be his crowning achievement. So credit where credit is due.
  • How the hell did a single Jets run take out Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, and Patrick Chung all at once?
  • You don’t realize how crucial Devin McCourty is to all aspects of the defense until he’s not in the lineup. Following the Van Noy TD, with McCourty out, the Jets were able to get the running game going and a lot of second level plays went for first downs. New England’s first McCourtyless drive was also New York’s first TD drive. Glad it’s just standard concussion protocol and not anything physical.
  • Did the Patriots sound guy always play the Ultimate Warrior’s entrance music on 4th and short? As a huge 80s/early 90s wrestling fan, you figure I would have caught onto that by now.
  • Although I was always a Hulkamaniac through and through; I never really bought into the Warrior. I mean the guy was an electric personality, but holy Tebow was he a terrible wrestler. Run to the ring, shake the ropes, throw a few kicks, gorilla press, splash, match. That he beat Hogan in Wrestlemania VI remains one of the most traumatic moments of my childhood.
  • It was kind of a moot point yesterday, but overall...I can’t say I’m incredibly impressed with the 2nd half Patriots in 2018. Too many times this team has come out of the box strong, then kind of languished in the 3rd and 4th quarters. That’s the polar opposite of the Patriots we all know and love. I really, really don’t want to spend the upcoming playoffs pleased with the first half only to spend the 2nd half sweating through my couch.
  • Then again...the Ravens are the four seed and are likely about to go on an absolute tear...so who am I kidding. I’ve already started sweating.
  • It’s nice to be up 28-3, late in the 3rd quarter, and be 100% certain your team isn’t about to blow a 25 point lead, isn’t it?
  • Welcome back to the land of the living, Chris Hogan. How many flea flickers will he catch in the divisional round?
  • Yesterday’s Week 17 is exactly what the NFL wanted in terms of meaningful games and playoff seedings; the only team in the league with nothing to play for was the Saints. The Patriots could have finished anywhere from one to four yesterday and the AFC wasn’t settled until the final whistle of the final game.
  • That said...at this point, I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen going forward and I’m completely fine with that. The five games the Patriots lost this season are all to teams that didn’t even make the playoffs. Brady threw his most picks since 2013, but I feel like eight of them weren’t his fault at all. This Patriots team doesn’t really do anything besides cover particularly well - but they’re also the only team in the AFC without a major flaw. KC has no defense. The Ravens can’t come back from a two score deficit. The Chargers are very unproven in the playoffs. The Colts are lacking talent overall. Houston’s postseason record speaks for itself, and their offensive line is a problem. Absolutely anything can happen between now and February, from a one and done to a sixth Lombardi Trophy and everything in between, and it won’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve said it a hundred times by now: we saw the ultimate season finale in 2016, the greatest ending to the greatest show of all time. Now we’re all just relaxing and enjoying the DVD bonus features and additional director’s commentary. It’s gravy from here on out, so let’s enjoy the ride. Here’s hoping it’s Brady vs. Brees in a few weeks, because that means that I’m happy no matter what the outcome is.
  • I should also take a moment to acknowledge an AFC East foe, Kyle Williams, and congratulate him on a spectacular career with the Buffalo Bills. A 5th round draft pick in 2006, Williams played all 13 seasons for a team that only made the playoffs once, experienced a revolving door of both coaches and QBs, and was more or less a laughingstock for his entire tenure in Buffalo. All Williams did in that time was play 183 games, with 177 starts, 48.5 sacks, and five Pro Bowls. Not horrible, I guess. All the best in your next chapter, Kyle. Not going to miss you all that much, I’m not going to lie.

Thanks for another great season, folks - I can’t tell you all how much I enjoy writing these Fan Notes, and hearing from my loyal readers. Hopefully I can bring you three more of these before we close the books on 2018.