The New England Patriots’ visit to MetLife Stadium ended in a 33-0 victory Monday night.
Even if the New York Jets would be a different team than the one that stopped by Foxborough in September. And even if there’d be Sam Darnold at quarterback, Demaryius Thomas across from Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder at wide receiver, and No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams on the defensive line with Pro Bowler C.J. Mosley behind him.
The changes posed challenges. But few proved visible following the 8:15 p.m. ET kickoff. New England advanced to 7-0 on the regular season while advancing to 8-0 over the most recent New York encounters.
Here’s a touchdown’s worth of observations from what went into it.
Two tight ends out, two tight ends in for the Patriots
A reported MCL sprain left Matt LaCosse sidelined throughout New England’s week of practices. And a concussion suffered during the week of practices also left fellow tight end Ryan Izzo ruled out. Enter two veterans who hadn’t played a snap for the Patriots this regular season.
Ben Watson and Eric Tomlinson found themselves in the facility just days prior to the trip to East Rutherford. They’d find themselves filling the gaps against the Jets after LaCosse and Izzo had combined for north of 400 offensive snaps. Watson and Tomlinson both started in ‘12’ personnel for the Patriots. And, in addition to linebacker Elandon Roberts and interior lineman James Ferentz, both also worked as the team’s de-facto fullback.
Watson would lead the way on a touchdown out of offset I-formation. The 38-year-old tight end also snared three passes for 18 yards in his return to the organization that released him the week prior. Tomlinson hauled in a reception against his former team, as well.
Sony Michel finds the end zone for New England on three ocassions
Call it a hat trick for Michel.
The Patriots running back found his way into the end zone not once, not twice but thrice versus the Jets. Michel’s three touchdowns on Monday matched as many as he’d logged to this juncture in 2019. And with six touchdowns now on the year, the No. 31 overall pick in last year’s draft has matched the output from his rookie regular season.
Michel tacked on another six touchdowns to set a rookie playoff rushing record from January into February. He’d exit late against New York. That would give way to the first offensive opportunities for rookie third-rounder Damien Harris out of Alabama, who was active for just the second time this fall.
Patriots safety Devin McCourty is a handful
McCourty’s brief interception drought ended Monday.
New England’s safety and captain would glove his fifth of the season on New York’s initial drive. Pressure up the middle and off the edge from linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins forced an errant Darnold pass. And there, McCourty, who’d begun the year with four picks in as many games, got another.
The Patriots’ defense entered with an NFL-high 14 interceptions. That’d be added to on an October night in which Darnold admitted to seeing ghosts. McCourty currently leads the league in the interception department, and last had a handful in 2012. Fellow Rutgers product Duron Harmon also retrieved a pass from New York’s quarterback. Reigning first-team All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore did the same. So did ex-Jets special-teamer Terrence Brooks.
Jets manage 65 yards in the first half, and not much more
The New York offense tallied 65 total yards by intermission against a New England defense that had turned a trio of drives into turnovers.
And it wasn’t all by way of interceptions. Patriots defensive end John Simon strip-sacked Darnold en route to a fumble recovery by linebacker Kyle Van Noy that was one touch away from a touchdown.
Darnold threw for 34 yards through one half of action. Jets running back Le’Veon Bell rushed for 42 yards over that span. A total of 23 offensive plays had been run before the run to the locker room. The Patriots’ defense showed more of what it had shown. That held true by the time things were final. New England concluded with five takeaways as well as a high-snapped safety. And Darnold concluded with 11 completions on 32 attempts for 86 yards.
Wide receivers forge their way through the New York secondary
The Patriots were down to one personnel group by the end of what was a 35-14 win over the New York Giants in Week 6. And at wide receiver, the cast included Julian Edelman along with undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski.
Skipping ahead to the Jets meeting, that cast remained. But it would get another back.
A hamstring injury had seen Phillip Dorsett listed as questionable heading into the AFC East matchup. He’d suit up after a game away and catch a 26-yard ball into the bucket. It’d mark a career-high fourth touchdown catch on the season for Dorsett in only his sixth appearance. Edelman and Meyers collected another 12 catches for 94 yards while in East Rutherford. The show would go on as knee and ankle injuries held starting target Josh Gordon out.
Hit sees Tom Brady toss fourth pick in four games
Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams got by Patriots left guard Joe Thuney with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter. That sequence gave way a hit on quarterback Tom Brady.
And also a fluttering ball that’d be intercepted by cornerback Trumaine Johnson.
No Jets points would show for Brady’s fourth interception in his last four starts. He closed out Monday 31-of-45 passing for 245 yards with one touchdown.