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The Lane Breakdown: Is there a change coming in the AFC East?

Related: Instant analysis from Patriots’ 30-27 win over Jets

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NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots came back to beat the New York Jets on one of the wilder Monday Night Football games you’ll ever see. The Patriots struggled to stop the Jets offense, and score, for the entire first half. Then, the Jets would run 15 total plays in the entire second half, and the Patriots would outscore them 20-7, with 13 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

Defensive struggles

The Patriots defense really struggled. It couldn’t apply pressure, and didn’t have its first sack until the Jets’ final drive, when Joe Flacco inexplicably allowed himself to be brought down during his team’s 2-minute drill. New England did force some pressure with blitzes, but that left them vulnerable in the pass defense, and it showed.

J.C. Jackson had probably his worst game as a Patriot on Monday and was smoked all over the field by Breshad Perriman. He did redeem himself a bit with an massive interception in the fourth quarter — his fourth game in a row with a pick — but overall, he, and the rest of the secondary, struggled mightily.

The run defense was okay, only allowing 65 yards on the ground on 18 rushes, but allowing a backup quarterback to carve up your defense for three quarters doesn’t leave you with a good feeling.

The offense doing its job

Offensively, Cam Newton had probably his best game as a Patriot on Sunday. He made some tremendous throws, and showed great pocket awareness and toughness. I still think something looks a little off with him, but he did everything he could to help the Patriots win.

Jakobi Meyers, outside of one third-down brain fart that saw him go backwards instead of trying to pick up a first down, was exceptional as well. He had 12 catches for 169 yards, including the catch that set up the game-winning field goal. Bottom line with him: he may not be the best wide receiver in football, but every time he’s on the field he consistently makes plays for this team. He should be on the field for every snap moving forward.

Damien Harris ran hard again, but left with an injury, so that’s definitely concerning. That is something that bears watching this week.

You would have loved to have seen the Patriots offense do more than what it did against the Jets, but, it made some big plays at the end of the game to help get a win. For now, at least, that’s all we can ask for.

Looking ahead

As for where the Patriots go from here, that’s a different story. I have serious concerns about them moving forward, and I simply don’t know if they have enough to make a playoff push. They have a bit of a tough road with Baltimore coming up, followed by the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals. If they can win two out of those next three games, I think they have a shot at a wild card spot. Otherwise, they’re most likely going to have to win out against some good football teams.

The season is not over yet, but, unless they fix the defense, and get more production out of the offense, this team is going nowhere fast. Cam Newton has done almost everything you could ask for the last two weeks, but that might not end up being enough. If this team can’t compete moving forward, it is going to be really interesting to see what they decide to do at the quarterback position for the last few games.

The end of an era in the AFC East?

It might not be time for the tank just yet, but another few halves like the first one last night, and we may feel very differently. At halftime, it felt like a symbolic changing of the guard in the AFC East. The Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills both beat good teams in tough games this weekend, and the Patriots were getting steamrolled by the Jets. They came back, but, part of me thinks we will look back to last week and this one as the moment when the Patriots’ dominance over the AFC East finally ended.

The question is: Can they get back to dominance, and, if so, how long will it take them to get there? Maybe the better question is: Are Patriots fans patient enough to wait for that to happen? That patience might be tested quite a bit more as the season progresses.

My advice? Don’t lose hope. Even if they do struggle the rest of the way this year, they have a pretty good core of young players, and might be a few key contributors away from fighting for the top of the AFC East once again.

Pat is a host of the Patriot Nation Podcast

Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats