It took them four tries, but the New England Patriots finally won their third game of the season to improve to 3-5 on the year. Their victory over the now-0-9 New York Jets on Monday night was a struggle at times, but in the end the team made enough plays to travel back home with some momentum under its belt after having played some solid complementary football at times.
With that said, let’s take a look at the players who stood out from the contest — for better or for worse. So, without any further ado, here are this week’s winners and losers, as always without the benefit of a film review.
Winner: WR Jakobi Meyers
After losing N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman to a concussion and a knee surgery, respectively, the Patriots turned to a former undrafted rookie free agent to serve as their go-to-guy in the passing game: Jakobi Meyers has been the team’s best receiver over the last two weeks, and he delivered a career performance versus the Jets. The second-year man gained 169 yards by catching 12 passes on 14 targets — including a 20-yarder that set up the game-winning field goal with only three seconds on the clock.
Winner: QB Cam Newton
It was the Jets and their league-worst pass defense, yes, but Cam Newton still showed some additional signs of progress after already taking a step forward last week. The Patriots’ starting quarterback completed 27 of 35 throws for 274 yards and also gained 17 yards on nine rushing attempts, finding the end zone twice in the process. Newton still had some plays he likely would want back, but all in all he played an encouraging game. This is especially true in one category: he played a turnover-free game for the first time since Week 1.
Losers: CB J.C. Jackson & CB Jason McCourty
With Stephon Gilmore still out because of a knee injury, J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty served as the top two outside cornerbacks for the second straight week. After a solid outing against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, however, they struggled to contain the deep pass versus the Jets. Jackson gave up a pair of deep touchdowns, while McCourty surrendered another score. Furthermore, both were flagged for defensive pass interference at one point. While not all was bad — Jackson had a huge interception in the fourth quarter — the team needs more out of the two, especially with Gilmore out.
Winner: K Nick Folk
New England’s place kicker is quietly putting together a quality campaign: Nick Folk has not missed a kick since Week 3, and is now 14-of-16 on field goals and 14-of-15 on extra points after making all six of his attempts on Monday night. Not only was he good on all three extra point tries, he also hit field goals from 45, 29 and 51 yards out. The third of those kicks was arguably the biggest of his Patriots career, splitting the uprights as time expired to secure a victory over his old team.
Winners: LB Chase Winovich & LB Terez Hall
The Patriots’ linebacker position remains one of turnover, but two players saw prominent playing time in the front-seven along the way — an encouraging development for different reasons. For one, there’s Chase Winovich, whose playing time decreased drastically ever since New England’s Week 5 bye. Against the Jets, however, he saw more action again and was even regularly used as an early-down run defender. Winovich generally looked good, and made an argument for more snaps again.
Terez Hall, on the other hand, was the Patriots’ top off-the-ball option all night. With Ja’Whaun Bentley out, the team turned to the second-year man after elevating him from the practice squad. This speaks for how the team views Hall’s development, but also does not paint a rosy picture for the linebacker corps as a whole. Nevertheless, Hall can feel good about his standing on the team, even though he had some shaky moments in his NFL debut.
Losers: LB Tashawn Bower, LB Josh Uche & LB Anfernee Jennings
Winovich and Hall seeing an increased workload came at the expense of some other players, most prominently Tashawn Bower, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Bower started the game as the weak-side outside linebacker opposite John Simon, but after missing a tackle on a third down on the first series was replaced in the lineup. He was not benched for good, but it became obvious the team felt more comfortable with Chase Winovich.
Uche and Jennings, meanwhile, played only marginal roles again. While they are not as experienced as Hall and slightly different types of linebackers — Hall fits the Mike-linebacker mold more, Uche and Jennings are better suited to play on the edge and as versatile move options — the Patriots had experimented with both in an off-the-ball role over the last two weeks. In a wire-to-wire setting, however, the team opted to go with the practice squad elevatee instead of the rookies.
Winner: RB Rex Burkhead
Even before Damien Harris left the game in the late fourth quarter because of a chest injury, Rex Burkhead saw plenty of opportunities as the second running back in the rotation. The veteran certainly ran hard, finishing the contest with 56 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Furthermore, he 11 yards on three receptions. While the numbers are not necessarily awe-inspiring, Burkhead was a productive member of the Patriots’ offense capable of gaining tough yards.