Here’s a glance back on the AFC East matinee as New England moves to 3-4 and into the win column at home.
Jones eclipses 300-yard mark for first time
Five weeks removed from their first divisional meeting in East Rutherford, a pair of rookie starters met again in Foxborough.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones went 24-of-36 for 307 yards against the Jets this time. The Alabama product linked up with running back Brandon Bolden on a screening touchdown from 15 yards out. He scrambled to move the chains on a third-and-10, and then rolled out to find wideout Jakobi Meyers on a fourth-and-1 conversion. Jones also found a diving tight end in Hunter Henry for a fourth score in as many games before Brian Hoyer stepped into New England’s huddle.
On the other side, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson completed 6-of-10 passes for 51 yards before being taken down by defensive tackle Lawrence Guy and outside linebacker Matt Judon on separate plays in the second quarter. The Brigham Young product went into the locker room with a right knee injury. He did not return. Mike White took over under center at the goal line and threw a touchdown to wide receiver Corey Davis. New York’s backup was later intercepted by safety Kyle Dugger and cornerback J.C. Jackson, who now has five picks versus the Jets since November 2020.
A receiver-to-receiver connection for New England
The first touchdown tossed Sunday would not have a quarterback’s fingerprints on it.
A double-pass trick play between wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor saw the Patriots strike with 12:49 of game clock left in the opening quarter. And it came down the right sideline from 25 yards away on what once appeared to be an end-around run.
It marked the first throw of Bourne’s NFL career and the first touchdown catch for Agholor since the season opener. The latter sold his block and released.
Stevenson scratched as Harris-led backfield fires on all cylinders
Patriots rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson found himself among the inactives 90 minutes prior to kickoff after finding the end zone last Sunday. The No. 120 overall pick out of Oklahoma had not been listed on the injury report.
That surprise left the backfield depth chart with starter Damien Harris, the veteran Bolden and a recent scratch in J.J. Taylor. And with room to run.
Harris turned 14 carries into 106 yards and his first career two-touchdown game versus New York. He broke away for a 12-yard pickup on the initial play and continued with a 32-yard scamper on the next series. Sunday would mark the third consecutive game with a TD for Harris, and he entered halftime having averaged 10.3 yards per rush. Behind him, Bolden accounted for a team-high six receptions for 79 yards and the aforementioned touchdown as the primary passing back. Taylor also spelled in for 10 offensive touches and his first set of NFL touchdowns.
Fifth different combination for the starting five
Shaq Mason returned to New England’s offensive line after two weeks away due to an abdomen injury. The right guard had played every snap prior to then this fall.
And with that change, the starting five would be the fifth different combination for the Patriots. Isaiah Wynn worked at left tackle, Ted Karras worked at left guard, David Andrews worked at center and Mike Onwenu worked at right tackle, where the 2020 sixth-rounder cut his teeth as a rookie.
The unit would concede one sack to a Jets defense averaging 2.6 sacks per game and 2.48 seconds from snap to pressure. It transpired through the left B-gap midway through the third frame as linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips hit home.
Patriots’ run defense goes without Hightower
Patriots captain Dont’a Hightower had been sidelined from practice on Wednesday as well as Friday due to ankle and elbow injuries. He’d go from questionable to inactive by Sunday.
In his absence, New England’s defense opened Harvey Langi on the linebacker level. Langi had played 11 defensive downs on the campaign before facing the Jets, whom he started nine games for. His first start as a Patriot would be cut short by a knee injury.
But aside from a 19-yard sweeping touchdown by Jets rookie receiver Elijah Moore, the Patriots held the opposing ground game to 43 rushing yards on 16 attempts. A fourth-and-1 stop by rookie defensive lineman Christian Barmore was logged going into the half. A thumping loss of three followed soon after as linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley greeted Jets running back Ty Johnson.
Concerted effort to get the ball in Smith’s hands early
Over the previous four weeks, Jonnu Smith had caught a total of seven passes in a run-blocking role that called for few routes. But a concerted effort from Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was seen early on Sunday.
Four targets were sent the tight end’s way in the first quarter. Those targets included a 28-yard runaway catch that reached the books as the longest of his brief stay in New England. It set up a touchdown. A 24-yard gain followed in the right flat while Smith aligned at fullback.
The four-year, $50 million addition handled one carry for five yards, as well, before being downgraded to out as the third quarter got underway because of a shoulder injury.
Signed from the practice squad, Bryant blitzes at slot corner
The Patriots placed cornerback Jonathan Jones on injured reserve due to shoulder issue on the eve of the Jets matchup. And without the 2016 arrival, who had appeared in 85 out of 86 games in the regular season, Myles Bryant would be turned to.
Signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad on Tuesday, Bryant started at nickelback. He proceeded to blitz and notch a sack on the Jets’ first series. It’d be the first of his career, and it netted a loss of eight yards on third down.
A 2020 undrafted free agent from Washington, Bryant saw action in nine games last season. On Sunday, he also saw time as a deep safety with captain Devin McCourty managing an abdomen injury and finished with a forced fumble.