After their 0-4 start, the New England Patriots finally got a home win, beating down the lowly New York Jets with a final score of 54-13. Yes, it was the Jets, but there was a lot to like about the game yesterday.
Let’s get into the takeaways from the game.
1. New England’s running game dominates: Damien Harris has struggled at times this season, but he ran very hard yesterday. He finished with 106 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. J.J. Taylor got into the mix as well, rushing for 21 yards, including the first and second TDs of his career. Another guy who deserves mentioning in this space is Jakob Johnson, who was a battering ram out there clearing space for the runners; he also added two catch (and one devastating stiff arm).
If the Patriots can continue to run the ball like they have the last two games, they are going to be tough to stop the rest of the way.
2. The offensive line played well: Going into the Houston Texans game, the offensive line had been one of the weakest spots on not just the offense but the team as a whole. It played well against the Texans, and then struggled again against the Dallas Cowboys a week later. It put together another nice performance this week against the Jets.
Not only was the group opening up holes for the running backs, but it also kept Mac Jones relatively clean. He was sacked once, but he was not under consistent pressure. Moving Michael Onwenu out to right tackle has really given this unit a boost. Isaiah Wynn played better today, although he did struggle in space on some of the toss and screen plays. He and the rest of the group will need to continue to play well if this team is going to keep winning games.
3. Christian Barmore is a beast: The Patriots traded up to select Barmore early in the second round of the draft this year, and that looks to be a fantastic decision so far. The Alabama product has consistently been in on plays, both in the run game and versus the pass. He finished the Jets game with only three tackles and two quarterback hits, but he also had five total pressures and was a force in the middle of the defense again.
Barmore is out there more consistently now as well, and his role is only going to increase as he learns how to play in this system more. On the weekend where possibly the best defensive lineman who ever played for the Patriots got inducted into The Hall — Richard Seymour — Patriots fans got to see a guy who just might walk in his footsteps one day.
4. Mac Jones finally gets a home win: Coming into yesterday, Mac Jones and the Patriots had been 0-4 at home. They had played three close games, but hadn’t been able to win at the end. They left no doubt this weekend, scoring on all five of their first-half possessions. Though they scored on all those possessions, Mac Jones really wasn’t that sharp at the beginning of the game, almost throwing a few interceptions, and sometimes missing open receivers in his progressions.
As he’s done all year, though, he played better as the game went on, and finished with over 300 yards for the first time in his career. The pass that put him over this mark was arguably his best: a 46-yarder to Kendrick Bourne that placed the ball at the Jets’ 1-yard line. Seven games into his rookie season, Jones has been incredibly solid and has looked exactly like the player that the Patriots need him to be. Oof course he has a long way to go, but he looks to be the real deal.
5. A N’Keal Harry sighting: Harry caught his third pass of the season at the end of the game on Sunday, hauling in a 28-yard reception from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer. He fought through pass interference, and came down with the ball at the 1-yard line. He also did well again blocking in the run game.
Harry has been a massive disappointment since being drafted 32nd overall by the Patriots in 2019, and this probably should not be seen as a sign of things to come. However, this was probably one of the best catches of his young career. He still has trouble running routes and getting separation, but this is the type of play that the Patriots expected out of him when they drafted him. Maybe, if nothing else, this will up his trade value.
6. New England serves a 50-burger: They may have played the Jets on Sunday, but scoring 50 points simply does not happen all the time. The 54 points that the Patriots put up is their most since 2013, when they scored 55 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Putting up 50 points is a solid accomplishment, no matter the opponent. Many teams have cracked 40 this season, but the Patriots are the first to score more than 50 this year.
7. Brandon Bolden emerges as the receiving back: I am still far from sold on Brandon Bolden as a running back, and I really don’t love when he is out there so much, but he was a real force in the passing game this weekend. He led the Patriot in receiving yards and receptions on Sunday. Again, it’s the Jets, and they almost never covered him out of the backfield, but he still made some nice plays with the ball in his hands.
We know how much the Patriots value pass protection (it was probably why Rhamondre Stevenson was a healthy scratch this week), and Bolden has always been good at that. If the veteran can add the receiving out of the backfield like he did on Sunday, the Patriots may have found their third-down back for the rest of this season.
8. Some aggressive play-calling: Josh McDaniels must have heard the people complaining, because he reached into his bag of tricks this week. The Patriots haven’t been afraid to run trick plays this season, and they scored on their first of the day when Kendrick Bourne threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to fellow wide receiver Nelson Agholor.
The Patriots have consistently been pushing the ball downfield more as well, which has really benefited Mac Jones and the rest of the offense. The run game has picked up as well, not just because of the offensive line, but also because they got back to what they do well which is running the ball inside. The Patriots also went for it on 4th-and-1 at the end of the first half — refusing to settle for a field goal in this situation is exactly what fans and analysts alike have been asking them to do, and they finally did it
Let’s hope that the same aggressiveness continues the next few weeks, because they are going to need to do that to win the next few weeks.
9. Jalen Mills and Joejuan Williams are a mixed bag: Mills and Williams have both been forced into more playing time than most expected this season; some of the results have been good and some of them have been bad.
On Sunday, Mills struggled, but he one could make the argument that he is playing out of position. He was brought in to play the role that Jason McCourty did in 2018, which is being the floating corner, who plays a little on the outside, a little on the inside, and even a little at safety. With Stephon Gilmore traded, he has been forced to play almost exclusively outside, and has struggled so far. He had another rough game, getting flagged for a pass interference penalty and beat for a touchdown as well.
Williams, on the other hand, had a solid game at cornerback. He’s had a rough overall year, but with starting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones out, he was active on Sunday and played quite well in coverage. He has yet to show any type of consistency in his young career, but the Patriots are going to have to rely on him a bit more with some injuries in their secondary. Sunday was a good look at what he’s capable of doing.
10. The Patriots are doing their job: The Patriots didn’t just beat the Jets, they crushed them. That was the first step in what they need to get done to turn their season around. The next will follow this week with a tough game in Los Angeles, but there are some winnable ones coming up soon, and they need to take care of business.
Sunday’s blowout win was a good start for them, though, and the hope is that they can keep the momentum going and play well these next few weeks. The Chargers game should be a challenge, but then they have the Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons, and Tennessee Titans on their schedule. New England has a shot at winning at least three of those games, and putting themselves in position to make a playoff run at the end of the season. The blowout victory over the Jets should go a long way to giving them the confidence to do just that.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast. Interact with him on Twitter @plane_pats.