Fresh off a tough Week 1 loss at home to a division rival, the New England Patriots — and primarily their defense — bounced back in a big way on Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. Led by four interceptions and four sacks on rookie Zach Wilson, the Patriots defeated the New York Jets 25-6 in a game where the home team never really had any momentum.
There’s still much room for improvement for a Patriots team that prides itself on getting better on a week-to-week basis. The run defense is still a bit of an issue after giving up over 150 yards on the ground and five yards per carry while the offense is still struggling in the red area and finishing drives. But as quarterback Mac Jones said, “it’s hard to win in the NFL,” so they’ll take — what they hope — is one of many wins this season.
Let’s jump in to the winners and losers from Sunday’s contest:
Winner: RB Damien Harris
A week removed from his costly fumble with minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Harris bounced back with a monster game Sunday afternoon. He carried the ball 16 times for 62 yards with an impressive 26-yard score where he missed seven tackles before barreling his way into the end zone. On a day where the Jets’ secondary took away shots down the field from the Patriots, Harris helped the Patriots move the ball effectively and consistently put them in position to score points. If the Patriots want to be a successful team, they’re going to need to run the ball efficiently and that starts with Harris leading the way.
Winner: CB J.C. Jackson
There was a lot of talk about the Corey Davis and J.C. Jackson matchup heading into Sunday’s game. Davis, who has historically torched the Patriots in the past, was held to just two catches for 8 yards while Jackson picked up two interceptions. Jackson said earlier in the week that Stephon Gilmore had helped him prepare for Davis this week and Jackson responded in a big way. Last week, the Patriots’ secondary couldn't get off the field on third down but came up huge Sunday with four interceptions, two of them coming from Jackson in Wilson’s first five attempts of the day.
Winner: LB Matthew Judon
The more you watch Judon play football, the more there is to like. Judon was consistently in the Jets’ backfield from the opening kick, making life extremely difficult for Wilson to get settled. He picked up three tackles — one for a loss — one sack and three quarterback hits. With a secondary that is still trying to find its rhythm and consistency, Judon getting after the quarterback is imperative for the Patriots to have success and force turnovers.
Loser: OT Yasir Durant
With Trent Brown out with a calf strain, the Patriots had several questions as to who would play right tackle this week. With Justin Herron struggling last week in relief, Durant got the nod for just his second career start. In his first six snaps of Sunday’s game, he gave up a sack and two quarterback hits before quickly being relieved by Herron. It’s clear the one hole the Patriots have on offense is missing Brown and the inability to find a solid, and reliable swing tackle in his absence. The Patriots’ offense has gone downhill ever since Brown left the field early on in Week 1.
Winner: K Nick Folk
With a lot of uncertainty the last few weeks surrounding the kicking position, Folk said after the Sunday’s game that he has just tried to “control what he can control.” Folk was 4-for-4 with a long of 49 yards in Sunday’s win and came up huge for the Patriots as their offense still searches for consistency. Folk broke the franchise record with 32 straight kicks in the third quarter after hitting (ironically) a 32-yard field goal to put the Patriots up 13-3. Ever since Folk came to New England, he has been one of the most consistent players on the team and is continuously helping the Patriots put points up on the board.
Winner: LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
Ever since the return of Dont’a Hightower and the added talent to the linebacking corps, Bentley has flourished in more of his traditional middle linebacker role. Bentley led the Patriots with nine tackles on Sunday and came up huge on a big third-and-goal stuff on the Patriots two-yard line early on in the game. Bentley has been a key cog in the middle of the New England defense the last two weeks, primarily being one of the team’s best run defenders while continuing to improve in coverage.
Winner: RB James White
As we have seen for many years now, whenever the offense needs a spark or a big play, # 28 seemingly always gets it done. With the Patriots struggling to find a rhythm offensively early in the game, White turned a screen pass into a big twenty-six-yard gain deep into Jets territory. A few plays later, White shifted his way into the end-zone on a counter for the Patriots first score of the day and put them up 10-0 early into the second quarter. White’s leadership ability has stood out to rookie quarterback Mac Jones as he spoke after the game calling White, ‘the man’ and whenever he needs help he always leans on White due to his knowledge of the offense. With the Patriots still just two weeks into their new era of football with Mac Jones under center, James White’s work beyond the box score has really helped jumpstart this Patriots offense the last two weeks.