The New England Patriots got their first of the season at MetLife Stadium against the New York Jets on Sunday. It might not have been pretty, but Mac Jones got his first career win of hopefully many. Here are my 10 takeaways from the 25-6 outcome.
1. A win is a win is a win: It was an ugly win, but it still counts as a win. The Patriots didn’t play great in any facet of the game, but they were still able to take down the lowly Jets. They need to improve upon almost everything, and, against a better opponent, they may not have done enough to win, but they had enough yesterday. The good news is that Jones and the rest of the team were not pleased about the game, and will continue to work to get better.
2. Folk hero: Nick Folk is the definition of automatic. After going 4-for-4 on field goals, he has now hit 33 in a row, the longest streak in Patriots history. He did miss an extra point, but he has made the kicker competition a thing of the past and is here to stay. Quinn Nordin conveniently got hurt this week, and with the way Folk has been playing, it doesn’t look like the Patriots will be rushing him off IR.
3. Damien Harris bulldozing people: Harris only finished with 62 yards rushing yesterday, but he had one of the most impressive runs you’ll ever see in an NFL game. He broke at least seven tackles on a 26-yard TD run, carrying at least four defenders into the end zone from a few yards out. Even Jones jumped into the pile to help push him in. It was nice to see Harris do that after putting the ball on the ground at the end of the game last week. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more good runs from him this year, but I can’t imagine any of them will be as impressive as the one we saw yesterday.
4. Line problems: We knew that Trent Brown was going to be out for this game, and so there was a chance they’d struggle blocking at RT. The problem is that it wasn’t only the right tackle spot that had trouble blocking. Yes, Yasir Durant looked terrible for most of the game, and Justin Herron didn’t look significantly better, but it was Isaiah Wynn’s struggles that concerned me more. He’s the starting left tackle, and needs to be better than he was yesterday or the Patriots are going to be in trouble. The alarming thing is that I really thought this line was going to be one of the best offensive lines in football, and they have looked terrible as a unit for two straight games. I know that defenses are going to come after Mac since he’s a rookie, but they need to be better at slowing down defenders and creating more holes for the running backs. Here’s hoping they can turn it around soon.
5. Mac is good: Jones may not have looked quite as good as he did last week, but he played quite well again yesterday. He is the only rookie to have not thrown an interception yet, and his completion percentage is north of 70 percent after two games. Mac hasn’t been asked to do too much yet. At times, it’s been frustrating to watch, because everything is short and quick. I think they’re easing him into this season, and keeping things simple for him. At some point, they’re going to have to open up the offense and ask Mac to do more, but he has done everything they’ve asked him to do, and done it well. We’re all still waiting for him to really struggle, and I assume it’s coming at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet, and it’s hard to be anything other than impressed with Mac right now.
6. Zach Wilson struggles: The Patriots’ defense had four interceptions and sacked Zach Wilson four times. The thing is, they didn’t really do anything too exotic against him, he just made some really bad decisions. Of course, one of the interceptions went through Corey Davis’ hands, but he made a bunch of bad decisions too. The Patriots have a very good passing defense, and J.C. Jackson is starting to look like an elite corner, which can certainly make things challenging for anyone playing against them, but not as challenging as Wilson made it look yesterday. I was always concerned about the talent jump that Wilson was going to have to make to get into the NFL, and he has definitely struggled so far this year. Only time will tell whether or not he is going to be able to turn things around, but I’m not sure it’s coming any time soon.
7. Ja’Whaun Bentley is everywhere: Bentley, who was much maligned last season, played a great game yesterday. He was all over the field, and finished with a team-high nine tackles to go along with a pass deflection and a TFL. Bentley is a guy that I have believed in since he was a rookie, and he got a ton of crap last season, and he wasn’t great. This season he looks like a different player, and has been physical in the running game (we’ll get to that in a minute), and all over the field making plays.
8. Can’t stop the run: Last week, the Patriots only gave up 76 rushing yards, but they had a hard time stopping the run in big moments. This week, they gave up double that, and there is no caveat necessary, they simply couldn’t stop the run. The Jets averaged almost five yards per carry, and I think the biggest mistake they made was committing to the pass as much as they did. The Patriots not being able to stop the run against the Jets isn’t going to kill them, but they have to be better if they expect to win consistently this season.
9. J.C. was CB1: Jackson has had to step into the CB1 role with Stephon Gilmore out for at least the first 6 weeks. The Patriots are going to have to make a few tough decisions this offseason, if not sooner, but Jackson made a compelling case for him to be the CB1 in New England. Jackson made a great play on the first pass of the game by Wilson, and did great work in coverage all day long. If Jackson keeps playing like this, he’s going to make himself a ton of money, wherever he ends up playing next year.
10. Curious coaching decisions: Everyone knows that Bill Belichick sometimes uses the first four weeks of the season as extended preseason games, but some of his decisions were curious bordering on frustrating. The play-calling was very conservative, and, at some point, they’re going to have to open things up. The red zone was especially frustrating, with Mac once again not getting a chance to make a throw into the end zone. Defensively, I did not like seeing so much of Tashawn Bower out there. I know that Kyle Van Noy was hurt, but there has to be a better option than Bower on the edge. Lastly, the offensive line situation didn’t make a ton of sense. Durant really struggled, and Herron didn’t do much better. They brought in Ted Karras this offseason, and with Mike Onwenu’s experience at tackle, it seems like this would’ve been the perfect opportunity to bring Karras in and move Onwenu outside. The team is still working on things, and you know that the coaching staff will be working to fix their mistakes as well, so I expect them to be better as well.
The Patriots are going to have to play and coach better if they want to win consistently, but after two weeks there is a lot to be excited about moving forward. Next up is the New Orleans Saints, and they’ve had two games on two opposite ends of the spectrum. The Patriots could get the good Saints or the bad Saints, but if the Saints get the good Patriots, they could have a tough time either way.