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Patriots vs. Jets: Fan Notes from the Game

Related: 10 takeaways from the Patriots’ win over the Jets

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When the New England Patriots took the Green Bay Packers to overtime and barely lost, I felt pretty good about the game. I was happy to see the team hang tough against (what I thought was) a good team, and figured once Mac Jones got back they’d be in good shape.

After yesterday’s game against the New York Jets, I kind of find myself on the opposite side of the table. I don’t know about any of you, but I felt better after that Packers loss than I did after that Patriots win. Perhaps it’s just me being my usual grumpy self, but it’s just hard to objectively look at what transpired against the Jets and feel like the Patriots did anything to put our fears to rest.

It’s the spookiest day of the year, but I feel like I got all my scaries out yesterday.

  • At the end of the day, a win on the road against a division opponent with a 5-2 record is something to hang your hat on. The Jets have a very strong defense and teams have been having trouble moving the ball against them all season. Their record is reflective of that defense and that the Patriots were able to put 22 point on the board and walk out of MetLife with a win, back at .500 on the year, can’t be overlooked. Wins are wins, full stop.
  • But this was also a game where I came in with a number of concerns coming off the heels of that Chicago Bears game, and every single one of those concerns is still very much on the table. This is a Patriots team with no offensive identity and no consistency or progression to any of the plays they run. It just seems like they’re flipping to plays in the playbook at random, closing their eyes, pointing to a play, and hoping for the best.
  • Luckily, the majority of the plays they selected at random involved Rhamondre Stevenson, because him and Jakobi Meyers represented the entirety of their offense yesterday. Of the 321 total yards the Patriots put up yesterday, Meyers and Stevenson accounted for 203 of them. Non-Jakobi receivers combined for two catches for 15 yards. Add in one catch by Hunter Henry and three catches by Jonnu Smith, and I’ve just summarized the entire offensive production in a single bullet point.
  • And I don’t want to take any credit away from Meyers, who scored the lone offensive touchdown, but Rhamondre Stevenson more or less singlehandedly won this game for New England. This was a game where not only were points at a premium, but if there was a single yard gained that wasn’t a massive struggle, I don’t remember what it was. But Stevenson found gaps, fell forward, and generated plays when there was nothing to generate. If there was any doubt before this one as to who the lead back for the Patriots is, those doubts have definitively been put to rest.
  • That said, if this offense is going to run entirely through Stevenson, we’re screwed. He can’t be expected to carry the game like that week-in and week-out, so I’m all four giving Damien Harris more carries as he continues to work his way back from his hamstring injury.
  • Stevenson’s day is doubly impressive in the wake of how much the offensive line struggled. Cole Strange had his worst day as a pro. Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon rotated at tackle as Cannon kicked out as the jumbo tight end. Wynn played left guard in place of Cole Strange for several snaps. James Ferentz looked lost at times. The result was a unit that gave up six sacks, multiple hits, and more negative plays than positive ones. Even when the Patriots had six linemen and the Jets only rushed four, they still couldn’t keep Mac upright.
  • It’s almost like every game day, the linemen all get together in the locker room and have a hot dog eating contest, and that week’s loser gets assigned multiple penalty and sacks allowed duty for that week. Wynn lost a bunch early, but maybe he’s been taking lessons from Joey Chestnut. Last week it was Trent Brown. This week, it’s Strange. I hope Michael Onwenu is hungry next Sunday.
  • When the offensive line plays poorly, it can be easy to give the quarterback a pass. And Mac Jones had some nice moments yesterday for sure. But if you can remember a single tight throw or great read Jones made, please put it in the comments because I got nuthin.
  • If the Patriots end up stringing some wins together and sneaking into the playoffs, I’m going to look back at this game as the reason for it, and unfortunately it had nothing to do with how the team played.
  • The turning point of this season may very well end up being a roughing the passer call that negated a pick-six on what was arguably the worst decision of Mac Jones’s career. It looked like Jakobi Meyers had an option route, chose to cut in, and Jones thought he was cutting out, because he threw it directly to Michael Carter and Carter was gone. The Patriots aren’t capable of coming back down two scores, and a 17-3 halftime lead would have been the game and the Patriots would be sitting at 3-5 today with the season more or less over if not for that flag.
  • As for the flag itself... that shouldn’t be Roughing the Passer. But it is. This is the new NFL. That wasn’t Mac Jones catching a break (unlike the C.J. Mosley hit, which Jones rightly invited so he could get to the first down marker), it’s just how the league does things now. I don’t really like it either, but what can you do. Gripe about the rule itself, but not that flag. It was the right call.
  • I’ve been wildly negative on the offense so far, and honestly I really don’t have a lot of good things to say about anybody other than Rhamondre Stevenson. But I will say that this O is one essential ingredient away from being one of the most dangerous in the NFL. Unfortunately, that essential ingredient is scoring touchdowns.
  • When Mac Jones is seeing the field and in the zone, he’s capable of generating double-digit play drives that eat up over half of the quarter; the number of 16-play, 60+ yard drives the Patriots have engineered over the last season and a half is very impressive. But the definition of a successful New England drive since 2021 is one that ends with a Nick Folk field goal, and that just can’t happen. Folk can’t be your best offensive weapon if you have any intention of making any kind of meaningful late season run. There just isn’t a consistent touchdown threat on this team and we’re at the end of October.
  • And just to kick us all when we’re down, N’Keal Harry scored his first touchdown as a Bear yesterday.
  • I want to be crystal clear, though: Mac Jones is my guy. He’s the starter. Bailey Zappe was a fun story and he did what he needed to do, but the shine has worn off. He converted several third-and-longs and his chemistry with Meyers is undeniable. He’s capable of running this offense, running it well, and putting the Patriots in position to succeed.
  • I want to give some well-deserved credit to the defense, which continues to be the strength of this team. In a game where both quarterbacks tried their hardest to give gift interceptions to the other team, New England was much more receptive to those gifts.
  • I will say, though... in 2011, the Patriots were infuriating to watch on the defensive side of the ball. That unit surrendered yards at will between the 20s, stiffened up in the red zone, held teams to field goals, and found ways to generate turnovers in what ended up being a high risk/high reward style of play. The 2022 unit seems to have adopted a different, and wildly unique, strategy of dominant first and second downs to set up third-and-long, then allowing teams to gain yards in huge chunks after an impressive QB scramble. I don’t know how far a 2-yard run on first down, a 6-yard loss on second down, and a 28-yard gain on 3rd-and-14 can take a team, but I’m certainly going to find out.
  • The 2022 Patriots may also be the most undisciplined team of any Bill Belichick has ever coached. Holding penalties and DPI calls you simply have to accept as part of the game. But hitting guys out of bounds, illegal formations, late hits, too many men in the huddle calls... that stuff is usually ironed out in preseason.
  • But then again, so is the offensive playbook.
  • Special teams gets my game ball. Besides scoring the bulk of New England’s points, they consistently pinned the Jets back, got good returns, and dominated the field position game overall. If I hadn’t lost count of the number of times the Patriots started a drive inside Jets territory and immediately went three-and-out, I’d probably be gushing even more about this unit.
  • I watched the Bills beat the crap out of the Packers last night and I’m starting to wonder if Buffalo will even waste a roster spot on a punter when these two teams play in a few weeks.
  • Congrats to Devin McCourty, who now has the most interceptions of any active player with 33. I can’t remember all of them, but I can’t imagine any came easier than that last one. Absolutely no idea what Zach Wilson was looking at there.
  • Another congrats to Matthew Slater, who now sits at No. 2 for most games ever played by a New England Patriot at 214. Slater passed Patriots legend Bruce Armstrong, and now trails only Tommy B on the team. Brady played 285 games, so I doubt Slater will catch him, but the man has had an absolutely remarkable career. Slater is going to be a very, very interesting conversation in and around Canton in a few years. If there’s ever a down year for candidates and there’s a strong enough push to get support players into the Hall, he may have a shot.
  • And most importantly, Bill Belichick now has 325 career wins. He sits alone at No. 2, behind only Don Shula (347). He could have that No. 1 spot as early as next season, depending on how the second half of this year goes. Pretty cool that it came against the Jets.

There’s a great chance the Patriots head into their bye week at 5-4, with two weeks to work the kind of bye week magic we haven’t seen around here in some time. The 2021 Patriots were white hot heading into their bye and then fizzled down the stretch. Maybe we’ll see the exact opposite this time around.