The New England Patriots were able to get a big win on the road against the New York Jets and very much keep their season alive. It may not have been the prettiest of games from. the team, but, as Matthew Judon said afterwards: “Any win is pretty to us.”
Let’s get into our takeaways from the game.
1. Mac Jones plays OK, but not great: After leaving the game against Chicago after just three series while being booed by his home fans, Mac Jones once again got the start. This time, he actually finished this game, though. Jones was picked off once, when his arm was hit after Marcus Cannon was smoked around the edge, and he threw one touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers. He also had another interception, which was returned for a touchdown, but it was called back because of a questionable roughing the passer call.
That throw might have looked like one of the worst of his career, but Jones later claimed an apparent misunderstanding with wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. Luckily for both of them and the entire team, the play did not count, and the Patriots were able to kick a field goal on the drive to make it a 10-6 game instead of going down 17-3. That was the turning point in the game, as the Patriots would get the ball to start the second half and score a touchdown to take the lead. They would never give the lead back.
Mac still doesn’t look completely comfortable back in the pocket, though, and seems like he is pressing a bit. Then again, he seemed to be running for his life for a second straight week, so maybe that is why he was a bit jumpy in the pocket.
Either way, the Patriots need to start getting the ball out of his hands quicker, and giving him some easier reads to get his confidence back up. Getting the win is great, but Jones is going to need to play significantly better down the stretch.
2. Zach Wilson is bad: For all the people who are questioning whether or not Mac Jones is the guy for the Patriots, at least they can look at the situation in New York and be happy that they don’t have Zach Wilson as the starter. He looked terrible against the New England defense.
When things are smooth, guys get open fast, and he is not under pressure, Wilson is fine. He has a good arm, and is usually pretty accurate with the ball. He also knows how to operate the pocket very well, and has impressive escapability. However, the second anything goes wrong, if there is any pressure, or if he has to wait in the pocket because no one is open, he starts making terrible decisions.
His three interceptions were all bad throws, where he had guys open, but either threw it directly to a defender, or missed his guy and ended up giving the ball back to the Patriots. Without those picks, the Jets may have had a great chance to win the game, but this is something that he has done his whole career. If Wilson can’t change that, he is not going to last long in the NFL.
3. Mondre the Giant: Rhamondre Stevenson continues to be the best player on the Patriots offense. Against the Jets, he had 143 yards of total offense, and was a force in both the running and passing game. He is hard to tackle and almost never goes down on the first hit, and generally looks like a special player. The Patriots appear to have hit a home run when they drafted him in the fourth round last year.
Damien Harris has taken a backseat to the talented second-year player, and Harris is very good too. Stevenson, however, has just been too good to not be the featured back for the Patriots.
4. Jakobi Meyers is doing it by himself: Jakobi Meyers was the only Patriots receiver to have more than one catch on Sunday, and had almost 80 percent of the total catches by wide receivers in the game. He continues to be the most reliable pass catcher on the team, and one of the better inside receivers in the league. He is a different type of slot receiver than the ones the Patriots have had in the past, but the production is still there, and he has proven himself the most reliable option on the team.
He needs some help though; the other wideouts and tight ends have to get open more consistently, and start making more plays. Meyers is fantastic, but the Patriots’ downfield passing offense cannot run solely through him if it wants to continue its growth.
5. Cole Strange struggles: It is certainly possible that the absence of David Andrews due to a concussion sustained in Week 7 was tougher on Strange than anyone else on the team. The rookie left guard had the worst performance of his young career, committing a pair of holding penalties that hurt the team, and giving up several pressures throughout the game.
Now, he was going against on of the best defensive tackles in the league in Quinnen Williams, so it makes sense that he would have struggled. However, you would still like him to perform better than he did on Sunday.
There have been some growing pains for Strange this year, but he has been pretty solid before Sunday. The hope therefore is that he can rebound and play better next week versus the Indianapolis Colts. He is going to need to, because the Patriots cannot deal with constant pressure from the middle of the offensive line and expect to win many games.
6. Nick Folk is Mr. Reliable again: The Patriots had trouble getting the ball into the end zone on Sunday, and so they had to rely on their kicking game to get points for them. Nick Folk was up to the task, going 5-for-5 on field goals, hitting three from 40-plus and one from 50-plus.
Folk has been incredibly reliable for the Patriots since he first arrived in 2019, and having a kicker like that is massively important to any team, especially one — like the Patriots — that has struggled to move the ball and finish drives. Folk is next to automatic from inside of 50, and, as he showed on Sunday, he can split the uprights from further as well.
7. Jabrill Peppers shines: With Kyle Dugger out of the game, the Patriots needed a safety to step up and play well. Jabrill Peppers was that guy. The former first-round draft pick, who arrived as a free agent this offseason, was flying around and made a bunch of plays in space. He took a bad penalty as well, but the Patriots needed his style of play on Sunday.
Peppers led the team with eight tackles, with one of them being for a loss. He is not the best player in coverage, but is great in run support, and will be getting a lot more playing time if he keeps playing the way he did on Sunday.
He also absolutely crushed the Jets’ gunner on a Marcus Jones punt return:
Jabrill Peppers was serving pancakes on Marcus Jones’ big punt return. Flat-out demolished a Jets gunner. pic.twitter.com/p1ui0tjzca— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) October 31, 2022
8. Special teams has a bounce-back week: Speaking of the kicking game, Jake Bailey bounced back from a terrible outing against the Chicago Bears on Monday night. He had some solid punts and gave the Patriots good field position.
Then there’s the punt return team, which sprung Marcus Jones for a 32-yard return. Everybody knew a runback like this was coming eventually, as the rookie been electric in the return game since taking over from Myles Bryant. He finally got a nice lane to run through on the play above that was highlighted by a Jabrill Peppers pancake block. It could also be a sign of good things to come from the return game.
9. Bill Belichick has an eye on Don Shula’s record: With a win on Sunday, Bill Belichick was finally able to pass George Halas for second all-time in coaching wins. Don Shula is now the only person ahead of him, and, assuming the Patriots can continue what they have been doing the last few years, he should be able to pass Shula in roughly two years.
Belichick is the best coach in NFL history, and he deserves to be at the top of every coaching list. With another few years, he will be there, but, for now, he has to focus on keeping his team playing well. He took a step towards that on Sunday, and he has to keep it going.
10. Building momentum will be key on the road ahead: The Patriots were able to keep their season alive on Sunday against the Jets, but now they have to keep the momentum going. They have the Colts at home next weekend before the bye and then the Jets again at home.
New England needs to win those two games to stay in the playoff hunt, and have a chance to make the tournament even with a tough stretch run coming up.