Well... that was something.
The New England Patriots and the New York Jets have likely met for the last time in 2022, and once again the Patriots complete the sweep to move out of last place in the AFC East. I called this a must-win game before kickoff, as New England has Minnesota and Buffalo on the horizon next, and while it wasn’t overly fun to watch, the Patriots got the W and sit two games clear of .500.
I’ll take it.
- It’s Thanksgiving week, which means it’s a time for appreciating what you have and being grateful for all of life’s blessings. So I’m going to try and keep the spirit of the week in mind as I plow through these notes. It’s a short turnaround, and I have another one of these to do on Friday, so we don’t have too much time to dwell on the game anyway.
- And that in and of itself is something to be thankful for.
- But I do think that it was a very nice gesture by the Patriots and Jets to honor the kickoff of the 2022 World Cup by keeping the game at a soccer score until there was only five seconds left on the clock.
- There’s not much to be said about the offense at this point that hasn’t already been said multiple times. It’s Week 11 and they’re coming off the bye where they were supposed to install some fixes. They did no such thing and remain completely inept. The play-calling is nonsensical, there’s no presence in the receiving game outside of Meyers, and I long for the day when the offensive line is competent enough for me to compare it to a sieve, as at least sieves prevent some stuff from going through. I used to joke that Matt Patricia has a little wheel on his clipboard with 50 plays on it that he spins on every down to decide what play to call, but I don’t know if it’s a joke anymore.
- 2nd-and-27? Let’s run a quick screen. 3rd-and-long? How about a shotgun draw into the teeth of one of the best defensive lines in football. Has it been two consecutive plays without a sack? Let’s fix that right away. Fourth-and-short in an offensive struggle where points are at a premium? Where’s that weird shotgun draw sweep run play that’s almost guaranteed to fail?
- And what’s most frustrating is that when the Patriots do string plays together that actually make sense, the offense finds success. The play-action following solid runs brought the linebackers up and opened up those middle routes, and Mac Jones had time to throw on a few occasions. It’s tough to remember among all the sacks and the negative plays, but I promise, it happened.
- I will say this about the 2022 offense: this might be the most consistent unit Bill Belichick has ever put onto the field. No team in the league goes three-and-out, runs patterns two yards short of the sticks, and gives up sacks the way this team does week-in and week-out.
- I should point out that Mac Jones, while not without blame, was actually quite solid yesterday. He averaged over 9 yards through the air and was smart and accurate with his throws. No turnovers again and didn’t look lost out there at all. But he needs to to better in moving up in the pocket and throwing it away when the pressure is on.
- Or at least not taking the sack 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
- But again, a big part of that is the play-calling and the timing. If your line is performing only slightly better than a “Stay Off The Grass” sign at a public park, you should call a lot of quick slants, short outs, and shallow crossers to get the ball out quickly. I can’t remember the last time DeVante Parker even ran a slant, let along caught one.
- Of the two running backs for the Patriots yesterday, Damien Harris was clearly having more success and consistency. He was running harder and making more positive gains. So of course he only got eight carries to Rhamondre Stevenson’s 15. It’s stuff like this that just drives you nuts.
- Though that 19 yard catch and run by Stevenson on 3rd-and-16 may have to make my offseason Top 20 Moments countdown. He broke four tackles, was stopped short twice, and plowed his way down to the Jets 15-yard line. Just an amazing individual effort.
- His reward? From 1st-and-10 at the 15 to 2nd-and-7 at the 12 to 3rd-and-2 at the 7 to 3rd-and-12 at the 17 due to a holding call to 4th-and-21 at the 26 after a 9-yard sack. A missed field goal later, and it was all for naught.
- No blame on Nick Folk for me. The man shouldn’t have to carry the offense to begin with, and that wind was pretty wild.
- New England’s lone scoring drive: 14 plays, 74 yards, field goal. I feel like I’ve written that a few times before...
- Last thing I’m going to say about the offense before moving on to the good stuff; again, it is what it is at this point and there’s nothing we can really do about it this season. But if there’s a play that personifies this team’s offensive struggles more than an uncharacteristically creative run play to Jonnu Smith that likely would have gone for six but he ended up fumbling it untouched while trying to switch hands just as the anchor of the offensive line goes down for the season, I’d like to know what it is.
- But in spite of the offense’s best efforts, the Patriots are sitting here at 6-4, courtesy of a defense and perhaps the only offense in the NFL worse than New England’s.
- Zach Wilson’s stat line, 9-for-22 for 77 yards, is simply absurd. Of the nine attempts he made to receivers who had at least three yards of separation — in other words, wide open — he hit just four. He’s just not a good quarterback, it would appear, and while the D for sure deserves credit, it needs to be acknowledged.
- That said... this is still a professional NFL offense. That the defense was able to hold the Jets to negative yards in the second half is absolutely amazing. New York had seven second half possessions, and five of them went three and out. This was a punting fan’s dream game — although there was that punt one sequence where the Jets had to kick it three different times that may have set the game back 50 years.
- The biggest positive I’m taking away from this game was that, to me at least, it looked like New England FINALLY decided to start dedicating a man in the spy role to prevent any scrambling. The four man front with Mack Wilson in the spy role forced Wilson to stay in the pocket and limited not only Wilson’s running ability, but the running game overall. Wilson, with his 26 rushing yards (with 14 coming on one play), represented the most successful ground game for the Jets yesterday.
- And honestly, other than that Wilson scramble and that one 34 yard pass to Mims that he underthrew, can you think of a single thing the Jets did offensively yesterday? Because I can’t. Just a wildly dominant performance.
- During the bye week, the staff here at Pats Pulpit got together and gave out Midseason Awards, listing our biggest surprises, biggest disappointments, midyears MVPs, and the like. We were all aligned on much of it; we’re all big fans of Matthew Judon, and none of us saw Bailey Zappe coming. But I was he outlier on my vote for rookie of the year. Jack Jones got plenty of well-deserved love from the writers here... but I was Marcus Jones all the way. And here’s what I had to say:
Jones has been a fantastic surprise in the return game, particularly given New England’s early struggles. Jones’s ability to consistently generate solid returns to set the Patriots up with good field position has been absolutely crucial, as the team goes three and out so often the field position game is heavily influenced by what Jones has been able to do on Special Teams.
- I’m not right very often, so when I am I need to highlight it.
- The way the game was going, we knew it was going to come down to a defensive play or a punt that ends up winning it one way or another. Jonathan Jones almost had the pick that would have set the Patriots up in FG range late, but he couldn’t haul it in. Devin McCourty was so shocked that Wilson gave him yet another gift pick that he couldn’t haul it in. And then Marcus Jones was out with an ankle injury and Myles Bryant was back there returning punts, I found myself flashing back to 2015 at Denver when Chris Harper muffed that punt to set the Broncos up inside the 20. While I’ll never forget that sad day in American History and will always look back with solemn remembrance of what occurred on Harper’s Muff, I’m very happy I don’t need to add The Incident on Bryant’s Botch to my list of tragic moments.
- When Jones fielded that punt and took off down the sidelines (massive credit to Brenden Schooler and Jonathan Jones for the blocks that sprung him), I thought he’d get to about midfield to maybe give the Patriots one or two shots to
get into field goal rangetake the sacks to send the game into overtime. But then he cut back towards the middle of the field and I thought that he might actually finish the run already in field goal range. That just meant not taking a sack on the ensuing play and the game could be over. And then he had nothing between him and the end zone but Justin Hardee and Mack Wilson came charging in from the rear, and I instinctively screamed “DON’T BLOCK HIM IN THE BACK!” and spent the first 10 second after the end zone celebration looking for a flag somewhere to take back the score. But no flag came, and that was the game.
- That now makes 14 straight against the Jets, and let me tell you, it never gets old. New York is going to win one eventually... but not this year.
- I also can’t help but wonder if maybe Zach Wilson just isn’t the guy in New York. But I won’t wonder too long, as it’s not my problem and the Patriots have another game in three days.
- I’m thankful that the Pats got the W. I’m thankful that they’re 6-4 and positioned for a playoff spot. I’m significantly less thankful for the fact that we won’t see a non-primetime kickoff until Christmas Eve, which means four straight weeks of staying up late and scrambling to get my coverage out the next day, but it could always be worse.
- As we head into Thanksgiving week, I need to come clean about something: I watched the trailer for 80 for Brady and I found myself chuckling. I know. I’m sorry. I just didn’t want to kick off the holiday season with that on my conscience.
No time to linger on this one; the Vikings await, coming off an absolute beatdown at the hands of the Cowboys. They’re going to be looking to bounce back big against the Patriots, so they have their work cut out for them.