For almost a full 60 minutes on Sunday, the New England Patriots’ game against the visiting New York Jets was one of the most boring of the season so far. That all changed when the Jets decided to punt to Marcus Jones with 26 ticks left on the clock.
What followed was a wild ending, and, more importantly, another divisional win for the Patriots. Let’s get into our takeaways from the 10-3 victory in Week 11.
Marcus Jones is the real deal: Anyone who has listened to my show or read my articles knows how I feel about Marcus Jones. He was one of my favorite players in the entire draft, and he’s been a spark for the Patriots in the return game. He’s had some flashes, but hasn’t been able to break one for a touchdown, until Sunday.
The third-round rookie fielded the final punt of the game at his own 16, made a fake to the inside, and started racing toward the sideline, out-running defenders to the edge, sprinting down the sideline, and cutting back across to avoid the punter and take it to the house. Gillette Stadium went absolutely crazy, and the Patriots took the lead with only five seconds remaining in the game.
With the offense struggling to move the ball, having a guy who is a threat to take it to the house on every punt return is a massive boost.
The defense can keep the Patriots in every game: The Patriots flat-out dominated the Jets on the defensive side of the ball. They allowed just 103 total yards of offense, and took Zach Wilson down for a sack four times. They couldn’t score on offense, but it did not matter, because the Jets couldn’t even move the ball down the field. Just look at their second half: they had a total of 2 (!) yards of offense after halftime.
Outside of one pop fly catch by Denzel Mims for 34 yards, the Jets had almost no offense. If their defense plays this way, the Patriots will be able to make play with any team in the NFL.
Mac Jones takes a step in the right direction: Mac Jones struggled before the bye week, and was turning the ball over at an alarming rate. There was hope about him showing improvement after the bye, and he did just that. He didn’t turn the ball over at all and ended up going 23-for-27 for 246 yards.
He still wasn’t amazing, though, and the offense continued to struggle. Jones was sacked six times, and, although some of those were definitely on the offensive line, a few of them were because he simply held onto the ball for too long — a theme this season. He also had some issues with seeing open guys, and being too focused on deeper receivers and not just taking the easy pass.
Overall, it was a decent performance and he only had four incompletions. They only scored three points on offense, but, it was a step in the right direction, and the hope is that Jones can build on it and continue to improve as the season progresses.
The offensive line problems continue...: The six sacks do not do the New England O-line much justice — it might have been even worse than the numbers show. They had a tough matchup with a very good Jets defense, but they were unable to move the ball effectively through the air or on the ground.
They might not play a defense as good as the Jets again, but if the Patriots are going to compete for a playoff spot, they have to play much better on offense than they did on Sunday across the board. It all starts up front.
...as injuries start piling up: The offensive line suffered two big injuries on Sunday. First, center David Andrews sustained what seemed to be a serious quad injury that might end up knocking him out for the season. Andrews is arguably the most important player on the line for the Patriots, and losing him is going to be very difficult.
Then there is Isaiah Wynn, who has been in and out of the starting lineup for most of the year. He went out with a foot injury, and, although some people may not think that it matters, the Patriots are losing more depth on the line if the issue is a serious one. At one point they won’t be able to survive any more injuries.
Then there is the defensive line, where Christian Barmore was placed on injured reserve this week, which is a tough blow for the unit. Injuries happen to every team every year, of course, but the Patriots’ have really started piling up in the trenches.
‘Mondre The Giant’ impresses again: The Patriots offense has been struggling this year, but one player who has been consistently impressive this year is Rhamondre Stevenson. Every game he has at least one or two plays that make you just shake your head and wonder how it is possible that he does those things. That play on Sunday was when he caught a pass on 3rd-and-16, shook a linebacker, and then ran through 3 defenders to pick up the first down.
Shake & bake @dreeday32 | #ForeverNE— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 20, 2022
: #NYJvsNE on @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/PozsSpPopd
It was an impressive play by the big back, and shows what he can do. With Damien Harris once again looking healthy and fast as well, the Patriots have a truly elite 1-2 punch at running back. On Sunday, they were responsible for 175 of their team’s 297 yards.
Matthew Judon is the best player on the Patriots: Matthew Judon set a new career mark in sacks against New York, adding 1.5 more to bring his total to 13 on the year — three more than the next closest player (Dallas’ Micah Parsons).
Judon was seemingly in on every play, whether it was a run or a pass, and he is almost unblockable at this point. He was an absolute home-run signing last season, and he has helped the Patriots to build one of the best defenses in the NFL. Judon is firmly in the discussion for NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and he deserves it, because he’s been dominant against the pass, but also solid against the run.
There is no question that he is the best player on this team on either side of the ball, and a true blue-chip player at the linebacker position.
The offensive play-calling is seriously lacking: I was impressed with some of the plays and creativity the Patriots offense showed on Sunday, but the consistency again was not there. The throw to Hunter Henry and the play-action pass to Jonnu Smith were very nice, but for every one of those there were some incredibly questionable calls as well; the worst of which arguably an unsuccessful stretch run on 4th-and-3.
The play-calling also has done little to help Mac Jones. He has been under siege because the line hasn’t been able to hold its blocks, but also because of the coaches continuing to call slow-developing plays, forcing him to stay in the pocket and try to get the ball downfield instead of making quick passes. The play-calling needs to be better and more consistent for this offense to improve.
The Jets have a quarterback problem: Patriots fans may not be happy with Mac Jones, and may be, rightfully, questioning whether he is the long-term answer at quarterback. They can at least thank their lucky stars they aren’t Jets fans, though, because Zach Wilson doesn’t look like the guy at all.
That was obvious on Sunday, and he’s really struggled in most of the games he’s played this season. He was highly inaccurate against New England, and was only without a turnover because the Patriots dropped two interceptions. As tough as their own offense has been to watch at times, they have been better than the Jets.
Wilson is a big reason why.
The Patriots escape the AFC East basement: The Patriots have been fighting to get out of last place in the best division in football, and they finally did it. Even though they now have the same 6-4 record as the Jets, because they swept the season series, they hold the tiebreaker. That gets the Patriots into third place in the division behind the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills.
That is still a steep hill to climb, but, at the very least, the Patriots can be thankful to be out of last place and still in the playoff hunt.