Here is who caught our eye for better or worse upon live viewing.
Winner: TE Pharaoh Brown. New England’s offense was searching for explosive plays coming into their Week 3 matchup. While many may not have turned to Pharaoh Brown in search of those explosives, he delivered. A nicely designed play-action pass resulted in Brown’s 58-yard touchdown — New England’s longest play of the season. Brown led the team with 71 receiving yards and played a big role in their rushing attack as well.
Loser: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster. It was another quiet game for wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, who finished with just one catch on three targets for five yards. The two incompletions his way were both key third-down plays late in the game where the chemistry between the receiver and Mac Jones seemed off. He also had an unnecessary illegal block penalty.
Winner: RB Ezekiel Elliott and the Rushing Attack. After a poor start to the year on the ground, the Patriots delivered their best rushing output of the season Sunday. That was lead by Elliott who piled up 80 yards on 16 carries.
“I thought he had a couple of real good runs today,” Bill Belichick said of Elliott. “He got his pads down. Got some tough yards. His vision was good on a couple of cut-back plays.”
Bill O’Brien also deserves credit for his wrinkle of using Pharaoh Brown as a fullback. In total, New England was just shy of the 4.0-yard average mark (3.9), which is what David Andrews noted postgame as the mark of a good ground game.
Loser: LS Joe Cardona and the Field Goal Operation. In a rainy and windy MetLife stadium, rookie kicker Chad Ryland was two-of-four on field goals — with all of his attempts coming from 48+ yards. A reoccurring theme on both of the misses were high snaps by veteran long snapper Joe Cardona that appeared to mess with the operation.
“Timing on a couple of them could’ve been better. We need to have a cleaner operation,” Belichick said. “
Winner: CB Christian Gonzalez. Another day, another strong showing from Christian Gonzalez. The rookie spent almost half of his day shadowing former Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson and appeared to limit him to just two catches in coverage. Gonzalez also had a pass breakup while in smothering coverage on Allen Lazard.
- While Mac Jones and the Patriots offense missed several opportunities to put the game away, the QB played turnover free football and made some strong throws — a mesh-sit to Kendrick Bourne and sideline ball to DeVante Parker first coming to mind. However, Jones continues to struggle when pushing the football down the field going 0-for-5 on passes over 20 air yards.
- It was good to see Demario Douglas back in the fold offensively. While he had just one catch, he appeared to slightly miss on two other completions down the field — one where he appeared to get interfered with and one that Jones might have under thrown. His handoff late in the game also signaled he has his coaching staff’s trust.
- Ja’Whaun Bentley and the Patriots run defense limited New York to just 38 yards on 22 attempts (1.7 avg.). As for Bentley, he stuffed the stat sheet with six tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass breakup, and two QB hits.
- Anfernee Jennings was active for the first time this season and immediately made an impact on the second play from scrimmage with a six-yard TFL. He stayed involve throughout with five tackles and a QB hit.
- Pressuring Zach Wilson has always been the key for opposing defenses. New England had Wilson flustered with pressure and confused him by rotating coverages in the backend. As for pressure stats, Matthew Judon led the way with two sacks which included a key safety late in the fourth quarter. Christian Barmore was also an active presence in the backfield and tallied a sack.
- Cornerback Myles Bryant again saw and increased role with New England’s backfield bang-up. Bryant had a strong pass breakup, but was also flagged for a DPI in the end zone.