Patriots lost a tough one in overtime yesterday against the Jets—a game where they were severely outplayed, yet they managed to almost squeak by with a win (…if only if it wasn’t for the flag on the 57 yard field goal attempt). It was not a game the Patriots want to remember. Lets take a look at where the Patriots could have improved on both sides of the ball.
The Patriots did a poor job offensively. Yes, they scored 27 points, but they went a horrid 1-12 on third down and only managed to possess the ball for 23 minutes, half of what they jets had the ball for.
I don’t think all the blame should be placed on the Patriot’s performance. The receivers did have a few drops and Tom Brady didn’t look very accurate in the second half, but I thought one problem was the offensive play calling.
CSN analyst Tom E. Curran and Boston Globe writer Jim McBride both wrote before the game that in order to beat the Jets, the Patriots had to establish the run game. The running backs had a good game, collecting two touchdowns while averaging over four yards per carry, but they only ran the ball twenty times. It accounted for fewer than 30 percent of their entire plays.
Even worse, the Patriots rarely ran on first downs. They had 34 first and ten opportunities over the course of the game. They ran the ball on a mere nine of them. Running on first down would have solved a lot of the team’s problems. Establishing the run on first down is very important. It kills the clock which lets the offense be out there longer, giving the opponents less opportunity to score. It also allows the offense to pick up a few yards, so not every third down is a third and long situation. Finally, it opens up the field to allow for play action on second down and more single coverage on receivers.
The Patriots were horrible on third downs and controlled the ball for only a third of the game. Running the ball certainly would have changed this, not only because running allows the clock to run, but because they would have had less third and long situations. Third and long spelled disaster for the Patriots today. The Jets pass rush was giving Brady little time and their defense downfield was stellar. It got to the point where Brady was trying to force the ball to Gronkowski on every time they needed to make a play. This was not sucessful.
Unfortunately, I cannot blame the poor defensive effort on play calling—they just were not talented enough to keep up with the Jets. Some will say to give the team credit because they were without their three best defensive players in Vince Wilfork, Jarrod Mayo, and Aquib Talib. But, Wilfork and Mayo are out for the season, so don’t expect the defense to automatically play better.
The defense could not keep the Jets off the field. Their offense dominated the defense in every aspect of the game. The Jets had a whopping 27 first downs, resulting in 89 plays and control the ball for over 46 minutes of the game. It was a well-orchestrated offense. They pounded the ball up the middle during the first two downs, while mixing in some play action and different short yard packages for Geno Smith. They had their way on third downs too. Most of the time, they had third and short situations because of the work they were able to do in the early downs. As a result, they went 11-21 on third down.
The scary thing is when they did not have a third and short situation (mainly because of some sort of penalty, or a Chandler/Chris Jones sack), they still managed to get long completions when they needed to. On one of those plays, the Patriots knew they were throwing, since they needed a 20-plus yard completion—and they still couldn’t stop them. The Jets offense is no high-powered offense by any sort of the imagination, and it’s scary they managed to dominate the Patriots.
Even though it came down to one play, the game really should have never been close. After the pick six thrown by Smith, the Jets manhandled the New England Patriots in all aspects of the game. Their defense managed to stop the pass on the early downs and force Tom Brady to over rely on Gronkowski in the later downs—resulting in a lot of punts. Their offense also dominated the Patriots. Their line forced them to get a lot of mid-yardage runs up the middle to force play-action and get a lot of first downs (this is a strategy the patriots should have taken). Smith spread the ball to many receivers, and the Patriots defense had little answers for what the Jets had for them. Overall, it was a bad loss for the Patriots and it will be interesting to see if they can fix these problems for next week against the Dolphins.