Are you ready for some football?
At the start of this game, and for the majority of it, it would seem the answer to this question was an easy, “no.” And, an unexpected no at that.
A lot of Patriots fans live by the idea that any team can show up on a Sunday. Records don’t matter. Stats don’t matter. Any team can beat any team in the NFL on any given Sunday. The winless New York Jets were not going to just hand over the win just because their team is not good (again) this season.
On top of that, a division game is never easy. Some may not agree to that, but divisional games are always more difficult. And the Jets made sure of that on Monday night.
In what ended up being a far more entertaining game than expected, Cam Newton had his best game since returning from the COVID-19 list. The Patriots secondary struggled throughout the game, particularly the first half, with Stephon Gilmore out for a second straight week.
But in true Patriots fashion, adjustments were made at halftime and the team executed much better in the second half.
There is still cause for concern, however, regardless of New England coming out with the win. Most felt this should’ve been one of the easiest wins for the Patriots with a difficult remaining schedule, but it was won with a last second field goal. A win is a win, of course. But the Jets have been inexplicably bad this season. Should we be more worried that they barely beat a winless team in week 9?
The title for the best receiver on the Patriots can officially be given to Jakobi Meyers after yet another stunning performance this week. As an undrafted free agent before signing with the Patriots, Meyers proved once again that the name on the back of your jersey doesn’t mean anything. How popular you are in the league is irrelevant. Production matters. Helping your team matters. Setting your team up for success MATTERS.
Having the best game of his career against New York, Meyers totaled 169 yards on 12 of 14 receptions. He has continued to be Newton’s favorite and most reliable target, which is impressive as N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman remain out with injuries.
Not only was this Meyers’ best game of his career, it was also one of the best performances by a Patriots receiver ever. With his 169 yards for the night, he beat Rob Gronkowski to become the 8th player with the most receiving yards in a game in Patriots history. He’s in good company too; some of the names above him are Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Troy Brown. Impressive, right?
As the weeks go on it would seem Jakobi will continue his trek as WR1. With Edelman uncertain to return this season, Meyers’ impressive production is a huge boost to this already depleted offense.
No, you read that correctly. The run defense improved in this game after being a constant sore spot for the Patriots. With future Hall of Famer Frank Gore on the Jets, it was bound to be a difficult task to completely shut him down. But New England was able to limit the Jets’ run game to only 18 carries for 65 yards with an average of 3.6 yards-per-carry. (YPC)
With Lawrence Guy and Ja’whaun Bentley out injured for this game, other players needed to step up in their place. With most of the Jets yards coming by air, the defense had a lighter workload on the ground. But the success of this week should not be ignored.
Last week was a horrible showing for the run defense, as they allowed 190 yards and 3 touchdowns by Buffalo. With the defensive line having to shift around so much this season, it was good to see some success despite some key players out with injury.
As one of the few consistent passing backs on the team, Rex Burkhead had another great performance in New York. With Damien Harris getting the bulk of the carries the last few games, and Cam running a lot himself, Burkhead hasn’t had the usual production as years prior. But he’s a reliable guy in dire situations.
Coming back from halftime down with a score of 10-20 in the Jets favor, Rex ran in a one-yard touchdown to help bring the Patriots back within a field goal. Ending the night with 12 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown, Burkhead was able to help move the chains for the offense.
With Damien Harris getting injured in this game, it’s possible we will see more carries for Burkhead in next Sunday night’s game against Baltimore. As a reliable back, especially when paired with James White, this will be something to pay attention to in the days leading up to week 10.
It would be a bit unfair to not mention the contributions of a few other players in this game, as they made quite an impact as well.
Damien Harris – Damien Harris continues on his role as RB1 for the team with Sony Michel still on injured reserve. Before he was unfortunately injured in the game and did not return, Harris had 14 carries for 71 yards. The most impressive part of his performance was his push for extra yards throughout the night. Surrounded by Jets defensive players did not stop him from earning a first down or adding yards to the end of the run.
Damiere Byrd – The familiarity with Newton from his time in Carolina was obvious again against the Jets with Damiere Byrd totaling 65 yards on 5 of 9 receptions. As the wide receiving corps is still a concern for this team, it’s good to see another receiver step up into the role where it’s very much needed.
Nick Folk – As the season began, it appeared the kicking issues of last season were going to be a continuing problem this year. But as the weeks progressed, that has not been the case. Nick Folk was perfect all night, hitting all 3 extra points as well as 3 field goals, most notably the game winning kick from 51 yards out.
Cam Newton – Most of the blame for the troubles of this season has been placed on Cam Newton and in some cases, very unfairly. After the unfortunate fumble that sealed the Patriots fate last week against the Bills, Newton had his best game since returning from the COVID-19 list last month. Ending the game 27 of 35 for 274 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns, Cam made little mistakes in this game and led the team on a 4th quarter game winning drive.
It is difficult to look past the improvements Cam made in this game as well. His accuracy was much better this week, especially in the first half. Going into halftime, Newton was 13 for 14 receptions and zero interceptions or fumbles. His ball security has been an issue this season and it was good to see that not continue Monday night.
Coming into this game, most believed it would be an easy win for the Patriots. With the Jets having a record of 0-8, it seemed like a good game for the Pats to get their mojo back for the rest of the season. Fortunately for New England, the game ended in a W for them, but it didn’t look that way for most of the game.
The usual trouble spots for this team continued, but one group that hasn’t needed any worry had quite a rough game.
The Patriots’ secondary had a horrible first half. The Jets have struggled all year with their passing game and the Patriots are known for usually shutting that down. But that did not happen on Monday night.
Injuries have piled up for the team this season, especially to some important players. And this game was no different. Stephon Gilmore was out for a second straight game from injury, which had a major impact to this secondary. But as he is probable to return soon, it’s possible the struggles in this game will be a one off for the season.
It was an unexpectedly rough night for the Patriots secondary. As the usual bright spot for the team’s defense, it was troublesome to see the struggles J.C. Jackson and Jason McCourty had throughout this game. With Stephon Gilmore out for a second game, all eyes were on Jackson to continue his all-star year. But his performance against the Jets was one of his worst games in his short career.
Ending the game allowing 4 catches on 10 targets for 97 yards and 2 touchdowns is not the usual stat line for New England’s star cornerback. Jackson was beat twice in this game by Jets’ wide receiver Breshad Perriman; one coming on New York’s second drive of the game, allowing a 50-yard touchdown pass to Perriman after Jackson was flagged for pass interference. He was beat again in the 3rd quarter, tripping early in the play which allowed an easy touchdown grab for Perriman once again.
Although these two instances were certainly not pretty, Jackson was able to continue his streak of interceptions in this game. For the fourth straight game this season, J.C. grabbed another interception in the 4th quarter, helping the Patriots offense to get back on the field for a game winning drive. This marks 5 interceptions for Jackson, the most in the league by all corners.
Obviously his mistakes will overshadow the interception, as it should. But it is key to remember this type of performance is not typical for him. This was one of very few bad games for Jackson, and a lot of pressure was placed on him with Gilmore out once again. It should not be expected these struggles will continue as the season goes on.
Another name that is not usual to be brought up in a negative way the last couple years is Jason McCourty. Like Jackson, he was also flagged for DPI in this game, handing the Jets a free 42 yards on the play. He was then beat by Jamison Crowder for a 20-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
Fortunately for the team, this was the worst part of the game McCourty, as he ended the night allowing 4 of 5 receptions for 69 yards and one touchdown. Combined with a rough game for Jackson, however, they allowed 3 total touchdowns on messy plays and coverage.
It is well known that the Patriots don’t have supreme pass rushers on their defense and they made it more obvious against the Jets. With the run defense stepping up in this game and basically shutting down any plans New York had to run the ball, the pass rush decided it was their turn to become the problem.
In the first half alone, the defense allowed 244 yards on offense for the Jets, which was more than they totaled in their previous two games. The two calls of defensive pass interference were also no help in this game, and uncommon calls for the team.
There were too many instances where Jets receivers were left wide open as the defense blew their coverage. The top receiver for New York in this game was Breshad Perriman who ended the game with 5 receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest concern with this was allowing Perriman to average 20.2 yards per reception. With Gilmore, Guy and Bentley hopefully returning to action soon, there’s hope to get back on track for this defense and not allowing multiple games with this type of performance.
At the rate in which this season has gone, this is a win and performance the team (and fans) certainly needed. It wasn’t the prettiest of all wins and there are still plenty of worries to be had. But there’s hope remaining for this team to continue succeeding.
There’s a rough road ahead for the Patriots, with several difficult opponents left to play. Winning this game in the fashion in which they did wasn’t the best, nor does it necessarily change the outlook on this team. But maybe it’s the spark the team needed to recharge their season. Time will tell.
(Photo credits: J.C. Jackson – Corey Sipkin of AP Photo, Jakobi Meyers – Adam Hunger of AP Photo and Cam Newton – Vincent Carchietta of USA TODAY Sports)
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @sarmarxo