The New York Jets have proven their doubters (and themselves) wrong the last few weeks with their wins over the playoffs bound L.A. Rams and the Cleveland Browns. Because of their current win streak, the Patriots were ready to end it with sweeping New York on the season once again.
In their first meeting in week 9, it was a back-and-forth battle all game long. With Joe Flacco in at quarterback for the Jets, he was on the path to crush the dreams of New England like he has done many times before. The Patriots were able to be victorious with a last second field goal by Nick Folk, which the team was hoping to repeat in their matchup on Sunday.
Because this season did not go nearly as planned, the team was ready for battle on Sunday with hopes to end the season with a win. Fortunately for all involved, on the field and at home, the team was able to outperform the Jets and secure a dominant win on Foxborough. It was Cam Newton’s best performance in quite some time, and the defense was able to keep the Jets’ offense in check despite their recent struggles to do so.
It hasn’t been common recently, but the Patriots had many standout performances in this game. The determination of this team to not go out on a bad note was felt all game long, in every aspect of the game. And with many of the players possibly having this be their last game in a Patriots uniform, it did not feel like a week 17 game with nothing on the line to win for.
Seeing this type of performance from the team was slightly bittersweet. Great to see the year end with a W but also disappointing to see such a great performance in a game that “didn’t matter.” However, this game showed a lot from younger players, the future of the Patriots team, and that is something to be excited for.
Why not save the best for last? Cam Newton had one of his best games as a Patriot in week 17, making sure he went out with a bang. Whether or not this was his final game in New England is yet to be seen, but his performance on Sunday was one to remember.
After several rough weeks offensively, the Patriots’ first drive was a thing of beauty. A 7-play drive of 84 yards ending in a touchdown, Newton’s first passing TD since December 6th. He let everyone know he’s still that mobile quarterback we’ve seen over the years, having his longest run of the season when he ran for 49 yards to New York’s 15-yard line. Then followed that up a few plays later with a great touchdown to James White, surprisingly the first for White this season.
The rest of the first half didn’t go as well for the Pats, as they had to punt 4 times before halftime. But after the Jets scored on their first possession back on the field, the Patriots had a great drive using a trick play resulting in a touchdown.
If you weren’t made aware 17 times during the broadcast, Jakobi Meyers is a former quarterback thus used on this trick play with Newton. Meyers made a 19-yard pass to Newton for the touchdown, tying the game 14-14, and bringing momentum back to New England.
The next two drives resulted in touchdowns as well, a first for both Devin Asiasi and Sony Michel. The Patriots won this game hands down, with a score of 14-28 and much of that win should be credited to the great performance from their quarterback.
It hasn’t been easy for people to praise Newton at all this season due to his inconsistent playing and sometimes just bad outings. But on Sunday he ended 21 of 30 receptions for 242 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also had 11 carries for 79 yards AND 1 reception for 19 yards and a touchdown, making Patriots history once again as the first quarterback to catch a touchdown pass. This type of production deserves all the praise one can give.
Many will choose to discredit his performance because it was “just the Jets.” But the last time these two teams met it was a much different story. And the last several games have not been one you want to watch. This was a fun game, ending with a win and the team (quarterback included) played well.
In the weeks since Damien Harris went out with an injury, Sony Michel has played some of his best football in quite some time. Having to fill the void of Harris is difficult to do, but also trying to mask the absence of dynamic back Rex Burkhead has made his job a bit tougher this season. But Michel has really stepped up his game.
On Sunday, Michel was able to be a reliable running back while also contributing in the passing game. Ending the game with 16 carries for 76 yards is a successful day for any guy in the backfield, but it was Sony’s production in the passing game that really helped to move the chains.
Michel was 3-of-3 on the day for 60 yards and a touchdown. That 31-yard score was his first receiving touchdown of his career, making it another great moment to end the season with.
As the team heads into the offseason, the Patriots backfield is stacked with talent and will be successful going forward. The dynamic duo of Michel and Harris will be one to watch next season, and hopefully we will see White and Burkhead back on the team as well.
As strange and difficult as the 2020 NFL season was, the Patriots found a reliable receiver in Jakobi Meyers that should carry over for seasons to come. As the most consistent piece of the offense this year, Meyers didn’t slow down on Sunday.
His production is always consistent, as he ended this game with 6 receptions for 68 yards. But the highlight of the day was his 19-yard touchdown pass to Cam Newton in the 3rd quarter, bringing the much-needed spark back to the Patriots.
This game and his performance in it demonstrated how essential Meyers was to this offense and it was the perfect year for him to have a breakout season. This 2020 Patriots team will be remembered as one that was consistently inconsistent but Jakobi Meyers came out as a star amongst the rest.
It really took until the last game of the season to see any sort of glimmer of hope from New England’s tight ends. Since the departure of Rob Gronkowski a few seasons ago, tight ends on this team have been virtually non-existent, which was even more surprising after Bill Belichick drafted two back-to-back in the 2020 draft.
Both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene dealt with injuries this season, limiting the possibilities of helping the offense this year. But Asiasi had a couple impressive catches on Sunday with one of them resulting in a touchdown.
In the 1st quarter, he had a nice catch for 13 yards, marking his first reception on the year. Later in the beginning of the 4th quarter, Asiasi grabbed a pass from Newton, running it in for a 26-yard touchdown. He was also able to successfully block on the line throughout the game which has not been done well by tight ends on this team recently.
He may have ended the day with just 2 receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown, but it was good to finally see some flashes of what the tight end could be capable of in the NFL. As the tight end position has been one lacking over the last few seasons, the rookie has an open door to train and improve this offseason and show what he’s capable of in 2021.
With two iffy games over the last two weeks filling in for injured Stephon Gilmore, it was a good showing for J.C. Jackson on Sunday, as he heads to free agency this offseason. (and hopefully being re-signed by the Patriots)
It’s big shoes to fill when you’re stepping up as CB1 for the reigning defensive player of the year, but Jackson improved with his performance in this game. Covering an opponent’s top receiver is never an easy task and Jackson has struggled with that recently. But that changed on Sunday as he was only beaten once by Breshad Perriman for a 53-yard catch in the 3rd quarter.
But in true J.C. Jackson form, the cornerback snagged his 9th interception on the season in this game. This tied him with Patriots great Ty Law for the third most interceptions by a corner on the team in a single season. He had a total of 11 takeaways this year, recovering two fumbles as well, and had a breakout year as he looks for a new contract.
Chase Winovich – Wino ended the year with a bang as he had 2 of the 3 sacks on Sam Darnold in this game, while also being credited with 2 pressures, one quarterback hit and a pass breakup. This is the type of performance the Patriots hope to see from Winovich and hopefully this type of production will continue next season.
James White – Dealing with an exceptionally difficult season more so than the rest, James White finally got his first touchdown of the season on Sunday, becoming the 2nd fastest running back to have 25 receiving touchdowns in his career. As he heads to the offseason a free agent, there’s hope the Patriots will re-sign White due to the value he brings to the backfield as a reliable and dynamic player.
Jonathan Jones – Jon Jones helped seal the win for the Patriots late in the 4th quarter with an interception in the endzone, giving the Patriots offense a chance to run the clock. Although he had a bit of a quiet season, Jones is a key part of this secondary and it’s moments like this that prove his value to the team.
Normally this is where players with below average performances in the game would be discussed. But because this was week 17, and one of if not the best game overall this Patriots team has played, it seems unnecessary to nit-pick and scrutinize any player for not having a tremendous game.
Although it was a game against the now 2-14 Jets, divisional games are always tougher, no matter the teams involved or their records. And the last time these two teams met was a much closer game, with a win for the Patriots coming from a field goal as time ran out. With as many players unable to be in this game due to injury, it was key for the entire team to step up and play well with the hopes of ending the season on a high note, and they were able to do just that.
Yes, it was “just the Jets.” Some may feel that despite the overall great performance by the Patriots it shouldn’t be praised because of that. But that’s an unfair assessment when dealing with a season like the NFL has in 2020. This year was unique and, in most cases, more difficult for teams to be successful. All wins should be praised no matter what. As they say, “it’s difficult to win games in the NFL” and this season made that even more true.
It wasn’t the season the Patriots nor the fans are used to, coming from 20 years of unmatched success is difficult to move on from. But there was a lot of good that came from a down year and many young players to look forward to watching for years to come. It may not be easy to be optimistic about a losing season, but things could always be worse. You could be a New York Jets fan.
(Photo credits: Cam Newton and Olindo Longo @ojl.photo on Instagram, James White & Devin Asiasi – Brian Fluharty of USA TODAY Sports and Chase Winovich – Charles Krupa of AP Photo)
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @smarshxo