Go ahead, admit it. You were wondering if this Patriots team was going to win again anytime soon, right? The season would be over, at 0-and-3, if they couldn’t beat the New York Jets for a 15th consecutive time?
An impatient lot, Patriots’ fans. Spoiled by success, perhaps. But generally speaking, connoisseurs of championship-level football know what they know – and while the first two weeks of the 2023 season fell short of winning, frustration managed to make its presence known in losses to two pretty good teams.
And it turns out these Patriots might also have a pretty good team themselves. Defensively, especially.
Sure, there’s an understandable tendency to pile the blame on the Jets’ offense for their ineptitude:
- 38 yards rushing, 171 total yards
- 2-of-14 on 3rd down conversions, seven three-and-outs
- Four 1st downs on their first eight drives
- Zach Wilson at quarterback
Is it just possible, however, that the Patriots’ defense had something to do with the above? They literally dared the Jets to throw the ball, instead choosing to stuff a potentially potent running game right into the Meadowlands’ turf.
And it worked, too.
“Just, we really wanted to stop the run,” safety Kyle Dugger said postgame. “Try to make them one-dimensional, so we were matching their personnel but really just you start early and stopping the run was the game plan.”
“They double-teamed the heck out of me every play,” said defensive tackle Lawrence Guy. “When we think about that the offense said they’re going to run the ball, and we’re like, ‘OK, we have to stop the run.’ It was just a fight.”
A fight, perhaps, that may have been a little one-sided considering the Jets’ quarterback play. The lone exception to that- the 13-play, 84-yard drive in the fourth quarter, leading to their only touchdown. It also might have been helpful to have the offense score more than 13 of the 15 points in the 15-10 victory, but hey…take what you get and move on.
A win is a win. A tough start was anticipated before the season kicked off, anyway. Looking ahead at the schedule, winnable games lie in the distance.
The season ain’t over, even if it didn’t start the way you thought it would.
The way the game played out, considering the rainy conditions, doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Slipping and sliding, an emphasis on the run game, and a lack of finesse from both offensive units. All things considered, ball security – an issue the first two weeks – wasn’t a problem in a turnover-free game.
But someone didn’t get the memo to the MetLife stadium grounds crew that rain would be present throughout the game…because the field was a mess. And this was artificial turf, mind you. The logos painted at midfield and in the end zones were smeared and almost unrecognizable at the end. You could see players’ cleat prints tracking white paint all over the field.
Never seen a quagmire on artificial turf before.
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- Rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed two of his four field goal attempts (from 48 and 57 yards), likely from higher-than-usual snaps from Joe Cardona.
- Maybe it was the ugly aesthetics of the way the game played out, but until 1:34 was left in the fourth quarter there wasn’t much complimentary coming from the two CBS’ Jim Nantz and Tony Romo toward New England. Until Romo said the defensive coverage was “excellent by New England today.”
- The offense certainly could have – should have – helped its own cause with not just scoring but with sustained drives. Especially at the end when the offense was forced to punt, giving the Jets their ‘Hail Mary’ shot with 16 seconds left. With the ground game working behind Ezekiel Elliott and Rhamondre Stevenson, the Patriots’ 3rd down efficiency should have been markedly better than 8-for-19.
- Six penalties for 43 yards doesn’t sound awful, but where and when they occurred wasn’t great. An illegal block and illegal substitution contributed to putting the offense in a hole, and a pass interference penalty put the Jets in position to score their only touchdown.
Juju needs some Mojo
Bill Belichick says he’s enjoyed working with wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster since he joined the team. Hard worker, good attitude, great teammate.
But his illegal block in the 3rd quarter put his team in a potentially dangerous position deep in their own end. His falling down on a 3rd-and-6 pass, then his being nowhere near the ball on a 3rd and three try as the Patriots were trying to put the game away, certainly didn’t help.
Sure, some of that could have been Mac Jones‘ fault, and the field conditions were less than ideal. But only three passes came his way, with just one reception, for five measly yards.