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After Further Review: Jets-Patriots
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The Patriots' defense has put together two solid performances in a row, limiting the Buffalo Bills to 14 points offensively, and the New York Jets to just 10. On the other side of the ball, New England has had its struggles. Against the Jets Thursday night, quarterback Tom Brady had a difficult time connecting consistently with any receiver not named Julian Edelman.
Since the offense had more cause for concern against New York than the defense (and we highlighted the defense extensively in the last After Further Review for Buffalo), we'll take a closer look at how that side of the ball fared in the 13-10 win.
1st Quarter - Offense
...New England executed 18 plays on offense in the first quarter, five of which came from the shotgun and 13 of which were pass attempts. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels put Brady under center the rest of the time and used the play-action on most of those passes.
...Brady was not under much pressure from the Jets defense, allowing him the necessary time to scan the field and target his receivers. The problem was Brady either overshot his intended receivers, or the Jets' secondary did its job of blanketing them, forcing Brady to throw the ball away.
...Ridley's longest tote was 8 yards. That came on a formation in which fullback James Develin was lined up in an I-formation in front of Ridley. Develin threw a key block on the play, which sprang Ridley for the big gain.
...McDaniels was very creative with his formations in the early going. He never used the same formation or personnel grouping more than once. Most of his looks were balanced formations. The few times he did overload, it was always to the right side. That's also the side where leading receiver Julian Edelman lined up most often. Edelman finished the first quarter with 3 grabs for 20 yards.
...Rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins split his time between the left and right sides of the formation. He was on the field for all but one play, but was only targeted twice (one catch).
...Fullback James Develin was employed liberally as well. He lined up in the I, the broken I, as a split end, and flanking Brady in the shotgun. He and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui were assigned the grunt work of throwing blocks in the running game and clearing out space for the other receivers by running their routes in the passing game.
...Hooman was used in a variety of ways by McDaniels. He lined up three-point stances, flanked, was sent in motion, and stood in a two-point stance in the slot. His versatility was crucial, as the only other healthy tight end on the roster Thursday night was newcomer Matthew Mulligan, who saw the field twice in the first quarter, both times as a blocker on running plays.
...We also continued to see quite a bit of Nate Solder lining up as a tackle eligible to help as an extra blocker in the running game. Solder did not motion, as he had last week in Buffalo. Ridley's second-longest rush in the opening quarter was a 7-yard burst that was helped by a Solder block from this formation.
...The official NFL statisticians made an error on the game book. Rookie receiver Josh Boyce was listed as not having played, but he in fact was on the field for one snap in the first quarter. He lined up wide right and threw a block on a bubble screen to Thompkins.
2nd through 4th Quarters – Offense
...McDaniels continued his multiple formations and personnel groupings from the second quarter through the end of the game. His substitutions, though limited, mostly involved running back. Ridley remained the primary ball carrier, but LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington would spell him for entire series (short series though they almost all were) to give him a breather.
...Brady's woes with his new, mostly young receivers only got worse as the game wore on. From the 2nd quarter through the end of the game, the QBs throws were off the mark just five times (three underthrown ball and a pair of overthrows), and at least a couple of those, it appeared, were the result of his rookie receivers not being in proper position. No. 12 also had to throw one ball away to avoid a sack. Contrast that with the five flat-out drops by his receiving corps, and credit New York's defense with defending four passes. Including all four quarters, Brady had 20 incompletions against the Jets.
...So, why the lack of production in the running game (aside from not having many snaps and not calling many running plays)? Easy. The up-front blocking just wasn't there. New England's o-line wasn't dominating the line of scrimmage the way they're capable of doing. It happened a few times, but overall, the o-line was overmatched against the Jets' solid front seven, which was often knifing through gaps to cut Patriots blockers down or just bulldozing the o-line into the backfield to congest the running lanes.
... Rob Gronkowski was conspicuous in his absence from the offense when the Patriots threw the ball, of course, but perhaps more so when they ran. Gronk, when healthy, is New England's best run blocker, even among the offensive line. Hooman, Develin, and Mulligan (who subbed in on a handful of plays, again only on rushing attempts) couldn't open wide enough lanes on the edge for the backs to penetrate.