…Quite often this season, we’ve seen the Patriots dial up the “jet sweep” – a play design in which a receiver comes in motion toward the quarterback and, at the snap, takes a handoff and continues in the direction he was motioning. That play is typically called for Julian Edelman or Cordarrelle Patterson.
Against the Jets, OC Josh McDaniels, for the first time, dialed up a variation of this play. QB Tom Brady faked the jet sweep handoff to Edelman on the opening drive, and Edelman continued out into the flat. The other receivers ran patterns downfield to open up a huge chunk of real estate where Edelman was, and Brady then dumped the ball off to him for an easy 11-yard pickup.
This is a wrinkle that other teams will have to account for in the upcoming playoffs.
…New England’s short-yardage rushing attack left much to be desired on that opening possession. Patriots blockers didn’t do a very good job of winning their blocks or controlling the line of scrimmage on most of the running plays early on.
…Nice read by LB Dont’a Hightower to bring down Jets RB Elijah McGuire for a 1-yard loss on the Jets’ first series. Hightower’s been relatively quiet this season, but has been healthy for a change and solid throughout the year.
…Fellow LB Kyle Van Noy had a good game against New York. It began when he nearly sacked rookie QB Sam Darnold on a blitz at the end of the Jets’ first possession. New York didn’t account for Van Noy, who came into the backfield untouched, but even though he didn’t take down Darnold, he forced the rookie to rush his throw, which fell incomplete. The Jets had to punt as a result.
…Brady had one of his best days of the season throwing the football versus the Jets. One throw that was a bit off-target was a low ball slightly behind TE Rob Gronkowski, but Gronk did a tremendous job of reaching down while not breaking stride to scoop up the ball before it hit the ground. It was good to see that Gronkowski can still make plays like that.
…RB James White’s TD catch-and-run came from a great route that he ran against LB Neville Hewitt. Coming out of the backfield, White made a nifty fake to the outside before cutting to the inside to get himself open. White then won the footrace to the end zone.
…Darnold managed to beat the next Patriots blitz by escaping the pocket and running for 28 yards. The rookie show an ability to throw well on the run when pressured throughout the game.
…Edelman had a solid day catching the ball, but was flagged for a false start at the start of the 2ndquarter. Legit call by Walt Coleman’s crew. Edelman did flinch just before the snap.
…New England’s O used another fake jet sweep in the 2ndquarter, again with Edelman as the decoy. This time, Brady optioned a toss to White for a 21-yard gain.
…Brady’s next TD toss, to RB Rex Burkhead, was a textbook example of exploiting a mismatch. Burkhead was guarded at the line of scrimmage by LB Avery Williamson, who couldn’t keep up with Burkhead’s quickness on a go-route. Brady threw a perfect strike to hit Burkhead in stride for the score.
…DE Trey Flowers used good technique to punch the football out of McGuire’s hands on the next play from scrimmage. Safety Devin McCourty recovered deep in Jets territory.
…Very next play, Brady rolled out to his right, but never looked back to his left, where Gronk was completely uncovered on the other side of the end zone. He then overthrew another completely uncovered receiver, Chris Hogan, on the play right after that. When Brady yells at his teammates for running the wrong route, as he did at times in the Jets game, he should remember these wide open throws that he missed.
…Seldom-used WR Phillip Dorsett had a lot of opportunities versus New York and made the most of them. His highlight was the TD catch he snagged out of the air from Brady at the end of this drive. The ball wasn’t exactly perfect, but Dorsett adjusted his body and used his hands to secure the ball before bringing it to his body and keeping his feet inbounds. Very reminiscent of the kinds of passes Danny Amendola used to catch at this time of year.
…De facto DC Brian Flores, officially the team’s linebacker coach, dialed up lots of blitzes for Darnold, which resulted in considerable pressure that forced the youngster to rush many of his throws. One of these came on 4thdown in the Patriots’ red zone late in the first half.
In the back of the end zone, CB Stephon Gilmore may have gotten away with a PI infraction against WR Robby Anderson. No flag was thrown, but it appeared Gilmore may have made contact with Anderson prior to the ball arriving.
…Van Noy helped DE Derek Rivers register his first-ever NFL sack when the two teammates executed a textbook stunt on the last play of the half. Rivers, on the left edge (New York’s right side), stunted to the inside after Van Noy used a nice power move to force himself into the backfield. His pressure caused Darnold to step up in the pocket, where an unblocked Rivers was waiting to finish him off.
…Flowers finally sacked Darnold with a nice move to get by Jets RT Brent Qvale. Flowers faked a rush to Qvale’s inside, then swam around the tackle, who fell to the turf attempting to recover. Flowers had a clear path to Darnold and brought him down for an 8-yard loss on 3rd-and-2. Jets punted.
…The offensive pass interference penalty that TE Dwayne Allen incurred during Gronkowski’s 30-yard catch-and-run was questionable at best. Looked more like incidental contact between Allen and the Jets defender.
…McCourty was injured while making a combined tackle of Jets RB Trenton Cannon early in the 3rdquarter. Teammate Trent Brown collided with McCourty as they brought Cannon down and McCourty had to leave with a head injury (normally those are later specified as concussions). He did not see another snap on Sunday. It will be important over these next two weeks to monitor McCourty’s health status as the Patriots approach the Divisional Round.
…Perhaps the biggest play of the day for New England came shortly after McCourty left. On 3rd-and-10 from midfield, New England rushed four players to pressure Darnold. Flowers used a nice spin move to elude his blocker, while DT Adam Bulter simply tossed his aside. Both men charged after Darnold, who had no choice but to run up in the pocket.
Darnold met a wall of players and tried to dump the ball off, but Butler reached out and struck his hand, jarring the ball loose. It bounced conveniently into Van Noy’s hands and he took off 46 yards for a score.
…Another stunt move, this time by DE Deatrich Wise and DT Lawrence Guy, enabled Guy to chase Darnold down and sack him for a 9-yard loss at the start of the 4thquarter.
…Brady was sacked just once by the Jets. It happened when RT Marcus Cannon failed in his effort to cut-block DL Leonard Williams. Cannon just whiffed on the block and Williams was free and clear to get after Brady.
…It appeared that a blown coverage by the Jets’ secondary allowed Edelman to go uncovered into the end zone for the game’s final touchdown late in the 4thquarter.
…Given how inconsistent New England’s kickoff coverage unit has been in 2018, it wasn’t too surprising to see the Patriots elect to kick high and intentionally short kickoffs, even a squib kick in the second half, as much as they did Sunday to keep the ball away from dangerous Jets returner Andre Roberts.
Punter Ryan Allen also did his best to angle the ball away from Andre Roberts. Roberts was a talking point all last week for the Patriots and, with the exception of two kickoff returns, they did a nice job of preventing him from being much of a factor on special teams.