- The defense opened in a 2-4-5 front, once again playing to their strengths at linebacker. But most impressive was just how tough Danny Shelton is at nose tackle, not only controlling the center but pushing him back into the backfield. That kind of stoutness in the trenches is the key to everything else and makes things a lot easier on the linebackers.
- The Patriots clearly did not concern themselves with Luke Falk's downfield passing, as it allowed them to play with only one deep safety and load the line of scrimmage. The Jets tried to pull some Wildcat magic out but this was not 2008. The Patriots front is just too good for that kind of trickery now.
- The spark on the first drive came from Ryan Izzo's 41-yard catch and run. Izzo did a good job of selling himself as a blocker then releasing out into the wide-open flat. Credit goes to Sony Michel and Marcus Cannon for solid blocking and giving Brady that extra second to get the ball to Izzo. Izzo's stiff arm was a little Gronk-y, would've loved to see him finish off the run in the end zone though.
- The first touchdown came off a draw to Sony Michel and featured one of the only plays of the day where the running game was well-blocked, led by Shaq Mason. Cannon sealed the back side off, clearing the lane for Michel. While the running game has struggled thus far it's plays like this that remind us they should eventually figure it out.
- Jamie Collins' first sack came off a small wrinkle the Pats used with the defensive front, lining two linebackers standing up over the left tackle, then running a little inside-out game with them. They sent six rushers and no one could pick up Collins who went unblocked into the quarterback.
- On the third down that followed the Pats packed the box with eight defenders, including all three safeties and sent everyone, leaving just Gilmore, Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones as the lone coverage defenders. The Jets were overwhelmed, as evidenced by a meeting in the backfield Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. That would've been unheard of just a couple years ago and is a prime example of how aggressive this defense has become.
- Phillip Dorsett's 25-yard touchdown came on 1st-and-10 out of 11 personnel. A play action to Sony Michel sucked eight defenders into the box, leaving Dorsett wide open for the touchdown. It was Brady's 523rd touchdown pass, elevating him to second all-time over Drew Brees. After his second-quarter touchdown pass to Edelman, Brady is just 15 TD passes behind Peyton Manning (539).
- Michael Bennett made two impressive moves to get a near sack, one of the few times it was more about an individual than the team defense. Many might read into Bennett's limited usage in the early going, but I still see it as a positive as they manage him with the goal of getting their best pure pass rusher to January.
- Their 2-4-5 nickel package has some interesting twists again as John Simon is in a standing defensive end while Patrick Chung is at inside linebacker. So yes, it looks like a 2-4-5 but it could just as easy be a 3-4 with different personnel. Ultimately, we can't get too caught up in what we call it because this is a multiple defense and tweaks like this are what makes the defense unique.
- The run game struggles on the last drive of the first quarter were a combination of things. The offensive line did not look coordinated, with Thuney and Mason getting pushed back more than once. But even when the line wasn't getting pushed into the backfield, Michel couldn't get through the line of scrimmage. Hard to pin in on any one guy as the struggles seem a group problem right now.
- Like what I saw out of Jakobi Meyers on his 18-yard grab to open the second quarter. Compared to Gordon's contested catches and Dorsett's lack of YAC, it was nice to see a catch and run. Myers looked smooth and will hopefully continue to gain confidence. The offense is going to need him.
- The pass protection was good enough on the touchdown pass to Julian Edelman, sorting out an interior stunt and giving Brady enough time to find Edelman. Newhouse is hanging in there, but he's not the athlete we're used to at that position.
- Michel got blown up in the backfield for a four-yard loss and this time it was Ryan Izzo who simply got beat by the Jets outside linebacker.
- Jamie Collins' athleticism continues to jump off the screen, whether it's shooting into the backfield, setting the edge, or dropping into coverage. His anticipation gives him a jump and then his quickness gets him to the spot in a hurry. It's a lot of fun to watch.
- Julian Edelman was injured on a slip screen that was too slow in developing blockers in front of him. It was clear he reached for his ribs after the play and then made little attempt to engage a block on the next play before leaving the game. Hopefully he doesn't miss much, if any, time.
- Sony Michel got nearly blown up in the backfield again in the early third quarter, this time it was just poor blocking by Newhouse and Izzo at the point of attack. It's a far cry from running behind Trent Brown, Gronk and Dwayne Allen last year, all proven NFL-level blockers. The offense must figure out a way to be better, because even if/when Isaiah Wynn returns they'll still need better production alongside him.
- On Devin McCourty's interception the Patriots only rushed three, a somewhat rare occurrence that seemed to catch Falk off guard. No idea why he threw it where he did, as it was as easy a pick as McCourty has ever gotten. Three games, three interceptions for the Patriots veteran says a lot about what kind of ball the defense is playing right now.
- With the score 20-0 and the interception setting the offense up inside the red zone, the drive would only go -2 yards due to two penalties and unproductive short passes, one of which Gordon hurt his finger on. This Edelman-less possession is a scary example of the dropoff without their most reliable receiver. The penalties would kill any drive, but there was nothing going in the passing game either, resulting in their first red zone possession without a touchdown in the game.
- Gordon's spectacular catch for 28 yards on 3rd-and-22 really covered up what was another bad possession for the offense. Credit to Gordon, but the offense looked entirely out of sync except for Meyers' second catch of the game that went for 20 yards. Meyers' stats don't jump of the page but he looks like he's getting comfortable and is getting yards after the catch that others aren't.
- The only play the running game seemed to have any kind of success with were draws out of the shotgun and even then they were still up and down, like Michel's run for two yards from the four-yard-line. These were obviously a big function of not having James Develin. It took a misdirection toss to Burkhead to get in the end zone.
- The speed with which the defense attacks is remarkable, getting into the backfield so quickly that even screen passes used to take advantage of their aggression were getting blown up. This will be a key area to watch against the Chiefs, who run misdirection and screen passes as well as anyone.
- Olszewski's muffed punt was just as painful the second time around as you could feel his desperation as it bounced from his reach and then his frustration as it was recovered in the end zone. With the injuries to the receivers it would seem like he'll get another chance to return but there will be no more margin for error.
- Gordon's 22-yard reception with four Jets around him looks good in the game book but again is the kind of play they can't consistently rely on. The offense continued to look clunky without Edelman and the problems in the backfield only magnified it.
- Phillip Dorsett's end around that was stopped a yard short of a first down was one of the plays that illustrates some of my frustration with him, as he ducked out of bounds rather than making a move and trying to get the first down. Take away his 25-yard touchdown and he had five catches for 28 yards, that's 5.6 yards-per-catch. If Edelman can't go against the Bills we'll get a true sense of how much of a playmaker Dorsett is and if the team can lean on him to get the tough gotta-have-it yards.
- Getting stopped on the very next third-and-1 was a perfect example of the frustration with the run game. Once again it was a draw out of shotgun, but both Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason were pushed back into the backfield, while Ted Karras fired out to the second level. Thuney and Mason are spending a lot of time in their own backfield this year. Do they miss David Andrews between them that much?
- Just a bad overthrow by Jarrett Stidham on the pick six that got him pulled from the game. It was good to see Stidham get some reps but after taking a sack (on Ted Karras), Stidham has to be sure with those checkdown passes. Lesson hopefully learned.
What more can we say about the defense? They've just been absolutely dominant and outside of a Dont'a Hightower injury, which didn't appear to be major, have stayed healthy through three games. The constant disguise and disruption, coupled with great back-end coverage has them playing the best defensive football we've see around here in a long time.
But offensively there are significant concerns. They grinded it out against the Jets but after the first three scoring drives nothing was really easy. If they're without Julian Edelman those problems will be magnified. The run game problems are a lot more about the offensive line and Ryan Izzo than it is the backs, though they certainly had their moments of bad choices.
Not to overstate it, but the Jets won the second half of this game 14-10 and I'm sure Bill Belichick will make that point a lot this week. The offense was simply not good enough and relied too much on low percentage shot plays that Josh Gordon magically came down with. They'll need a better effort against a good Buffalo defense that will be playing at home. Luckily the defense should continue to make things a lot easier on them.
- 11 – 42 plays
- 10 – 17 plays
- 20 – 11 plays
- 21 – 3 plays
- 2-4-5 – 27 plays
- 3-4 – 9 plays
- 1-4-6 – 6 plays
- 1-3-7 – 6 plays
- 2-3-6 – 1 play