The Patriots put forth one of their best offensive games of the 2020 season against the Jets, highlighted by a dominant performance in the fourth quarter that saw them score on three-straight drives to tie up the game and eventually take the 30-27 win.
With the defense facing a number of significant absences, the trickle-down effect had a surprisingly bigger impact on the passing defense than the run defense. Despite the Jets ranking lowly across nearly all passing statistics, they found success through three quarters against the Patriots. Still, the defense buttoned up in crunch time, taking advantage of an ill-advised throw by Joe Flacco that was intercepted, and then forcing a critical three-and-out that set up the game-winning drive.
It wasn't flawless wire-to-wire execution, but the Patriots still played enough complementary football to come back from a 10-points deficit and ultimately send the Jets to another loss.
Here are the five plays that defined the game!
Deep pass defense struggles
Though the defense gave up a field-goal-scoring drive to start the game, the Patriots offense was able to answer on their first possession with their first first-quarter touchdown of the season. The long drives immediately began to shorten the game as teams would trade punts on their second possessions.
It was early in the second quarter when the Jets passing offense would start to pick up steam with passes to Braxton Berrios for 13 yards on third down and 17 yards to Denzel Mims that took the Jets out to midfield. Joe Flacco had plenty of first-down play action plays in this game, but what made this one so effective was nuanced route running from Breshad Perriman, who had a good first step off the line that put J.C. Jackson on his heels, then a slight delay at the top of his stem that created just enough separation for Perriman to accelerate past Jackson and the free safety.
Flacco threw a perfect pass, connecting for a 50-yard touchdown that put the Jets back in front on the scoreboard, a place they would stay until the final second ticked off the clock in the game.
This play was representative of quite a few deep ball struggles that the Patriots defense had in this game. It was the longest of the game, which also included plays of 26, 23 and 20 yards along with a 15-yard touchdown throw. Of the nine plays that went 15-or-more yards, seven of them came on 1st-and-10, as the Jets counted on New England trying to focus on stopping the run, which to this point, had been their biggest weakness.
This problem was most glaring on the final drive before the half, when it took just a 15-yard catch by Mims, a 42-yard pass interference penalty by Jason McCourty and a 20-yard touchdown pass to give the Jets a huge boost before halftime. That kind of poor situational football has been uncommon around here and it's been happening way too much this season.
The Pats need Stephon Gilmore back and to get their secondary in order, while finding ways to get opposing quarterbacks off balance. Giving up rushing yards is one thing, but getting beat deep, especially on scoring plays, is the quickest way to lose games.
Jackson's interception opens the comeback door
The third quarter saw the two teams exchange long scoring drives, with the Patriots bouncing back from their dreadful end to the first half with a balanced touchdown drive that got them within three points. The Jets would counter, again taking to the air to account for 52 of 75 yards on the touchdown-scoring drive.
The Patriots would again answer as things went into the fourth quarter, but had to settle for a field goal that still left them seven points behind with six minutes left in the game.
While J.C. Jackson was picked on for a couple big plays, he came through in this clutch moment as Flacco again launched a play action pass toward the deep middle of the field. This time the Patriots were ready, with Mims bracketed and allowing Jackson to make a clean interception.
Another big play and the Jets were likely getting back their two-score lead which would've effectively ended the game. But Jackson's pick changed that, setting up the Patriots to put together the game-tying touchdown-scoring drive.
The Patriots pass defense didn't have their best effort against the Jets, but as is often the case, they still came through with a critical play that gave the team the opportunity to knot things up at 27.
Enel Powerful Play of the Game: Clutch short yardage situations
Rex Burkhead had an efficient and productive night, highlighted by his one-yard touchdown run on the first possession of the third quarter. This play by Burkhead was representative of the Patriots ability to convert some key short yardage situations that they desperately needed.
A season after struggling to produce in these kinds of situations, Burkhead and Cam Newton combined for some of the most important plays of the game that didn't necessarily show up on the score sheet. On this drive alone, Burkhead had conversions of both 3rd-and-2 (seven yard rush) and 3rd-and-4 (four yard rush).
In the fourth quarter, Newton would get in on the action, with successful conversions of 3rd-and-1 (two yards), 4th-and-1 (three yards), 3rd-and-1 (one-yard game-tying touchdown) and 3rd-and-1 (five yards).
"It shows the character of the team," said Burkhead after the game of the Patriots comeback effort. "Just battling. Fighting. It shows the strength we have. We're not going to quit. We're not going to lay down."
Burkhead and the Patriots short rushing attack, highlighted by Burkhead's touchdown, make this week's Enel Powerful Play of the Game.
Meyers puts Pats in field goal range
It was a career day for birthday boy Jakobi Meyers, who finished the game with 12 catches for 169 yards and many of those catches were critical. It's hard to choose just one, as the elimination of any of Meyers catches might have resulted in a different outcome, but the two that stand out the most are a 19-yard catch on 3rd-and-20 that set up a fourth-down conversion and then the game-tying touchdown, and the 20-yard catch that took the Patriots from the NE47 to the NYJ33 to set up Nick Folk's game-winning field goal.
Meyers has emerged as a trusted target for Cam Newton, as Newton continues to gain confidence in the second-year receiver. He was productive throughout the game, finding soft holes in the Jets defensive zones that made for easy completions from Newton.
"Cam did a nice job of looking off to the other side of the field and he drew a lot of coverage over there, so when Jakobi came inside on the in cut, there really wasn't any underneath coverage and it was a good, clean throw and Cam put it right on him," said Bill Belichick in review of the play on Tuesday afternoon. "So, it was a well-executed play. I would say, if you watch the play, you'll see that Cam had a lot to do with creating that space in the defense by the way he moved the underneath coverage with his eyes before he came back to make that throw."
In a season where the Patriots could use some fresh, young faces to emerge, Meyers has been a standout of the last three weeks and continues to impress.
Folk ends it
No one thought much of Nick Folk's return this season, but after winning the kicker job out of training camp, Folk has become a reliable kicker in recent weeks. He missed a field goal kick in each of the first two games and then missed an extra point in Week 3 against the Raiders, but since then the 12-year veteran has been perfect.
How confident were Patriots fans with Folk lining up the 51-yard game winning kick? He hadn't made a field goal over 50 yards yet this season with one of his misses coming from that range. Folk, battling a back injury that almost could've kept him out of the game, never flinched, launching a perfect kick right down the middle.
The Patriots fought hard all game and were lucky to be rewarded by Folk, who also made a 45-yarder and a 29-yarder against the Jets. For an offense that doesn't have a lot of explosive elements, there's little margin for error when it comes to producing points and in this game Folk was perfect at that.