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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered and Patriots Playbook Fri Dec 03 - 10:00 PM | Mon Dec 06 - 05:55 PM

Game Observations: Patriots finally put it all together

2021-GameObservations-16x9

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – They needed this. A convincing win like this, when they thoroughly dispatched an opponent, even one as mediocre as the Jets (and, quite frankly, the use of mediocre here is being generous). If for nothing more than a confidence booster, the Patriots really needed an afternoon like this one, having played an inconsistent brand of football over the previous first six weeks of this season. And several players said as much afterward.

Yes, both teams came into this game with the same number of losses this season, but having watched enough of the Jets thus far, it's clear that the Patriots are a better squad, all things considered. Heck, even Richard Seymour – in town for his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame – called it a "Homecoming Game" for New England during his halftime address to the fans, and that's exactly what it felt like from the get-go.

Maybe for Mac Jones, he thought he was back at Alabama, when scores like this were routine. He entered this rematch with the Jets averaging roughly 250 yards passing per game and finished it having finally broken the 300 mark for the first time as a pro.

And it couldn't have come at a better time, as New England prepares to embark on a stretch of games, mostly on the road, against several high-quality opponents.

I must confess, I expected the Jets to put up much more of a fight than this, but losing their starting quarterback in the very early going certainly altered the complexion of New York's offense, and by extension, the Jets' entire game plan. Going down two touchdowns almost in the blink of an eye also put New York on its back foot.

Meanwhile, a number of lesser-known Patriots earned their "varsity letters" this afternoon – a polite way of saying that guys who normally don't play saw significant minutes in the latter stages of this lopsided victory.

Obviously, not a lot of negatives to point out (though there were a handful to mention), so, without further ado, let's analyze the mostly positive developments.

* * * 

NFL teams routinely talk about the importance of starting off games fast, and today, New England accomplished that. Gunner Olszewski's opening kickoff return of 31 yards gave the Patriots a better starting point than normal. Save a holding penalty by Shaq Mason (more on him in a moment), Jones and the offense moved the ball effectively in a traditional manner.

Then, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dialed up a double-pass, something we've seen at crucial times in the past with New England. Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne did a nice job of selling his part of the fake when he caught the first pass and pretended to head up the field for an instant. This allowed fellow wideout Nelson Agholor to get wide open downfield and haul in the scoring pass.

No need for tricks on the next drive, as New England ran the ball effectively, in large part from a 32-yarder ripped off by Damien Harris. He set up his own eventual 1-yard TD plunge.

Meanwhile, defensively, the Patriots also got off to a great start, forcing the Jets to punt on their first possession when Myles Bryant, off a corner blitz, buried rookie Jets QB Zach Wilson on 3rd-and-6. Bryant likely got into the game right off the bat because of the absence of cornerback Jonathan Jones, who was placed on IR yesterday.

* * *

Mac Jones on the day

Table inside Article
Attempts Completions Yards Sacks/Yards TD Long INT
36 24 307 1/8 2 46 0

Incompletions vs. NYJ

Table inside Article
Total Throwaways Overthrows Underthrows Batted Passes Drops Passes Defensed INT
12 1 4 2 0 0 5 0

Incompletions in 2021

Table inside Article
Total Throwaways Overthrows Underthrows Batted Passes Drops Passes Defensed INT
73 8 18 9 3 6 23 6

Offensively, the Patriots clearly made a concerted effort to get tight end Jonnu Smith involved in the early going. Smith has had a relatively quiet start to his Patriots career after receiving a 4-year, $50 million contract from New England in free agency this past offseason.

At times it looked like McDaniels was trying to force-feed the ball to Smith, who had five targets, two catches (including a 28-yard effort), and one carry. However, Smith later sustained a shoulder injury in the second quarter and never came back in the game.

Meanwhile, his fellow tight end, Hunter Henry, caught his fourth touchdown pass from Jones in as many games and had a nice 22-yard catch just short of the goal line in the second half. Otherwise, Henry went under the radar for much of this afternoon.

* * *

As New England's offensive line gradually returns to full health, we saw yet another new starting-five combination Sunday, with Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, David Andrews, the aforementioned Shaq Mason, and Mike Onwenu occupying the spots from left to right. Mason made his first appearance since Week 4 while recovering from an abdominal injury. Beside his holding penalty on the second play of the game, he seemed to be playing fine until aggravating his abdomen injury at some point in the second half. James Ferentz replaced Mason in the fourth quarter.

Karras, who'd been subbing for Mason, slid over to man the left guard spot that Onwenu normally would play, but the latter is now starting in place of Trent Brown, who remains on injured reserve with a calf problem. Wynn was back in the starting lineup after coming off the reserve/COVID list last week and seeing fill-in action against Dallas.

* * *

The Jets defense had no answer for Harris in the first half. Even if you take away his long run of 32 yards, Harris piled up 51 yards on seven other carries, an average of about seven yards. Perhaps this a direct result of New York having to go without its best linebacker, C.J. Mosley, who was on the inactive list because of a hamstring injury.

* * *

On defense, rookie D-lineman Christian Barmore, playing despite a shoulder injury that he incurred last weekend, was very active in the first quarter, applying regular pressure on Wilson. He also made a great 4th-down stop in the late second quarter that gave New England's offense the ball back.

As a group, the Patriots defense did a much better job limiting the Jets when they ran the ball (62 total yards gained on the ground) – something New England had difficulty doing back in the Week 2 visit to MetLife Stadium.

Barmore was an active part of this run-stuffing success, as was linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, who came up with a number of quality plays that didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheet later on.

* * *

New England listed 14 players as questionable to play in this game due to various injuries, and that number could increase this coming week, as injuries continue to crop up, in addition to the Smith and Mason ones we already discussed.

Safety Devin McCourty sustained an abdomen injury while making an attempted interception on fellow safety Kyle Dugger's pass interference infraction that set the Jets up in scoring position in the second quarter. McCourty landed hard on the turf and needed help from the team's medical staff to get back to the bench area. That 46-yard PI represented the Jets' longest play of the game by far. Adrian Phillips saw more action at safety after McCourty left.

D-lineman Carl Davis, who was in the starting lineup, later injured one of his wrists, but managed to get back on the field not long thereafter. Special teamer Harvey Langi, however, could not continue after suffering a knee injury.

* * *

On the same play when McCourty was hurt, Wilson was knocked out of the game after being tackled to the ground by edge rusher Matthew Judon. It looked as if Wilson may have first gotten hit on that knee earlier in the drive when he was hit low while being flushed to the sideline.

In any event, Jets third-year backup Mike White, making his regular season NFL debut, would finish the game under center and shortly after entering throw his first TD, thanks to a remarkable grab by Corey Davis in the back of the Patriots end zone.

That would prove the highlight of White's day, though. Dugger would atone for his earlier PI penalty with an interception of White, and cornerback J.C. Jackson doubled up White's INT total when he made a spectacular grab along the Jets' sideline.

* * *

Congratulations are in order for kicker Nick Folk, whose 39-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter marked the 300th successful one of his 14-year NFL career. He made it against the team for whom he's played the longest, the Jets. Folk kicked for New York from 2010-16. He'd add a 50-yarder later in the game.

* * *

Powerful Play/Player of the Game presented by Enel

The Bourne-to-Agholor double-pass for a touchdown. This exciting play set the tone just minutes into this game. It might not have been necessary to get New England into the end zone, as the Patriots were moving the ball efficiently to that point, but it nonetheless brought the Gillette Stadium crowd to its feet and gave a lift to the entire Patriots team.

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