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Game Observations: Pats escape with strange win

The Patriots escaped home from New Jersey with a strange 24-17 victory over the Jets.

It's not often pretty at the Meadowlands and the Patriots latest victory on the road against the Jets certainly wasn't, but New England's 24-17 victory allowed the team to return home alone in first place in the AFC East.

Here are some random thoughts to the Patriots very bizarre victory over New York.

-The weekend took on an ominous look right from the start with rookie linebacker Harvey Langi and his wife involved in a serious car accident in Foxborough Friday night. He was declared out the following day after suffering head and neck injuries. Considering the accident, Langi's absence was not a big surprise, but when cornerback Stephon Gilmore's name appeared with Langi's (as well as running back Rex Burkhead's) among those listed as out it certainly qualified as stunning. Gilmore missed the Jets game with a concussion, according to the team, despite not appearing on the injury report with any head injury. He was listed as limited during the week due to an ankle injury, but on Friday he was a full participant in practice and was remove altogether. Just 24 hours later he was out.

-Gilmore's absence opened the door for Johnson Bademosi to step into the lineup alongside Malcolm Butler. Despite not taking part in a single defensive snap all season, Bademosi opened the game as the starter instead of Jonathan Jones, who worked as the nickel back. The Patriots also used a lot of safeties with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon seeing lots of action. Jordan Richards was the extra defensive back in dime situations. The secondary was in shambles to start the game as the Jets marched 88 yards for a touchdown on their opening possession. That march included four third-down conversions, which accounted for 70 of the 88 yards. The big play was a 30-yard strike to Jeremy Kerley down to the 1. Kerley added a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter, and the Jets moved the ball through the air exceptionally well in the first 30 minutes.

-It wasn't all bad on defense, however, as the run defense was outstanding. Playing against a physical Jets team that likes to keep the ball on the ground, New England's new-look front was up to the task. Deatrich Wise replaced Adam Butler at right defensive end with Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown manning the tackles spots and Trey Flowers on the left side. Alan Branch, after not making the trip to Tampa in Week 5, was a big part of the effort as well, working in a rotation on the inside. The Jets rushed for just 74 yards on 24 carries and 21 of those yards came off three Josh McCown scrambles. The Jets wanted to run the ball on several short-yardage situations, including at the goal line, but were turned away each time. A key third-and-one stop in the third quarter forced the Jets to go for it on fourth-and-inches, and McCown ended up throwing an interception when New York refused to run. It was a nice bounce back effort for the guys up front.

-The play of the game – and perhaps season – took place late in the fourth quarter as the Jets were trying to rally from a 24-14 deficit. McCown hit Austin Seferian-Jenkins for a 4-yard touchdown, but the replay booth decided to take a closer look. Seferian-Jenkins briefly lost control of the ball when Butler stripped him as he was crossing the goal line. However, the tight end was able to regain possession as he fell to the turf in the end zone, and it appeared as if the touchdown would stand. Not so fast. The guys in the control booth in New York, led by director of officiating Al Riveron, determined that Seferian-Jenkins failed to regain control before he hit the turf, and once he did he was out of bounds in the end zone. Under that curious interpretation, the ruling was a touchback and the Patriots had the ball at the 20 with their 10-point lead still intact. It was a huge call that killed the Jets comeback hopes.

-Speaking of solid bounce backs, the offensive line did a much better job keeping Tm Brady upright and in one piece. He came into the game nursing a sore left shoulder but managed to escape without getting sacked and was officially hit juts four times. Brady was able to establish a clean pocket through most of the afternoon and had plenty of time to find open targets. The Jets entered the day with only seven sacks on the season but the effort still represented a dramatic improvement for a group that allowed 16 sacks coming into the game. The guys up front also did a nice job of opening holes in the running game as the Patriots finished with 25 carries for 118 yards and a solid 4.7-yard average.

The New England Patriots take on the New York Jets in a regular season game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, October 15, 2017.

-There was a huge turnaround in the second quarter when the Jets were in control of the ball and the game leading 14-0. On second-and-three from the New York 45, McCown went deep toward Robbie Anderson and the pass fell incomplete. McCourty came over after the pass fell to the turf and delivered a big hit to Anderson, which drew a flag. However, the officials talked for a moment and referee Tony Corrente determined the hit wasn't helmet to helmet and picked up the flag. The hit was questionable and much less contact has drawn a call in the past, but on this occasion the decision went in New England's favor. The defense then came up with a third-down stop and forced a punt. On the ensuing drive the Patriots caught another break when rookie Jamal Adams was called for pass interference on Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. There didn't appear to be any contact on the play but the Patriots picked up 24 yards and moved to the 1 nonetheless. Instead of having the ball in Patriots territory with a 14-point lead, the game suddenly changed and the Patriots had momentum.

-Things continued to go in the Patriots direction later in the half when it appeared the Jets would take a lead to the break. In possession and leading 14-7, the Jets moved into Patriots territory at the 49 with :39 seconds left and were one completion away from closing the half with a potential field goal. Instead, McCown tried to hit Anderson on the sideline, and the wideout tripped coming out of his break and allowed Butler to make a terrific break on the ball for the interception. Tom Brady then went deep to Brandin Cooks for 42 yards down to the 2 to set up Gronkowski's touchdown to tie with :09 left. Instead of a possible 17-7 lead, the Jets limped to the locker room in a tie game. New England then marched 75 yards for another touchdown to open the second half to take its first lead of the day.

-Mike Gillislee was off to a strong start in the first half, ripping off a few solid runs to get the ground game going. But things took a turn for the free agent acquisition when he was stripped by linebacker Darron Lee after a 5-yard run and Buster Skrine recovered in Jets territory. At that point Gillislee had four carries for 23 yards but saw limited action thereafter as Dion Lewis got the bulk of the work the rest of the way. Gillislee did return late in the third quarter and ran effectively once again despite sitting out for an extended period of time.

-I don't normally spend much time criticizing the announcers (sarcasm intended) but Dan Fouts' call on CBS was brutal. There were several questionable comments made throughout the afternoon but none more curious than giving McCourty credit for intercepting a pass on fourth down "that prevented the Jets from kicking a field goal." Despite several attempts by play-by-play guy Ian Eagle to explain that it was fourth down so there was no chance for a field goal, Fouts continued to claim the Jets could have kicked the field goal had McCourty not made the catch. An embarrassing situation all around.

-The victory was the Patriots 11th straight on the road, one shy of the team record set in 2006-08. The 49ers have the NFL mark with 18 straight road wins. … Brady won his 187th regular-season game of his career, moving ahead of Brett Favre and Peyton Manning into sole possession of first place on the all-time list. … Kyle Van Noy had the first two-sack game of his career. … McCourty's interception was the 20th of his career, fifth-most among safeties in Patriots history. … Gronkowski caught a pair of touchdown passes, his first multi-TD game since Week 1 of 2015.

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