When the Patriots ran:
The Patriots offense was back at full strength, and while many focused on the return of Tom Brady's weapons it was the work of the blockers that keyed this victory. Shaq Mason and Rob Gronkowski were back in the lineup, and Sony Michel was much quicker in his second game back for a knee injury that shelved him for two games. That added up to a dominant performance on the ground at the Meadowlands. Michel piled up 133 yards on 21 carries for a healthy 6.3-yard average and as a team the Patriots finished with 215 yards on 36 carries – an even 6 yards a pop. James White enjoyed a strong day on the ground as well, adding 73 yards on his eight carries. For one of the rare occasions in recent memory, big plays were part of the equation on the ground as well. Michel had carries of 33 and 31 yards while White added runs of 27 and 24. That kind of explosiveness in the running game should be more frequent given the presence of Brady and the Patriots pass-first approach. It would be a welcome sight if it continues down the stretch.
When the Patriots passed:
Brady finished with respectable numbers – 20 of 31 for 283 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He opened the Patriots scoring with a perfect laser down the seam to Rob Gronkowski for a 34-yard touchdown. Brady also effectively took care of the Jets zone schemes by hitting Josh Gordon (five catches, 70 yards) and Julian Edelman (four catches, 84 yards, 1 TD) for some big plays. But he also misfired on a number of throws, some of which were caught anyway but led to little yardage after the catch. He particularly struggled getting White involved, hitting the back just once on five attempts. But with the running game consistently picking up chunks of yards, Brady was able to take advantage and found gaps in coverage that led to completions of 36, 34, 27, 23 and 20 yards – two of which went to Chris Hogan, who emerged with a couple of plays after a quiet stretch. Brady also dealt with an illness, a knee issue and a scrape on his thumb that might have led to a couple of errant throws. Overall he was solid but not spectacular.
When the Jets ran:
New York is a run-first team and when the Jets tried to move it on the ground early they couldn't. New York's first three attempts totaled just 1 yard and soon Josh McCown was firing away. Isaiah Crowell eventually got it going from then on but really wasn't a factor. He averaged 5 yards a carry but finished with just six attempts for 30 yards. Eli McGuire was completely stuffed, finishing with only 19 yards on his six carries while the Jets managed 74 yards on just 15 carries. That was good for a solid 4.9-yard average but New York got away from the running game after falling behind in the second half. New York attempted just one run in the fourth quarter and Crowell's impact was minimized as a result. Credit Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy for some strong play early to limit the Jets rushing attack.
When the Jets passed:
This wasn't the smoothest day for the Patriots pass coverage. Early on McCown was shredding the secondary and moving the ball at will. The journeyman backup completed 10 of his first 12 passes and the Jets had an early 7-0 lead courtesy of his 16-yard strike to Jermaine Kearse. But eventually McCown reverted to the mean and the secondary settled down. There were some hiccups along the way, including a 41-yard hookup with Quincy Enunwa, but the Patriots managed to hold things in check for the most part over the final three quarters. McCown completed 26 of 45 for 276 yards to go with a touchdown and an interception – a nice play on a deep ball by Stephon Gilmore to snuff out a scoring drive. After the shaky start, the lone problem was Chris Herndon, who caught seven of eight balls thrown his way for 57 yards as tight ends continue to be a problem for the Patriots secondary.
There was one minor blip on the radar when Andre Roberts ripped off a 36-yard kickoff return out to the Jets 34 in the first quarter. The coverage was much better on the next attempt as they hemmed in Roberts at the 18 in the second quarter. Otherwise it was all touchbacks (four) for Stephen Gostkowski. While the Patriots did little in the return game, Ryan Allen had an outstanding day punting. He effectively angled most of his kick toward the sideline, allowing Roberts a total of 1 yard on his three chances, two of which went out of bounds. He averaged a healthy 46 yards on four punts despite one going for a touchback. Solid job by the punter, who effectively kicked the Patriots out of some tough field position periodically. Both kickers were perfect on field goals, with the Jets Jason Myers connecting from 55 yards out to close the first half. Newcomer Obi Melifonwu was called for an illegal block, negating a 17-yard Edelman punt return. Overall a pretty solid day on special teams.