When the Patriots ran:
The two-headed monster of Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee provided the catalyst for a rejuvenated rushing attack that got the offense in gear early on. Lewis opened as the lead back and ran hard, picking up 52 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for a solid 4.7-yard average. Gillislee was running tough between the tackles as well, picking up some extra yards en route to a 10-carry, 44-yard effort. His day was limited by a costly first-quarter fumble, however, which earned him an extended spot on the bench. To his credit, Gillislee returned midway through the third quarter and added six carries for 22 yards after his gaffe. James White tacked on 23 yards on three carries as the Patriots piled up 118 yards on the ground on 25 attempts for a steady 4.7-yard average. This despite falling into a 14-point hole early on. Give credit to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for sticking with the run in light of that deficit.
When the Patriots passed:
The good news is Tom Brady was well protected after getting hammered in each of the first five games. He was not sacked and was barely hit (just four times) while enjoying plenty of time in the pocket. Marcus Cannon in particular enjoyed a solid game at right tackle. The bad news in Brady often looked like he was being harassed, moving around needlessly at times and throwing some hurried passes that sailed off target on others. He completed just 20 of his 38 passes, well below his normal rate of accuracy, for 257 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also threw a pick into double coverage and was lucky Buster Skrine dropped a would-be pick-six earlier. Despite the pedestrian day, Brady did have his moments. His picturesque bomb down the left sideline to Brandin Cooks (six catches, 93 yards) for 42 yards late in the first half was a thing of beauty. He also climbed the pocket on a key third down in the second half to find Rob Gronkowski (six catches, 83 yards) for the second of the tight end's two scores. Aside from those two, the Jets held White, Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan to just eight catches and 81 yards combined.
When the Jets ran:
This was also the best game of the season the Patriots defensive line. The Patriots have quietly been giving up chunks of yards to opponents on the ground this season but not on Sunday. The Jets were completely stymied on the ground, picking up just 74 yards on 24 carries for a 3.1-yard average. Those numbers are solid in their own right but when considering 21 of those yards came on three Josh McCown scrambled the 53 yards on 21 carries (2.6-yard average) becomes even more impressive. Malcom Brown was stout inside, and Alan Branch escaped the doghouse to stuff a pair of goal line runs in the first quarter that forced the Jets to throw on third down after holding a first-and-goal at the 1. Dont'a Hightower was more often than not back at his middle linebacker spot, but it was the guys in front of him that got the job done. Considering the success the Jets had throwing the ball early, the performance against the run might have been the difference in the game.
When the Jets passed:
This matchup was a tight one to call. New York was more productive than it has been all season but the Patriots secondary rallied after a slow start and made enough plays to win so it really could have gone either way. McCown is not a gifted passer and he missed a lot of makeable throws that impacted the game. He had a pair of wide open options on a huge fourth down in the third quarter but was late and short with his toss toward tight end Eric Tomlinson and the pass wound up getting picked off. He also underthrew Robbie Anderson on an out late in the first half for a crippling Malcolm Butler pick that turned the game around. But he made more than his share of plays, completing 31 of 47 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns. He could have had a third had the Patriots not benefited from a controversial fumble called when Austin Seferian-Jenkins' touchdown was overturned to a touchback via replay. That call was crucial as it kept the Jets deficit at 24-14 with less than nine minutes to go. As it was the defense, which was without Stephon Gilmore, was forced to hold on down the stretch, when fittingly McCown missed an open receiver on fourth down and instead threw to a well-covered Jeremy Kerley and watched as the ball fell incomplete.
The special teams battled was dead even in terms of coverage, but Stephen Gostkowski's missed field goal was the deciding factor. Both teams were solid covering kicks as Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi did a nice job limiting ArDarius Stewart on kick returns, only allowing one of his three attempts to finish beyond the 25. The same was true for the Jets, who bottled up Amendola and Lewis effectively in the return game. Ryan Allen had a poor 36-yard punt that Kerley fair caught at the Jets 38 while his counterpart, Lachlan Edwards, averaged nearly 47 yards on his four kicks. For the most part the special teams battle was a stalemate, but in a one-score game a missed field goal can prove costly. Fortunately for the Patriots it did not matter.