When the Patriots ran:
The Patriots didn’t run the ball that effectively in conventional ways but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels got creative to pile up some production on the ground. Sony Michel (14 carries, 50 yards), Rex Burkhead (five carries, 14 yards) and James White (four carries, 30 yards) managed a combined 94 yards on 23 carries and that included a 21-yard scamper by White out of a spread formation. The short-yardage attempts were spotty (White was stopped on consecutive plays on third and fourth down at the end of the first half) and Michel and Burkhead averaged 3.4 yards per carry combined as the main ball carriers. But McDaniels used Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett effectively on jet sweeps, picking up 40 additional yards on four attempts. That allowed New England to pile up 131 yards on the ground on 30 attempts for a solid 4.4-yard average. The overall execution didn’t always look as good as that production suggests, but the wrinkles helped and the score and situation called for no frills, grind-it-out football in the second half.
When the Patriots passed:
Tom Brady started the game as sharp as he’s been in weeks. He completed eight of his first nine attempts for 72 yards and a touchdown, a 17-yard crossing route to White that opened the scoring. He continued his hot ways into the second quarter as the effectively moved in the pocket and allowed his receivers the time to come open. The undermanned Jets secondary was overmatched and Brady found many open targets, but his willingness to hold the ball and take a hit early on was noticeable and allowed the Patriots to mount a sizeable lead in the first half. He added touchdowns to Burkhead on a beautiful seam route and later to Dorsett off a scramble to his right. He finished 24 of 33 for 250 yards with four touchdowns (a late toss to Edelman to close the scoring). Chris Hogan (six catches, 64 yards) and Dorsett (five catches, 34 yards) were more involved with Cordarrelle Patterson sitting out due to a knee injury. Edelman had five grabs for 69 yards, all but his 5-yard touchdown coming in the decisive first half. It wasn’t vintage Brady but his performance was encouraging in that he moved well and found second and third options more frequently than he has recently.
When the Jets ran:
The Jets are down to their third running back and Elijah McGuire had very little success against a defense that was designed to bottle him up. He finished with 18 carries for 41 yards, and 17 of those came on one run. New York had respectable rushing numbers as a team with 23 attempts for 104 yards and a 4.5-yard average, but Sam Darnold accounted for 28 of those yards on one scramble. Otherwise, New York not only couldn’t move it consistently on the ground, it also fumbled twice. McGuire’s was the most costly as it came with the Patriots leading 14-3 and the Jets badly in need of a drive. Instead, Trey Flowers knocked the ball loose and Devin McCourty returned it to the Jets 8 to set up a touchdown that basically ended the game. Lawrence Guy and Elandon Roberts were effective on the interior, and Roberts made a great play to stuff McGuire on a fourth-and-inches in the second half after a long Jets drive. New York never ran the ball nearly well enough to keep the Patriots honest.
When the Jets passed:
Darnold showed some flashes of why folks in New York are excited about the future. He was especially impressive when throwing on the run, particularly toward the sidelines. He also showed the painful signs of youth, most notably with poor pocket presence. He was sacked four times, most of which were avoidable had he more quickly diagnosed the pressure and protected the football. He was stripped on one ill-advised sack when he foolishly tried to throw while Flowers had his ankles wrapped and Adam Butler was close enough to knock the ball away. Kyle Van Noy scooped it up and ran 46 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. In Darnold’s defense, his top target was completely taken away by Stephon Gilmore, who blanketed Robby Anderson all day. Anderson finished with just three catches (on eight targets) for 24 yards as Gilmore physically dominated him. The only Jets receiver who enjoyed success was Deontay Burnett, who finished with five catches for 73 yards. Otherwise, Darnold (16 of 28 for 167 yards) couldn’t muster much sustained offense as the Patriots secondary once again performed well.
In truth this was an extremely uneventful day on special teams but since the Patriots dominated so thoroughly we’ll give them the clean sweep in the matchups. One slight concern continues to be kickoff coverage, where Stephen Gostkowski tried a variety of approaches against the Jets. None worked. He popped a pair of short attempts, one of which was fair caught at the 22 and the other that was returned to the 32. He also squibbed one that was recovered at the 23. Twice Andre Roberts returned kicks in conventional fashion and made it past the 30 both times. It may just be time to settle for touchbacks whenever possible. Neither side managed much in the punt return game despite several chances for both Edelman and Roberts. Edelman did have a 12-yarder but he also lost 2 yards on another. Ryan Allen did a great job angling his kicks toward the sideline to neutralize the dangerous Roberts, who was stopped for no gain and was forced into a pair of fair catches.