Bill Belichick's Patriots headed to New York Sunday afternoon as a double-digit favorite over Rex Ryan's rival Jets. It was a battle between a three-loss team looking to clinch a playoff bye and a three-win team hoping to pull off an upset in the spoiler role.
When 60 minutes of ugly football action came to a close, New England escaped New York (New Jersey, actually!) with a 17-16 win to clinch the team's record fifth-straight first-round playoff bye.
But veteran Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy wonders, "In the wake of a narrow road victory against a bad team, do you feel better or worse about the Patriots' chances to break their decade-long Super Bowl drought?"
Globe beat writer Shalise Manza Young focuses on Vince Wilfork's key tip of the Jets potential game-winning field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter.
As is so often the case when the Patriots offense struggles, including various times over the last month, the* Globe's* Ben Volin notes that the offensive line in front of Tom Brady was once again a concern for a sputtering New England offense.
Michael Whitmer's Globe Patriots notebook leads off noting Danny Amendola's key role in New York filling in for an injured Julian Edelman as both a pass catcher and return man.
While the offense wasn't nearly at its best against Ryan's defense, Karen Guregian points out in the Boston Herald that the New England defense was impressive once again and, "Whether the offense gets out of its current funk or not, you can put money on the defense standing tall."
Elsewhere in the Herald veteran football writer Ron Borges breaks down how Brady came out on top in his latest and maybe final battle with Ryan's Jets defense.
Herald beat man Jeff Howe focuses on the importance of the bye, even if secured by a single point, and quotes Rob Ninkovich saying, "Go Bengals," as the Patriots root for Cincy to knock off the Broncos on Monday Night Football. That upset would secure the No. 1 seed for New England.
The Herald critiques Patriots safety Patrick Chung's lack of coverage on Jeff Cumberland's touchdown in his Best & Worst compilation from the win over the Jets.
Finally from the Herald, Howe's notebook has Darrelle Revis focused on his job in New England and not what's going on with his former coach and team in New York.
In the* Providence Journal,* Mark Daniels' game story of the win in New York says "the Patriots showed us they had guts."
ESPNBoston.com's Lee Schechter says Wilfork's tipped field goal was the play of the game for the Patriots. Elsewhere on the site, Mike Reiss also says there are multiple ways in which you can look at New England's most recent hard-fought win, "depending on your preference to sway more to the pessimistic or optimistic sides of things."
While most Patriots players took the win in stride, WEEI.com's Mike Petraglia has Brandon Browner saying, "Looking on paper, we probably should have killed those guys." WEEI.com also has Ryan Hannable relaying Ryan's comments regarding his defense's history against Brady, "we're the team that always gives him the biggest challenge, whether he admits it or not." And Chris Price points out that special teams once again came up big for a championship-driven Patriots squad.