EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The temptation to look ahead is great, particularly after a convincing win like the New England Patriots earned at The Meadowlands Sunday afternoon. As usual, head coach Bill Belichick put his team's season-opening 38-14 victory in its proper perspective.
"It's one game," he observed immediately after the contest. "There's a long way to go, we haven't clinched anything. [But] there were some positive things to build on today."
The Patriots didn't play perfectly, but their performance pleased their coach.
"I was really proud of our players today," Belichick admitted. "Overall, I thought it was a good, solid effort. The entire offense, scoring that amount of points … we made some plays on defense, made a big play in the kicking game.
"It's been a long week, a long preseason. I thought they came down here and did their job today."
Here's a look at how they got it done in all phases of the game.
Moss was amazing
Nine catches, 183 yards, including a jaw-dropping 51-yard TD with three Jet defenders surrounding him.
"That's the way Randy plays," Belichick deadpanned.
He caught everything thrown his way, showed breakaway speed, and was the type of on-field presence that made him a star during his early years in Minnesota.
"I didn't want to let my team down," Moss said in front of his locker afterwards. You certainly didn't, Randy. As he predicted the day he was traded to New England back in April, the Moss of old is back.
"I threw it as far as I could throw it," Brady admitted in his post-game press conference. "Randy just ran away from the defense. It's not how we drew it up, but maybe we should," he added with a laugh.
First in ten
For the first time since 1997, the Patriots scored a touchdown on their first offensive possession of the season – WR Wes Welker's 11-yard catch-and-run from Tom Brady.
Welker on a rollercoaster
His 11-yard touchdown made for a great first impression. However, Brady's first two incompletions came when Welker dropped what should have been routine catches.
A balanced attack
Brady may never have had as much time to throw the ball as he did Sunday. He wasn't sacked, and only was pressured a couple of times, at most. There were times he was standing still for so long, scanning the entire field, it looked like the play had been blown dead.
Unlike last season, when the Jets beat New England here in Foxboro by getting in Brady's face all day, New York didn't have the luxury of blitzing at will this time.
With multiple wide receivers shuffling in and out after every play and RBs Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris running effectively, the Jets were forced to sit back and try to cover all of the Patriots options. They just couldn't do it. There always seemed to be someone open.
And when a running lane closed down, Maroney and Morris made good reads, cutting back to find openings elsewhere.
In theory, this is what we've been predicting would happen when the Pats new offensive targets took the field as a complete group. Theory became reality on Sunday.
Jets couldn't get off the ground
New York's new feature back, Thomas Jones, had a hard time finding daylight on this sunny Sunday afternoon. Defensive linemen Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Jarvis Green (subbing for the injured Richard Seymour) made sure of that. Playing from behind the whole time, New York only managed 60 yards on the ground.
Pressure on Pennington
Throwing the ball proved just as challenging for the Jets. QB Chad Pennington did have a couple of touchdown tosses, but they were overshadowed by the five sacks he suffered at the hands of New England's defense (two by the fill-in Green). New York's revamped O-line was no match for New England's front seven.
No big plays
Though CB Asante Samuel, in his first significant action since January, was picked on a bit by Pennington, the Patriots didn't surrender any big plays, as they had in all three Jets-Pats games last season.
Hobbs' record-setting return
No, no, no, no…yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
More than one Patriot admitted that they had that reaction when CB Ellis Hobbs decided to advance the second-half opening kickoff from eight yards deep in his own end zone. Seconds later, Hobbs was racing down the left sideline toward the Jets end zone and into the record books. His 108-yard touchdown was the longest kickoff return in NFL history.
Asked why he didn't take a knee, Hobbs didn't blink.
"They pay me to make plays. This isn't high school or college," he reasoned.
Belichick's reaction? He'll take it.
"[Ellis] is aggressive, and he made it work. So, I don't think anybody [on the coaching staff] is going to say anything to him."
*Cassel couldn't hold on
*After dropping a snap on K Stephen Gostkowski's 43 field goal attempt in the second quarter, backup QB Matt Cassel held for the next extra point. However, for the rest of the game, Gostkowski's holder was P Chris Hanson. The change didn't seem to affect the kicker's performance, as he nailed his only other field goal attempt and his remaining point-afters.
The key play
The Jets should have known this was over from the start. After moving the ball nearly 40 yards on their opening possession, New York faced a fourth-and-one situation from New England's 46.
Seemingly with the momentum, the Jets appeared poised to go for the first down. The home crowd certainly wanted them to. Instead, Jets head coach Eric Mangini hesitated before taking the conservative route, opting for a punt that pinned the Pats down at their own nine.
Mangini's play-it-safe approach in that situation set the tone for the entire game. New England decisively took the ball 91 yards for the opening score and never looked back.