…I liked New England’s aggressive approach to the start of this game. It began with their uncharacteristic choice to receive the ball after winning the coin toss. Normally, Bill Belichick likes to defer his choice to the second half, to allow for a potential opportunity to score on consecutive possessions on either side of intermission. However, it was clear that the Patriots wanted to jump out to an early lead and not look back, in an effort perhaps to manage the playing time of certain key players.
…OC Josh McDaniels approached the game’s opening drive nicely, mixing in runs and passes liberally, while the offensive line – which had maybe its best game of the season a week ago – blocked well again in both areas.
…New England’s choice to eschew a 40-yard field goal attempt in favor of going for the 1st down on 4th-and-2 from the Jets’ 22-yard line also demonstrated how the Patriots wanted to control this game by quickly building a lead and sitting on it.
WR Danny Amendola, lined up in the slot left, easily got open on a slant for QB Tom Brady (who was in the shotgun). Amendola’s opening was created when the cornerback originally guarding him tightly in man-to-man coverage at the line of scrimmage, Buster Skrine, passed him off to a teammate. This happened because New England’s outside receiver to Amendola’s left, Brandin Cooks, motioned toward the formation and the cornerback guarding him, Justin Burris, followed, but drifted behind his defensive teammate at the line of scrimmage.
Skrine then signaled that he would take Cooks, while Burris should pick up Amendola, but Burris was already at a disadvantage by conceding such a large cushion (about 5 yards) and didn’t take a great angle to close down Amendola over the middle.
…Just like last week, when RB Dion Lewis kept an eventual scoring drive alive by reaching out with the football on a 4th-down rush, he did so again to put New England on the scoreboard first. Lewis has played the best, most confident football of his career these past two weeks, and that was on display throughout this game, but particularly on the opening drive as he made several Jets miss him in the open field and gave extra effort on runs like this one for the first touchdown of the day.
…A guy who’s had a quietly good year is DT Lawrence Guy. He’s been solid all season since joining the squad as a veteran free agent, and he made his presence known on the Jets’ first play when he stuffed RB Bilal Powell for a 1-yard gain. Guy and the d-line had a great day against the run, holding New York to just 40 yards.
…Cooks started off with a pair of catches on the first two balls thrown to him, and while he only hauled in three of the next nine sent his way by Brady, Cooks made a positive impact on this game, as we saw later when he drew penalties against the defenders marking him to keep New England’s possessions alive. The first time this happened came on the third throw of the day to Cooks, when Skrine was flagged for grabbing Cooks during his well-run route. The ball sailed ahead of Cooks and fell to the turf, but the Patriots kept the ball and gained an extra five yards. It wound up being for naught, as New England later punted on the drive, but Cooks has been doing this more frequently as the year unfolded. He’s finding a way to be an asset even when he doesn’t complete a catch.
…Cooks has also been getting open downfield the past couple of weeks, but Brady has overshot him, which happened on the very next play. However, this occurred because Cooks, who was bumped a couple of times at the beginning of his route, unwisely slowed down once he found open field down the seam. Had he simply accelerated downfield, he likely would have been right underneath the deep ball as it came back down.
…Brady went right back to him for a bubble screen on the next play, but Cooks dropped the easy throw. That, too, has happened almost every game this year.
…The o-line had a few miscues, the first major one coming on 3rd-and-10 on that same drive when LB David Bass simply blew by backup right tackle Cameron Fleming with a speed move. Fleming never got close enough to Bass to deliver a solid punch block and Bass collapsed onto Brady in the backfield, forcing a Patriots punt near midfield.
…LB James Harrison made his much-anticipated Patriots debut when the Jets got the ball back. Interestingly, his first play was dropping into pass coverage, although the ball didn’t go in his direction. Yet, Harrison continued to pursue and help out his new teammates by piling onto the scrum at the end of the play. New York ran the ball to their left, the side opposite where Harrison was lined up as the OLB, on the next play. Again, he gave chase, but wasn’t a factor on the play, other than, perhaps, the Jets’ choice to run away from him.
…An unblocked Harrison, rushing this time from the right side of the defense (New York’s offensive left), nearly got to QB Bryce Petty before he unloaded the football, but Petty managed to throw it when Harrison was a step away from what would have been his first sack for New England. That throw by Petty also went to the side of the field opposite where Harrison was lined up. Coincidence or not, New York avoided having to deal with Harrison directly on his first three plays.
…Harrison finally got in on the action when he teamed with LB Elandon Roberts for a tackle-for-loss. Harrison fought through a pair of Jets blockers at the line of scrimmage to impede the progress of RB Elijah McGuire in the backfield. Roberts chased him down from the back side and arrived just as Harrison was wrapping McGuire up by the legs. They shared credit on the stat sheet for the 1-yard loss.
…DT Malcolm Brown incurred a deserved penalty – the way the rule is written – for roughing the passer when he struck Petty below the knee. That play notwithstanding, Brown has come on strong in the latter half of 2017.
…Brady’s second and final sack of the afternoon came on 3rd-and-7 from the NE 33. The Jets blitzed six players and Brady felt heat from three of them closing in on him from behind, while the other three formed a virtual wall at the line of scrimmage. Spotting no one open downfield, Brady gave himself up for a 6-yard loss.
…New York continued to run their plays away from Harrison, for the most part, into the second quarter.
…WR Phillip Dorsett hasn’t had many opportunities this season. Normally, when he has, he’d made the most of them, but against the Jets, he failed to bring in a very catchable deep pass that hit him square in the hands.
…Cooks did a good job of putting himself in position to draw a pass interference penalty against safety Marcus Maye on an underthrown deep ball from Brady that was knocked to the ground by Maye. That helped set up Cooks’ touchdown catch.
…Cooks got open on his 5-yard scoring catch in the end zone thanks to a collision by Jets teammates in the secondary. Skrine, again guarding Cooks, was knocked to the turf when teammate Morris Claiborne, marking Amendola on a crossing route, smacked into Skrine, who was running in the opposite direction to keep up with Cooks. Easy pitch-and-catch completion for the QB and his receiver thereafter.
…Second game in a row, we saw LB Marquis Flowers get a QB sack, and this one came from a basic stunt. He started at Petty from the left side of the defense and got chipped by TE Eric Tomlinson, which actually helped send Flowers into the vacant middle of the o-line. He then had a clear path to Petty for the takedown behind the line of scrimmage.
…Lewis’ next touchdown was simply a result of his speed, outracing linebacker Demario Davis to the goal line on a play-action route out of the backfield.
3rd & 4th Quarters
…Harrison didn’t make a name for himself in the NFL by dropping into coverage, but he made one of his best plays Sunday by doing so. From the left OLB position, Harrison backpedaled and read the crossing route by WR Robby Anderson before stepping up to flatten him with a textbook tackle.
…Dorsett atoned for his earlier drop with a tough, diving catch and a nice crossing route that picked up a 1st down.
…Lewis showed tremendous patience with his running and decision-making with the football in the second half. His deliberate hesitation moves a few times allowed his blockers to set up and lure the Jets into thinking they knew where he was going before he darted elsewhere. He picked up a chunk of extra yards on those plays when it looked like he was about to be stopped short.
…Cooks should have had a second touchdown Sunday. He’d beaten Claiborne by a step or two while racing on a shallow cross to the left side of the end zone in the late third quarter, but Brady overthrew him from a short distance away. Brady knew right away that he’d gaffed on what should have been an easy completion for a score.
The two finally connected later on a 37-yard play that was a combination of a great inside-out route by Cooks and a precise throw by Brady.
…Definitely a deserved unnecessary roughness call against CB Stephon Gilmore when he struck Anderson in the helmet with his shoulder pad at the end of an incomplete throw to Anderson. The receiver was defenseless and never saw Gilmore coming. By rule, the proper call was made. Gilmore made a nice pass breakup on 3rd-and-9 later in the drive to force a Jets field goal attempt.
…Great coverage by the secondary allowed DE Eric Lee to wrangle Petty down to the ground in the end zone for a safety late in the 4th. Lee was engaged with the right tackle, but when Petty tried to scramble out of the pocket to try to create an open passing lane, Lee abandoned the tackle and Petty nearly ran right into him.
…Special teams was its usual solid self, with key plays by Jonathan Jones and Matthew Slater to pin New York deep in their own territory throughout the game, and Amendola reliably fielding punts. That aspect of the game has been somewhat taken for granted all year, but credit to coordinator Joe Judge and his assistant, Ray Ventrone, for handling this unsung unit with aplomb.