Anytime the Patriots and Jets get together it's pretty much assured that the game is going down to the wire and that was once again the case Sunday at Met Life Stadium. Tom Brady led a pair of scoring drives to rally the Patriots from a 17-13 deficit to a 22-17 victory to improve to 9-2 on the season.
Here are some random thoughts on the win.
The New England Patriots take on the New York Jets in a regular season game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, November 27, 2016.
Mr. 200 – Tom Brady won his 200th game as a starter including the postseason, which tied him with Peyton Manningfor the most all-time. Unfortunately he needed to earn this one as the Patriots trailed 17-13 in the fourth quarter before Brady led back-to-back scoring drives to take the win. With New England trailing by a point Brady marched 83 yards in nine plays and finished it was an 8-yard strike to rookie Malcolm Mitchell for the go-ahead touchdown. Brady also surpassed 60,000 passing, becoming the fifth quarterback in history with that many. He joined Manning, Brett Favre, Drew Brees and Dan Marino. Overall it wasn't the quarterback's best day as he was hobbled with the knee injury and completed 30 of 50 passes for just 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Drive starter – Speaking of Mitchell, the rookie is quickly developing into a new-age version of Brandon LaFell. Ack in 2014 LaFell was an instrumental part of the Patriot offense, catching some huge touchdowns in the postseason and developing a reputation for making the first catch to get drives going. LaFell often caught slants on the first play of a drive and Mitchell did that today in the fourth quarter. Mitchell came up with some key plays throughout, catching a pair of touchdowns including the game winner in the final two minutes. Mitchell finished with five catches for 42 yards on even targets, and coupled with his strong effort in San Francisco he's emerging as one of Brady's trusted weapons.
Jones out – The difficult rookie season of Cyrus Jones continued as the corner did not make the trip to New Jersey and was one of the inactives against the Jets. Jones missed Friday's practice with an illness and was downgraded from questionable to out the following day. It marked the fourth time this season that Jones has been inactive, which is not the kind of impact the rookie hoped to make heading into his first season in New England. Interestingly, Justin Coleman joined Jones on the inactive list, meaning the Patriots musical chairs routine at the third corner spot landed on Eric Rowe once again.
Delayed reaction – The Patriots faced a third-and-10 from their own 20 to open the game and tried a screen to Dion Lewis. The back did a nice job of weaving through traffic but appeared to be stopped just short of the 30, which was the line to gain for the first down. The Patriots came to the line for the first down play but were in danger of getting hit with a delay of game and were forced to call a timeout. That delay gave the Jets a chance to challenge the spot and Todd Bowles' decision paid off as referee Brad Allen correctly overturned the play and moved the ball back a full yard, forcing a Ryan Allen punt.
Conservative call – The Jets had a third-and-eight from the Patriots 33 on their opening possession when Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass was dropped by Brandon Marshall. Backup center Wesley Johnson was called for holding, giving Belichick an interesting decision. By accepting the penalty he would have pushed the Jets to the 43 for a third-and-18, which would have given the defense a chance to move New York out of field goal range. Belichick declined it, however, and Nick Folk came on to boot a 51-yard field goal to open the scoring. Given the decision two weeks ago to have Brady try to get close but not score in the final minute against Seattle, it would seem Belichick's confidence in his defense is not exactly at a high level at the moment.
Missed opportunity – The Patriots missed out on a chance to take the lead into the half with some curious decisions by Belichick. First the Jets appeared to convert a third-and-four from the Patriots 36 when Jalen Marshall was interfered with by Rowe, but there was no call on the play and New York was forced to settle for a 54-yard field goal. Folk's attempt was blocked by Alan Branch, allowing the Patriots to take over at the 46 at the two-minute warning and one timeout remaining. The Patriots moved the ball into Jets territory, the last play resulting in a 14-yard completion from Brady to Chris Hogan to the 21 with 40 seconds left. New England chose not to call timeout and didn't spike the ball either, allowing the clock to wind down to 12 seconds before the next snap. Brady was almost intercepted in the end zone by Darryl Roberts and that forced Stephen Gostkowski to come on for a 39-yard field goal, which he hooked badly to the left. The Patriots never used that final timeout and failed to take advantage of the gift opportunity.
Butler struggles – The secondary has endured its share of struggles this season but Malcolm Butler hasn't necessarily been part of those. He's been pretty consistent for the most part but on Sunday both Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa had their way with him. Marshall did most of his damage early, catching three passes including a touchdown with Butler in coverage early on. He finished with six catches for 67 yards, but Enunwa was even better. He finished with five receptions for 109 yards including grabs of 40 and 22 yards, the latter for a touchdown, with Butler in coverage. Butler also got beaten for a 25-yarder to Robby Anderson, but the corner kept at it on the play and came up with a huge turnover when he punched the ball loose and recovered the fumble at midfield. Overall it was not his best day, however.
Things getting tight – The Patriots are dealing with some injury concerns at the tight end position with both Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett fighting through some discomfort. Gronkowski missed last week's game with a chest injury and left Sunday's win over the Jets with a back problem. Pro Football Talk reported that the latest malady isn't serious and not expected to cause him to miss time, although he already missed the last three quarters of action at the Meadowlands. Bennett entered the game with an ankle injury and apparently aggravated it in the second half. The trainers worked on the tight end on the sideline, doing some band work that appeared to treat a high ankle sprain. Bennett missed practice on Thursday but was able to gut through it and finished the game after a short break. With Matt Lengel inactive, the injuries forced Cameron Fleming into a role as an extra tight end.
Extra points – The win was the ninth of the season for the Patriots, which guaranteed New England 16 straight seasons with a winning record, tying them with San Francisco (1983-98) and Dallas (1970-85) for the most ever. … The Patriots were blanked in the first quarter for the first time this season with Brady at quarterback. … The winning drive in the fourth quarter was the 50th of Brady;s career. … Branch's blocked field goal was the first of his career at any level. … Chris Hogan chipped in with four catches for 70 yards including a huge 25-yarder on the final drive.