Thursday Night Football produced a much closer-than-anticipated Patriots victory over the hated New York Jets. Here are some random thoughts from the 27-25 nailbiter at Gillette Stadium:
Oh Danny Boy –** After being a non-factor throughout the season Danny Amendola emerged as a key figure for the first time since the 2013 opener. He was back deep for the opening kickoff for the first time all season and showed some flash on his four attempts. Each time he made nice cuts to avoid traffic and found his way past the 20 to set up the offense with decent field position. He averaged 26.3 yards with a long of 31. He also made a huge touchdown catch on a key third down to create the 8-point margin in the fourth quarter. Amendola made a terrific double move down the slot to beat Antonio Allen and reached behind him to make a difficult catch while tumbling into the end zone. To top his night off, he recovered the Jets late onside kick after it deflected off of Brand LaFell. Nice night for a guy who hasn't had many positive moments to enjoy this season.
Condition critical – Brandon Browner made his season debut and started opposite Darrelle Revis at right cornerback. The Patriots matched up Revis withEric Decker and had Browner switching sides depending on where Decker lined up. He played in the first two series and committed a holding penalty on the second one but appeared to be gasping for breath at times. He was pulled from the lineup after the second series and didn't play the rest of the half. He returned to open the second half but once again returned to the bench for the Jets second series of the third quarter. He was back in the lineup in the fourth quarter when he picked up another holding penalty. He appeared on the injury report with an ankle injury but the sporadic play likely was an indication of conditioning rather than any physical limitations. Logan Mankins would have been proud.
Jordan Rules –There was some chippiness late in the first half and it cost the Patriots 15 yards, but I doubt the coaching staff will have much of a problem with it. On second-and-10 from the Jets 12, Tom Brady rolled to his right and was forced to throw the ball away under heavy pressure from Antwan Barnes. After Brady threw the ball, Barnes gave him a shove near the sideline. Jordan Devey came immediately into the picture and decked Barnes from behind, knocking the linebacker to the ground. A scrum ensued as flags flew from everywhere, costing the Patriots 15 yards and eventually Stephen Gostkowski booted a field goal. At first glance it may appear Devey was undisciplined and lost his cool but his actions were those of a protective teammate, as former Patriot Darius Butler** tweeted at the time. It cost the team some yardage but in the long run Devey may have endeared himself to his teammates.
Double drop – Julian Edelman doesn't drop many passes but he suffered back-to-back misplays in the fourth quarter. The first came at a key juncture when the Patriots faced a second-and-10 from the Patriots 34 leading by a point. Edelman crossed the field and had a step on linebackerDavid Harris and was in position to cut upfield for a sizable gain but dropped the ball. Two plays later the Patriots punted and the Jets had a chance to take the lead. On the next drive Edelman had another Brady pass hit him in both hands only to fall to the turf. To his credit, Edelman didn't hang his head and bounced back on the next drive, converting huge third down with a 14-yard catch on the series that ended with Amendola's touchdown grab. Edelman finished four catches on nine targets for 44 yards.
The New England Patriots take on the New York Jets during Thursday Night Football at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, October 16, 2014.
Run fits –The Jets simply dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish, punishing the Patriots front seven to the tune of 212 rushing yards.Chris Ivorydid the bulk of the damage with 107 yards but he was aided by some solid work from Chris Johnson** and quarterback Geno Smith. The Patriots opened with just Vince Wilfork and Chris Jones as down linemen with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones as standup outside linebackers before Casey Walker entered the game in the middle of the first quarter. The changes didn't work as New York continued to pound away. Making life even more difficult for the Patriots were some key runs by Smith, who scrambled effectively particularly when the secondary was in man coverage. In their first game without inside linebacker Jerod Mayo, the Patriots know the run defense will need to improve.
Seeing red – The Jets squandered some golden scoring opportunities in the first half, settling for field goals on their first four drives of the game. The frustration began from the start as the Jets marched right into the red zone where Smith hit Jeremy Kerley for a touchdown, only to have the play nullified by a holding penalty. On the next series the Jets again were guilty of holding in the red zone, and Smith found rookie Jace Amaro all alone around the 10 only to see the tight end drop the perfect pass to prevent a possible conversion. Both drives ended in field goals. The worst red zone stumble came late in the first half and cost the team a potential seven points. New York faced a second-and-one from the Patriots 7 with a little more than a minute left. Ivory was stopped for a 2-yard loss and Smith's third-down pass fell incomplete. Again the Jets settled for three instead of seven, and making matters worse the failure to move the chains to set up first-and-goal prevented the Jets from holding the ball the rest of the half. The Patriots then moved into field goal range to close the half with a 17-12 lead that easily could have been a 16-14 deficit.
Conservative close –The Patriots took over at the Jets 46 with 2:30 left clinging to a 2-point lead needing a single timeout to end the game. New York's decision to onside kick took all the pressure off, giving the Patriots great field position and an invitation to be aggressive. Instead they went conservative and nearly paid for it. Shane Vereen rushed twice and Jonas Gray once as the Patriots never came close to moving the chains, giving the Jets the ball at their own 12 with 1:06 left. Smith drove his team to the Patriots 40 but couldn't pick up the win when Chris Jones blocked the potential winning field goal. The decision to keep the ball on the ground was curious given the field position and the presence of Brady, who hasn't turned the ball over in the last three games. It seemed to run counter toBill Belichick**'s normal aggressiveness in such critical situations where a first down would end the proceedings. In retrospect, an incomplete pass may have cost the Patriots the game since the Jets may have picked up another 10 yards with an additional 30 seconds to work with, but going conservative put the game in the defense's hands unnecessarily.
Extra points –The Patriots their 16th straight home game against an AFC East opponent and 12th straight at home overall. New England also improved to 40-9 in the month of October since 2003. … The Patriots won for the 70th straight time when leading at the half. … The Jets longest pass play of the night was 28-yard completion fromGeno Smithto Jeff Cumberland. The Patriots are the only team in the league not to allow a single pass of 40 yards this season. The longest completion surrendered came Oct. 5 against Cincinnati whenJeremy Hillcaught a 38-yard pass fromAndy Dalton. … Brady became the third Patriot to play in 200 games, joining Bruce Armstrong(212) andJulius Adams(206). … Brady's three touchdown passes gives him 372 for his career, moving him into a tie for fourth place all time with New Orleans'Drew Brees. He also improved to 7-0 in Thursday games. … Vereen's 49-yard touchdown catch was the longest by a Patriots running back in Gillette Stadium history, toppingKevin Faulk**'s 43-yarder against Houston in 2006. … Walker recorded the first sack of his NFL career, dropping Smith for a 5-yard loss in the third quarter. … Stephen Gostkowski improved to 18 of 19 on field goals this season.