Here are the personnel highs and lows from the Patriots dominant 41-0 win over the Jets in the regular season finale at Gillette Stadium.
Malcolm Butler –Days after being left off the AFC Pro Bowl roster, Butler was a takeaway machine against the Jets. In the first quarter, he made a nice play on a deep ball down the left sideline intended for Robby Anderson to haul in his third interception on the season. Early in the second quarter he came off the corner on a blitz and was in the right place to recover Khiry Robinson's fumble caused by Elandon Roberts. Butler added to the day's turnover total late in the third quarter when he corralled a ball that deflected off Quincy Enunwa for his second pick of the day, giving him a team-high four on the season.
Stephen Gostkowski –Not long ago Gostkowski was mired in a streak of missed kickers that had people questioning the All-Pro. Thankfully, as the postseason is approaching, those misses are long forgotten. Gostkowski hit field goals from 29 and 22 yards while nailing all five of his PATs against the Jets. He's now hit 11 straight field goals over the last five games and been perfect on PATS for five games to reestablish himself as a weapon in the third phase for New England.
Tom Brady –Despite missing practice time this week and popping back up on the injury report with a thigh issue that has lingered since the Seattle game on Nov. 13 TB12 put forth an impressive day in the rain. Bouncing back from last week's slow start in Denver, Brady completed six of his eight throws in the first quarter for 70 yards and a touchdown against New York. That was on the way to a final stat line that included completing 17 of 27 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns for a 124.3 rating before he was pulled in favor of backup Jimmy Garoppolo late in the third quarter. Brady moved around and bought time, including an Aaron Rodger's-like scramble that led to a 28-yard completion to Julian Edelman.
Line of scrimmage –The Patriots offensive and defensive lines weren't at the top of their games against New York. Brady was under some early pressure and the running backs – Dion Lewis and LeGarrette Blount tallied 36 carries for well below a 4-yard average – had little room to work. Lewis, in particular, had to work hard for every inch he got, including making guys miss in the backfield. On defense the New England front was gashed a bit more than normal, especially in the first half. When guys got to the second level, Bilal Powell ran over Devin McCourty and Robinson trucked Daron Harmon. Though the final numbers don't look terrible – New York ran 29 times for 111 yards (3.8 avg.) – at various times gap integrity, edge setting and tackling were all less than ideal against the Jets.
Gene Steratore –* *Never good when you leave your mic on and continue to chat amongst the boys in front of 68,000-ish people. Even worse when you do it and then swear for all the stadium to hear. That's exactly what Steratore did in the first half, saying to a crew member, "did you put that warm hand s--t on?" He did have a little fun when he did his mic check prior the second half when he wished the crowd "Merry Christmas" in Italian. The Ed Hochuli wannabe then cracked a smirk when calling a fourth-quarter false start on the Jets on "everyone but the center."
Malcom Brown – The second-year former first-round pick had a strange role against New York. After starting 13 of the 14 games he'd played this season, including each of the last seven, Brown was a reserve who basically didn't see time on defense until the fourth quarter with the game well in hand and Matt Patricia making wholesale changes on defense. Hard to think Brown was banged up given the late reps. On a day when the run defense wasn't nearly at its best his role was quite curious.
Michael Floyd – The newly-claimed receiver was active and made his Patriots debut. His first target came on the second drive of the day in the first quarter, a pass he caught out of bounds down the left sideline. Floyd saw a handful of snaps – including targeted on a Garoppolo pass in the end zone – but caught his first pass as a Patriot for 6 yards from Garoppolo late in the fourth quarter.
Matt Lengel –* *Not bad when your first-career reception is an 18-yard touchdown from Brady. That's exactly what happened for Lengel – the former Northeastern football player signed off the Bengals practice squad earlier this year. The 6-7 option won't make anyone forget about Rob Gronkowski but him catching the ball in the end zone can't hurt his chances of Brady looking his direction again down the road. And his size is an asset. Even if he never catches another pass, it was cool to see how happy Lengel was to catch his first pass and touchdown.
James White –* *Early in the second quarter White had a bad drop on perfect pass down left numbers that should have been a big play, maybe a touchdown. He made up for the ugly mistake later in the quarter when he hauled in another over-the-shoulder chance from Brady for a 25-yard touchdown near the right pylon for the 27-0 halftime domination.
LeGarrette Blount – A week after New England's big, 1,000-yard back struggled with just 31 yards on 17 attempts in Denver it was another sluggish day for Blount. Again splitting the load – even in the rainy conditions and in I formations Lewis was a key cog – Blount had just 19 yards on seven first-half carries against New York, 12 coming on just one run. Blount finished with 20 carries – topping 18 carries for the 11th time in 15 games – for 50 yards (2.5 avg.) with two more touchdowns. He's now up to 17 touchdowns on the season, tying Curtis Martin for the third-highest touchdown total in team history behind Gronkowski (18) and Randy Moss (23).
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