A week after dominating the Bills with the running attack, Tom Brady and a 2018 version of the spread-and-shred passing attack were the story of Sunday’s impressive 38-3 season finale victory over the Jets at Gillette Stadium.
Brady put up three first-half touchdown passes for an offense that was balanced out by 67 yards rushing for a 21-3 lead at the break.
New England’s defense got into the fun in the third quarter with an Adam Butler strip sack of Sam Darnold returned 46-yards for a touchdown by Kyle Van Noy. It was one of three takeaways for the defense.
The performance came against a Jets team that was undermanned in the back end on defense and is still very much a work in progress on offense, but it was good to see Brady and the passing attack put up a productive, efficient day through the air in the last contest before the win-or-go-home postseason.
In doing so New England clinched at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs, a postseason home game and a first-round bye. It closed out the season a perfect 8-0 at home and 11-5 overall.
“Of course it’s good to win another division game and by winning today that kind of helps us win next week,” Belichick said. “Tough battle with the Jets. I thought we played hard. We had a good week. We were able to finish the game on a positive note. Looking forward to continuing to play and hopefully we can play our best football moving forward.”
“It’s just a great win. We needed it and I’m glad we got it,” Brady said.
Before turning the page to next week’s bye and the ensuing divisional round playoff opener against a to-be-determined opponent, here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the season-ending blowout of the rival Jets.
Tom Brady – Even though it included an opening-drive punt, Brady completed eight of his first nine passes and then 13 of his first 15 on a pair of early scoring drives that concluded with touchdowns to running backs – 17 yards to James White and 18 yards to Rex Burkhead. That kick-started a day in which Brady took full advantage of a Jets secondary without top corner Trumaine Johnson among others to complete 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 133.8 passer rating. It marked his first four-touchdown game of the season, the 29th of his career, and a season-best rating. Brady spread the ball around to seven different targets with Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman all catching at least five balls. It was arguably the best game of the season for Brady and the passing attack, and certainly better than we’ve seen in recent weeks.
Chris Hogan/Phillip Dorsett – A week after Hogan seemed to show frustration going without a single target against the Bills in New England’s first game after Josh Gordon’s suspension, the veteran receiver was back in the productive mix against New York. Hogan was targeted for a 5-yard catch on the opening drive on the way to a day in which he had game highs in targets (11) and receptions (6) for 64 yards. Dorsett hadn’t caught a pass in the last four games before he hauled in all five passes thrown his way for 34 yards, including a pretty catch on a 9-yard touchdown. He had a pair of catches on the second drive of the afternoon, a good looking 6-yard comeback to open the scoring march and an 8-yard grab to convert an ensuing third-and-3. Dorsett also added two runs on jet sweeps for 16 yards. It was a good day and a good step forward for New England’s two veteran complementary receivers.
Trey Flowers/Defensive front – The front seven played pretty well across the board, both against the run and the pass. Flowers was one of the more active individuals, recording six tackles including his an 8-yard sack. He also forced fumble on Jets running back Elijah McGuire that set up the Patriots at the Jets 8 for a short scoring drive in the second quarter. Adam Butler had a strip sack that led to a score for Kyle Van Noy. The controlled pass rush never seemed to let Darnold get comfortable, while the front held McGuire to just 41 yards on 18 attempts for a mere 2.3-yard average, even more impressive when considering he had a long run of 17 yards.
Penalties/Sloppiness – There continues to be a search for clean play in terms of both flags and overall execution on both sides of the ball. New England was only nabbed for four penalties for 30 yards, which is better than recent weeks of double-digit infractions. One of those was also a questionable pass interference call on Dwayne Allen that erased a 30-yard gain to Rob Gronkowski. There was an illegal motion call on Edelman that probably could have been called on a couple others. Hogan had an illegal shift late. Defensively there was one play when Malcolm Brown ran on the field, to work alongside Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton, and didn’t seem to know where to line up. One another play New England had to burn a timeout on defense when two players ran off leaving only 10 defenders on the field.
KO coverage – Adding to what’s been an issue all year, New England once again couldn’t seem to figure out what it wants to do and how to do it on kickoffs. The unit emptied the bag of options, including a touchback, a couple short high kicks to the 20, a squib and a kick to just about the goal line. Only the touchback really worked out. The Jets fair caught one of the pooch kicks and returned the second to the 35. The goal line kick was returned to the 27. New England just hasn’t really been able to hold opponents inside the 25 with any regularity this year despite a lot of reps and effort invested in trying to do so. It will be interesting to see, depending on weather conditions, how the Patriots handle kickoffs in the postseason.
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