Pats-Jets clash and crash at Gillette
Thursday, September 12, 2013
At the start, it didn't look like Tom Brady's offense would be providing much more than a pop-gun.
With Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski on the sidelines with injuries, no one was certain who Brady might target when throwing the ball. He did just enough with what he had for the Patriots to hold on for a 13-10 win over the New York Jets Thursday night at Gillette Stadium.
On the opening drive of the game, Brady led the offense on a slick six play, 81-yard drive that included an eye-popping play-fake and 39-yard TD pass to rookie WR Aaron Dobson for the score. It was Dobson's first career catch in the pros - but for Brady, the 50th straight game he's thrown at least one TD pass. Quite the contrast. That mark ranks second all-time in NFL history, behind Drew Brees' 54 straight weeks.
After an exchange of punts, New York rookie QB Geno Smith found WR Stephen Hill open up the middle for a 33 yard gain, but Hill fumbled on the play and Devin McCourty recovered and returned the loose ball 40 yards to the Jets' eight yard line. Three tries at the end zone came up short, and New England settled for a 21-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal and a 10-0 lead with 9:17 to play in the first quarter.
The Jets bounced back quickly, however, as Smith found WR Santonio Holmes on a sideline route for 27 yards, with 15 more tacked on following a roughing penalty on DE Chandler Jones. The drive stalled at the Patriots' nine after 11 plays, and Nick Folk salvaged a 37-yard field goal to make it 10-3 at the end of the period.
Halfway through the second quarter, some of that pop in the Patriots' offensive guns manage to show itself, as Brady attempted to hook up twice with Dobson, one on a wide open play down the field that could have resulted in a 50+ yard gain. However, Dobson bobbled the apparent catch and could not hold on, resulting in an incompletion and another Patriot punt. On the next possession, however, Brady connected with Kenbrell Thompkins on a deep sideline pass for 38 yards, yet the drive stalled after some miscommunication with the receivers...resulting in a 30-yard FG from Gostkowski to make it 13-3 with 5:05 to play before the half.
Some good plays...some not so good. Frustrating, yes...and Brady was demonstrative in showing some of that frustration. But it's probably to be expected, considering the relative inexperience of his receivers.
The defense managed to come up with a couple of big stops to help the cause, with Jones providing two sacks of Smith on consecutive drives that both ended in punts. Then, another strike to a rookie receiver - Brady hit Thompkins with a 25 yard laser that Thompkins laid out for in the end zone for an apparent score, yet it was ruled incomplete on a replay review. Gostkowski came in to try a 43 yard FG, and hooked it left. The New England lead was 13-3 at the break.
After an exchange of punts and with the skies opening up scattering fans in the stands, Smith led New York on a nine play, 58-yard drive, capped by a three yard run from RB Bilal Powell to pull the Jets within 13-10. With the rain adding to their troubles, the Patriots offense simply could not move the ball...as Brady's attempted connections with Dobson and Thompkins were bobbled or dropped. In spite of finding Julian Edelman often, Brady simply couldn't lean on him every time.
As the 4th quarter began, Smith drove the Jets to the NE 27, where a tipped pass was picked off by Aqib Talib at the 11 to end the threat. Yet again, the offense sputtered and could not sustain the drive, giving NY the ball at their 22 with just over eight minutes remaining. Maybe it was the rain, or the inexperience of the QB...or perhaps the play of the Patriots defense...and perhaps it was a little of each. But the Jets failed to move the ball, giving the Pats another chance to seize control with 7:27 left.
They could not. New York's defense was very much equal to the task, slowing the Patriots running game and making life in general difficult for Brady's inexperienced receivers.
For the Patriots, their defense played solidly throughout...and forced the Jets into mistakes. The biggest came with 4:23 remaining as Alfonzo Dennard intercepted Smith, the 3rd NY turnover on the night, ending another Jets threat near midfield. Brady managed to hook up with Edelman on a big 3rd and five conversion for a first down, with the offense struggling to get first downs all night (just 4 of 18 on 3rd down). They couldn't keep it going to run out the clock, or score, giving the ball to New York one more time.
72 yards away, with 56 seconds remaining. On second down Smith's pass was picked off by Talib, with Talib roughed up by Nick Mangold as he headed out of bounds into the Patriots bench. A mini-scrum ensued, with Jets OL Willie Colon and D'Brickashaw Ferguson ejected. Mercifully, with a potential melee averted, the rains stopped. The Patriots ran out the clock.
So the rivalry is still very much in place. But the Patriots offense clearly needs a few more weapons.
Post Game Notes
Julian Edelman had 13 receptions for 78 yards, setting a new career high for most catches in a game...the Patriots have now forced a turnover in 29 straight games dating back to 2011, and including all 16 regular season games of 2012 and now the first two games of 2013 after CB Aqib Talib forced a fumble that was recovered by DB Devin McCourty in the first quarter...the team is off to a 2-0 start for the 12th time in team history and the seventh time under head coach Bill Belichick...New England has 12 straight wins over AFC East division opponents...with the win, the Patriots are now 11-1 all-time in home openers at Gillette Stadium. New England is now 30-24 overall in home openers...Brady's 19-for-39 passing performance was the first time since 2009 he failed to connect on at least 50% of his pass attempts in a game...the Patriots will next face Tampa Bay in Foxboro on Sunday, Sept. 22nd...