Though a Picaso it certainly wasn't, it's a win. One week from Sunday, the Pats face the toothless Bucs in Foxborough. But thereafter, the preliminaries are over, and the 2013 NFL season begins in earnest for our "Boys in Blue", two weeks from this Sunday, in Atlanta. They may have to take on the high scoring Falcons without Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola (who now is reportedly going to miss the next six (6) weeks), and a questionable Gronk. Better get it together, Boys!
Here are my grades:
I. OFFENSE: After a very good start, it was pretty much downhill. The "O" squandered several early opportunities to break the game open. This allowed the awful Jets to "hang around", and nearly pull off the upset.
1.) QB: Our main man looked confident and on his game on the Pats' initial drive, as he lead his team 81 yards on six plays, for a quick 7-0 lead. Put, a couple of poorly thrown passes, the lack of a dependable ground game, several WR drops, and several mistakes in running routes seem to wear on him. After thae aforementioned scoring drive, the once vaunted Patriots offense was held to just 13 first downs, and 151 total yards, for the remainder of the game. On the TD drive, Brady completed 3 of 4 passes for 54 yards, and a TD. For the remainder of the game, he completed just 16 passes in 35 attempts for 131 yards, and no TDs. His offense ran just 64 plays, and averaged a miniscule 3.6 yards per play...and just 4.7 yards per pass play. Brady and his "O" were a putrid 4 for 18 on third down conversions. Needless to say, that's not getting it done, folks. True, there were those poor routes being run, those drops, and having to play in a pouring rain storm in the 2nd half. But folks, we're talking about Tom Brady, here...not Mark Sanchez, Curtis Painter, or Geno Smith. I saw a lot of yelling by Tom, both on the field and on the sidelines...but didn't see much leadership: GRADE: "C-";
2.) RBs: No fumbles from Stevan Ridley this week. But, not much production, either. Ridley had a pathetic 40 yards on 16 carries...an average of 2.5 yards per run. LeGarrette Blount wasn't any better, gaining just 11 yards on 4 carries. Neither player contributed anything in the passing game: GRADE: "D";
3.) OL: No, the RBs didn't play very well. But, it's hard to gain yards as a runner when you're constantly being hit behind the line of scrimmage. The middle of the OL had particular trouble with Jets' rookie DT Sheldon Richardson, who looked like a younger version of Vince Wilfolk. With the current injury problems that the Patriots are dealing with at WR and TE, they must have greater production from their running game. But, the "Big Uglies" were just ugly tonight in this department, as they were pushed around for most of the evening. That said, the OL did pass protect pretty well, generally giving Brady ample time to throw: GRADE "C-";
4.) WRs and TEs: The available Pats' TEs were no factor in the passing game, and contributed little in run blocking. As for the WRs, Julian Edelman led the way, as expected, with 13 catches for 78 yards. But, Edelman ran a wrong route in the red zone during the second quarter, which led to the Pats settling for a FG, instead of scoring a TD. Though rookie WR Aaron Dobson had terrible back to back 2nd quarter drops (one of which might have been an 84 yard TD pass), he was able to get separation from Jets' DBs. He finished with 3 catches for 56 yards, including a 39 yard TD pass on a blown coverage, for the Pats' only TD of the game. Kembrell Thompkins was still, by and large, missing in action. I don't know why BB chose not to give rrokie Josh Boyce some reps: GRADE: "D+";
II. DEFENSE: Was oppportunistic, forcing four (4) turnovers...three interceptions, and one fumble recovery. Because of their inept offense, they were on the field for 34 of the games' 60 minutes...but held the fort;
1.) DL: Big game for DE Chandler Jones, who finished with 5 (five) tackles, three (3) of which were solos, and had three (3) QB hits, including two (2) sacks. Bookend DE Rob Ninkovich chipped in with six (6) tackles, four (4) of which were solos, had two (2) tackles for loss (TFLs), and forced a fumble. By and large, the DL was able to put some pressure rookie QB Geno Smith for the majority of the game. DTs Vince Wilfolk and Tommy Kelly generally dominated the middle of the line, as the Jets were rarely able to get anything appreciable from their running game: GRADE: "A-";
2.) LBs: Strong performance from second year LB Dont'a Hightower, who tied for the team lead tonight in tackles with eight (8), including four (4) solos, a TFL, and a QB hit. Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes backed up some good DL play by shutting down the run. But, they did have some trouble in pass coverage, again: GRADE: "B+";
3.) DBs: For the game, Geno Smith completed just 15 of 35 passes for 214 yards, and three (3) interceptions. Safety Steve Gregory was active against the run, in matching D. Hightower's eight (8) tackles. Big game from CB Aqib Talib, who forced a fumble, and recorded two picks...including the one that snuffed out the final Jets' drive. Though the secondary gave up four big pass plays (37 and 33 yards to Stephen Hill, 34 yards to Clyde Gates, and 27 yards to Santonio Holmes), none of those figured in their scores. In fact, Hill's 33 yard reception was the first quarter play in which he was hit by Talib and fumbled, at the Patriots' 48 yard line. His fumble was scooped up and returned 44 yards by Devin McCourty, giving Brady and his Boys a first and goal, from the NY 8 yard line. Unfortunately, the Pats had to settle for a FG, and a 10-0 lead...instead of a 14-0 bulge: GRADE: "B".
III. SPECIAL TEAMS: After a great start in Buffalo, "The Ghost" returned to his haunting ways by badly shanking a 43 yard FG on the final play of the first half, that would have given his team momentum, and a 16-3 halftime lead. But, his kickoffs were deep once again, as he had none returned. Punter Ryan Allen unfortunately had a very busy night...punting 11 times, for nearly a 47 yard per punt average. Only two of his punts were returned, for a combined total of just seven (7) yards. Good night for punt returner Julian Edelman, who finished with six (6) returns for a combined total of 72 yards of added field position: GRADE: "B".
IV. COACHING: Tough to get ready for a game on a short week. Still, the offense must be fixed...and fixed soon. Tom Brady clearly is not on the same page with his depleted receiving corp. The patience of Brady and the coaching staff is being strained. Yet, in time, it will get better. More cool veteran leadership and less screaming might be the better way for Brady to handle his young, inexperienced WRs. Perhaps an infusion of Gronk is forthcoming, soon? With much tougher teams on the horizon, the Pats can ill afford the redzone failures they experienced tonight...and the run blocking must improve. The performance of the "D" over the past two games has been encouraging. But, the "D" cannot be left on the field for 34 minutes against a team like Atlanta. I really can't complain about the coaching, as BB, as usual, seems to be orchestrating things pretty well. What is lacking is not the play calling, or defensive schemes, but crisp execution by the players: GRADE: "B".
V. PLAY OF THE GAME: With 10:34 to play in the second quarter, the Jets, trailing 7-0, were on the march. Geno Smith completed a 33 yard pass to WR Stephen Hill, seemingly giving the Goblins the ball on the Patriots' 48 yard line. But, an Aqib Talib hit forced a fumble that Devin McCourty scooped up, and ran back 44 yards, to the Jets' 8 yard line. Though the Pats would ultimately have to settle for a FG, that play could have been at least a six (6) point swing.
VI. PLAYER OF HE GAME: CB Aqib Talib...with two picks and the above mentioned forced fumble.
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=330912017.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.
See y'all in the morning. Goodnight!