Receivers (4 out of 5)
Fells looked like a very acceptable Gronkowski substitute in the run game with three standout blocks. He also showed he can continue the staple play-action post pass Brady loves to feed Gronkowski when Fells hauled in a 28-yard reception. Fells wasn’t flawless in the run game, but he’ll get sharper the more he plays. Why he wasn’t playing instead of Michael Hoomanawanui is a mystery; Fells is twice the player. Somebody got into the ear of Brandon Lloyd about his blatant dislike of contact because suddenly he was looking to gain yards after his three catches. Hernandez may have played 81 percent of the snaps, but he’s nowhere close to his normal self. The cut he made on his 28-yard catch was decent, but not his usual on-a-dime version. Hernandez also got no lift off the ground on the incompletion down the sideline from Brady (which should have been thrown inside). No drop for Welker at the end of the first quarter. He slipped coming out of his break, which is understandable giving the foot issues he’s playing through. As opposed to some of Josh McDaniels’s other deception play calls, really like the one on which, unfortunately, Julian Edelman got hurt because it was quick hitting. Instead of running a fake handoff to the running back first (takes too long against an NFL defense), Brady tossed it directly to Edelman. Great modification.
Offensive line (Rating: 4 out of 5)
Felt tough to gauge how good this group performed because we’re not sure how the score changed the approach for both the Patriots and Jets, but it felt uneven. The line was either really good, or suffered a few minor breakdowns here and there. Nothing drastic, mostly how they finished plays. The Patriots allowed 12 quarterback pressures against Brady, which means he was pressured on 41.4 percent of his dropbacks — and the Jets didn’t even get that creative. The Patriots had 20.5 percent of their runs stuffed for 1 yard or less — about average — but a few were on the running backs for not being decisive. Right guard Dan Connolly (half stuff) had by far his best game of the season and was nearly flawless. Everyone else was about the same in the good category: Nate Solder (hurry, 1.5 stuffs), Wendell (hurry, 1.5 knockdowns, half stuff), Cannon (two hurries, 1.5 knockdowns, half stuff), and Donald Thomas (sack, knockdown, 2.5 stuffs). All the linemen had multiple standout blocks, especially Thomas, who had the uneviable task of drawing Wilkerson most of the game.
Defensive line (Rating: 4 out of 5)
Vince Wilfork was a monster in the middle. There was a nice subtle play by Jermaine Cunningham to fight off the block of tight end Jeff Cumberland to stop Jeremy Kerley just shy of a first down to start the second half. If the Jets had any dreams of a comeback, they ended there. Cunningham is slowly becoming a more reliable player. A good comeback game for Kyle Love, who got blown out of a gap early but recovered nicely. Very quiet game from Rob Ninkovich, but that probably had to do with the score. It’s becoming apparent the Patriots can’t afford any more injuries on the line. The backups continue to struggle. The Patriots, who blitzed Mark Sanchez on 20.8 percent of his dropbacks (most since the ’11 playoff game), delivered pressure on Sanchez a season-low 15.4 percent of his passes. That was likely because of the score.
Linebackers (Rating: 3.5 out of 5)
Another standout game from Jerod Mayo with a sack, solo run stuff, two shared stuffs, and two other standout plays against the run. He’s really setting up and getting off blocks well. Spikes had one of his boom-or-bust games with several good plays, and a handful of subpar plays, including two penalties. Spikes trucked center Nick Mangold on the first play of the Jets’ second series and made the tackle. Then on the next play, a 15-yard run by Shonn Greene, he was a little too aggressive and left the middle open. Looked like Spikes blew a coverage on Bilal Powell’s 14-yard catch early in the second quarter. Everyone was playing man coverage except him. Hightower had a sack, but his play continues to be a concern, especially with his continued poor technique against tight ends. He allowed Cumberland, not a great athlete, to get an easy release and then was slow to react. Hightower’s focus seems to wane during games.
Secondary (Rating: 4 out of 5)
The big plays out of this group definitely outweighed some occasionally spotty play. Steve Gregory had a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and a terrific interception. Alfonzo Dennard had poor technique on the catch by Chaz Schilens but more than made up for it by forcing a fumble after the reception. Arrington had his second straight strong game with two pass breakups. Aqib Talib, who wasn’t tested much, was improved in his second outing. Arrington and Talib both set up the goal-line stand with pass breakups in the red zone. Chung played 31 percent of the snaps and was solid. There were six missed tackles in this group (two from Gregory), which is a little high. Don’t expect to see Wilson playing much safety except in emergency or blowout situations. He was not good with a big missed tackle after he failed to react quickly on Kerley’s 36-yard completion late. Then Wilson completely lost Keller on the final touchdown. Continued...