FOXBOROUGH — No Danny Amendola. No Rob Gronkowski. No Shane Vereen. No Zach Sudfeld.
So many absences meant Tom Brady was on a desperate search throughout Thursday night’s game with the Jets for guys to show up, and only one did consistently: Julian Edelman.
Edelman had 13 receptions for 78 yards, none longer than 10 yards, as the Patriots held off the Jets, 13-10, on a sloppy night at Gillette Stadium.
Brady was 19 of 39 for 185 yards, but rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins dropped several passes. Brady was visibly upset throughout most of the first half.
The Patriots had a paltry 232 yards of offense, but were bailed out but the inept Jets, who turned the ball over four times. Rookie quarteback Geno Smith threw three interceptions, including one in the final minute of the game.
The Patriots had more punts (11) than first downs (9). It was their most punts since 2003 and quite a workout for rookie Ryan Allen, who averaged 43 yards, with a long of 60.
The Patriots were beaten in almost every offensive statistical category — except the scoreboard.
As the Patriots took a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter of a plodding game with their AFC East rivals, Edelman was the target on half of Brady’s 24 pass attempts, with seven receptions for 42 yards, a 4-yard gain on a reverse, and also fielded six punts.
Though several skill players missed the game because of injury, it didn’t appear at the outset as if Brady’s options would be so limited. On New England’s first possession, they got their only third-down conversion of the half when Brady hit Dobson for a 39-yard touchdown on third-and-2.
Tackle Nate Solder checked in as eligible on the play, and lined up outside right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, with Dobson lined up near Solder.
No Jet picked up the rookie — who sat out Sunday’s game in Buffalo and was on the field for his first career snap — and Dobson was wide open for the catch and run into the end zone.
New York went three-and-out on its first drive, and New England followed suit. The first play of the visitor’s second possession began with a nice seam pass from Smith to Stephen Hill. Hill had a step on Aqib Talib and made the catch for what would have been a 33-yard gain to midfield.
But as Talib tackled Hill, the cornerback inadvertently kicked the ball out of the receiver’s arms, and Devin McCourty scooped it up, getting all the way to the 8 before being knocked out of bounds.
Given that gift, the offense went just 5 yards, on a second-down run by Stevan Ridley. Brady was on the run on third down, and had to throw the ball away,. The Patriots settled for a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.
While the Patriots were just 1 for 9 on third down in the first half, the Jets weren’t much better, at 3 for 10. But Smith was able to complete a third-and-7 pass to Santonio Holmes on their first scoring drive despite being crushed by Chandler Jones and Michael Buchanan as he let go of the ball.
The 27-yard gain became 42 when Jones was flagged for roughing the passer, putting New York well inside New England territory.
Initially it looked as if Smith converted another third down, this one to Clyde Gates for a touchdown, but the score was overturned on review; Gates did not have possession.
Thus, New York’s first points were a 37-yard field goal from Nick Folk.
A 38-yard sideline completion to Thompkins got the Patriots off to a good start on their third possession of the second quarter and quickly got them in the red zone, but again they didn’t get into the end zone.
A third down attempt for Dobson fell to the turf, though it was unclear whether it had been deflected or Dobson had run the wrong route. Either way, it was another stalled drive, and another Gostkowski field goal.
Thompkins nearly joined Dobson in getting his first NFL touchdown, when he made a pretty, belly-to-the-turf sideline catch in the end zone with fellow rookie Dee Milliner in coverage.
But it was overturned on review, because Thompkins had used the ground to help secure the ball.