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Five keys: Patriots at Jets

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  November 13, 2011 05:28 PM

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Patriots are in danger of losing three consecutive games for the first time since 2002 when they take on the Jets tonight at MetLife Stadium.

The Patriots are scuffling in all three phases, and the Jets have won three-straight games.

What will the Patriots need to do to emerge with a much-needed victory? Here are our five keys to the game:

  1. Sell out against the run: If you can make the Jets one-dimensional and rely on Mark Sanchez, you’re going to have a good shot at winning the game. He’s just not accurate enough to move the ball up and down the field on his own. He needs play-action pass to get enough space to hit his receivers. The Patriots need to stop the run, put the game in Sanchez’s hands and be sure in their play-action reads.
  2. Get physical: Even Sanchez can complete a lot of passes against soft zone coverage. Hope the Patriots worked a lot on jams against receivers in practice this week, because that’s what they’ll have to do against the receivers, tight end Dustin Keller and RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Make Sanchez fit the ball in tight spots. Expect a lot of two deep safeties and man under from the Patriots.
  3. Protect Brady: He’s going to need time to sort out the coverages and the pressures, and the Patriots need to give him that time. One of the underlying causes of the recent offensive struggles has been shoddy offensive line play, both in pass protection and, especially, run blocking. If the Patriots pull it together tonight, they can move the ball.
  4. Throw often to Gronkowski and Hernandez: The Jets are weak at inside linebacker and safety. The Patriots need to flood that part of the defense with both tight ends and put pressure on the safeties, especially. We know the Patriots don’t have a receiver to do that, it has to be the tight ends. And even if they look covered, throw it. Both of those tight ends are great at making the difficult catch, even when defenders are all over them.
  5. Play even on special teams: The Jets are very good in all phases on special teams, and the Patriots can cover, but they can’t return. This could be a low-scoring game, so field position is going to be big, like it was in the Giants’ game. Can’t give away any cheap yardage.

THE PICK

Have a hard time seeing the Patriots losing three-straight games, but I have a hard time seeing where they gain an edge if Brady is tested as he always is by Rex Ryan. The Patriots’ hope is the Jets turn into a turnover machine. Could happen, but I don’t see it.

Jets 20, Patriots 17.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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