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Five keys redux: Patriots at Jets

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  November 16, 2011 01:01 AM

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Put to bed the Jets game review for today's paper, and wanted to share a few things notes before we review the five keys.

My top five players from the game:

  1. Andre Carter
  2. Rob Gronkowski
  3. Rob Ninkovich
  4. Kyle Arrington
  5. Mark Anderson
Off their games:
  1. Logan Mankins
  2. Dan Connolly
  3. Shaun Ellis
  4. Jerod Mayo
  5. Ryan Wendell

Onto the five keys redux:

1. Sell out against the run

What we said: “The Patriots need to stop the run, put the game in Sanchez’s hands and be sure in their play-action reads."

Verdict: CHECK

The Patriots definitely went in with the mentality to stop the run – safety James Ihedigbo was in the box most of the game – but the Jets actually had success running the ball (4.4 average on 25 attempts). The Jets, as usual, just lacked the patience to stick with it.

2. Get physical

What we said: “Make Sanchez fit the ball in tight spots. Expect a lot of two deep safeties and man under from the Patriots."

Verdict: NO CHECK.

They got physical with TE Dustin Keller and RB LaDainian Tomlinson, but the Patriots switched up their coverages and played mostly zone. The drops by the linebackers since they switched from a 4-3 under defense to a 4-3 over with 3-4 looks have been much, much better. They’ll need to continue to improve there.

3. Protect Brady

What we said: “He’s going to need time to sort out the coverages and the pressures, and the Patriots need to give him that time."

Verdict: CHECK PLUS.

This was one of the Patriots’ best protection games of the season: zero sacks, seven hurries and two knockdowns for nine total quarterback pressures (the safety is officially a knockdown). Brady actually had time to be a little bit better, but he didn’t get locked in until the final 22-plus minutes.

4. Throw often to Gronkowski and Hernandez

What we said: “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. …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"

Verdict: CHECK PLUS.

Hernandez wasn’t much of a factor, but Rob Gronkowski was. And Brady threw it to him even if he was covered (if that’s what you call what Eric Smith was doing).

5. Play even on special teams

What we said: “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."

Verdict: CHECK.

The muffed punt by Joe McKnight – a rare error in judgment by Jets special teams coach Mike Westoff – swung this faceoff to the Patriots. They did give up on kickoff return, but Zoltan Mesko won the punting battle, and Stephen Gostkowski was great in all phases.

THE PICK

What we said: “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.”

Pre-game pick: Jets 20, Patriots 17

Actual score: Patriots 37, Jets 16

Verdict: WRONG.

Well, it happened with a muffed punt and two interceptions. The big thing that I didn’t count on – even though I wondered about it after the first Jets game – was that Rex Ryan ran out of tricks to throw at Brady. For the first time since Ryan arrived in ’09, there were no new wrinkles. It took Brady until midway through the third quarter to really get zeroed in, but once he figures the defense out, they’re dead.

I erred in thinking the Jets could play perfect, which is what they have to do to beat Brady and the Patriots. Really good quarterbacks with weapons – of which there are only a few teams that are capable of that (fewer in the AFC) -- don’t have to play perfectly to beat the Patriots if they affect Brady. Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning did not play perfect against the Patriots. Sanchez didn’t come close to their level, thanks to the Patriots’ pass rush.

PS: Look for my full game review and positional ratings to be posted later today on boston.com.

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

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