Here are five takeaways from the Patriots’ 41-3 lump-of-coal-leaving evisceration of the Jets, Bill Belichick’s 200th regular-season win and another step toward securing home-field advantage in the AFC:
The Jets Didn’t Want To Be There
With the Patriots installed as 16.5-point favorites leading up to Saturday’s game, Jets receiver Brandon Marshall was asked this week if he considered that spread a sign of disrespect. “No,” he said, according to the New York Post — and then his team went out and delivered an effort in line with that level of self-esteem.
The Jets looked every bit like a 4-10 team being forced to play a road game on Christmas Eve. Before the Patriots were forced to punt for the first time, the Jets had punted twice, thrown two interceptions, fumbled once, missed a field goal, and amassed just 99 yards of offense over eight possessions. It’s one thing to struggle because you’re working through the growing pains of evaluating a young quarterback; but it’s another thing entirely to fail in every facet.
Even if Bryce Petty had been effective, or if Ryan Fitzpatrick had been good after coming on in relief, the rest of the roster certainly didn’t offer any indication it was capable of keeping up with Brady and the Patriots. It quickly became apparent that 16.5 points was actually a generous spread. And that can’t be a good thing for the job security of New York coach Todd Bowles.
Floyd Makes His Debut
Michael Floyd took the field for the first time as a Patriot, targeted on a deep go-route down the left sideline on one of his two first-half snaps. (He caught it, but could only get one foot down before being shoved out of bounds.)
He got some more playing time once New England stretched its lead to 34-0, and Jimmy Garoppolo tried to connect with him on a throw across the back of the end zone. It was likely telling that while the game was in the balance Floyd was basically asked to just run in a straight line and look for the ball, and Brady said afterward that Saturday’s introduction was more or less about getting the receiver some experience in the Pats’ huddle in case injury presses him into service. He’s still very much in the learning phase of this transition. That the Pats took a significant step forward with his immersion on the same week footage revealed the extent of his intoxication during a recent DUI arrest shows that the team still intends to see how Floyd can help them, in spite of the incident that got him released in Arizona.
The Butler Does It
Malcolm Butler will take a day like this one anytime, undoubtedly. But the part of him that would like to have been named to the Pro Bowl has to be wishing his production against the Jets could’ve come prior to Saturday.
Butler was snubbed from the AFC’s All-Star team this past week, passed over for players with bigger reputations or better numbers. To that point, Butler had just two interceptions this season – but Saturdayhe added two more picks and recovered a fumble, padding his own stats against the hapless Jets and helping bring the Pats to 21 takeaways for the season. New England struggled in that area for a chunk in the middle of the year, but now rates in the middle of the pack league-wide.
A dozen of that total have come in the past five contests, with Butler contributing to five of those in that span – and so, come the end of the year, it appears the turnovers numbers are going to wind up looking pretty good for both the Patriots and their lead cornerback. Regardless of what the Pro Bowl voting might say.
While Brady’s day was done by the end of the third quarter, Bill Belichick left his most of his starting defense on the field for the duration. If the motivation was to keep the Jets from reaching the end zone, it worked — and the Pats have now gone nine full quarters since allowing their last touchdown. That came against the Ravens, whose touchdowns that Monday night came on drives of 3 and 22 yards.
It marked the third time New England has kept an opponent from scoring a TD this season, and the sixth time in 15 games that the Patriots have yielded no more than one trip to pay dirt. They’ve now allowed 236 points on the season, an average of 15.7 per tilt. That gives them an excellent chance of finishing the regular season as the NFL’s best scoring defense this season. If they can somehow shut out the Dolphins next week this will become the best scoring defense of the Belichick Era.
That’s unlikely, but aside from the 2006 edition (237 points) and 2003 version (238), no Patriots team since Belichick took over in 2000 has yielded fewer than 260 points. The 2014 team that won a Super Bowl gave up 313 points, and that matches New England’s lowest total since 2009. It hasn’t always been pretty, and they do still surrender chunks of yards. But if the objective is to bend without breaking, the stats say this group is more unbreakable than any the Patriots have had in a while.
The best Patriots teams of this era have thrived through the month of December — and that’s a positive harbinger for this year’s outfit. Having won six straight overall, the Pats went 4-0 in December to go unbeaten in the final month for the first time since 2011, and they did so in dominant fashion.
With an obliteration of the Jets that saw New York go 1-for-11 on third down, New England outscored its opponents by an aggregate of 113-39 this month, marking the first time since 2010 it has finished the calendar’s final month with a point differential as high as plus-76. The 39 points allowed are the fewest in any December since 2005, and the Ravens (at 348) were the only team to amass more than 309 yards of offense against the Patriots.
Baltimore also posted two short touchdown drives after special teams turnovers, but other than that the only TD the Pats gave up in December was scored by the Rams in what was at the time a 26-3 differential with 75 seconds to play. The level of competition can certainly be questioned, and the Jets did nothing to downplay that aspect of doubt. But it’s clear the Patriots peaking as the postseason approaches.