These Patriots sure like to make things difficult

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 15:   Tight end Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots scores a touchdown against the New York Jets during the third quarter of their game at MetLife Stadium on October 15, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Tight end Rob Gronkowski scores a touchdown against the New York Jets during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. –Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

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24 thoughts on the Patriots’ win over the Jets …

1. I suppose you just take the W and get on to preparing for the Super Bowl LI rematch with the Falcons, right? The Patriots rallied from a 14-0 second-quarter deficit, halted the Jets on a last-wheeze attempt at a game-tying drive, and headed back to Foxborough with a 24-17 win and a 4-2 record. Given how difficult it has been to beat the Jets on the road in recent years, how poorly the Patriots began this game, and how difficult it has been to find their mojo this season, it’s a relatively welcome outcome. A win is a win.

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2. There are good things to take away. Rob Gronkowski (six catches, 83 yards, two touchdowns) showed the Jets’ freshman defensive backs what a varsity tight end looks like. Brandin Cooks had 93 receiving yards and another highlight-reel toe-tapper along the sideline. Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty each had an interception.

3. But this team sure likes to challenge itself with an added degree of difficulty. Last week, the Buccaneers nearly marched for a winning drive in New England’s 19-14 win. Sunday, the Jets didn’t necessarily get close to a tying score, but they did hit on a 32-yard pass on fourth down to reach the New England 44 in the final seconds before Josh McCown started doing Josh McCown things and the Patriots held on.

4. This Patriots team is 4-2, but they’re as enigmatic as any we’ve seen around here since, oh, probably 2009. They’re better than that mentally soft team, I have no doubt. But it would be cool if they started proving it one of these weeks. Does anyone really have a clue what to expect against the Falcons next week?

5. The Patriots flipped the switch on this one in the second quarter after spotting the Jets a 14-0 lead. I did love Brady going right back to Gronkowski for the tying touchdown (14-14 in the second quarter) on the play after a pass had sailed through his hands. Gronk isn’t going to miss two in a row.

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6. Gronk also caught the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, rumbling 33 yards through the Jets’ defensive backfield for a 21-14 lead. Trying to tackle Gronk when he has a head of steam is like trying to tackle a horse that has bolted out of the barn and likes how freedom feels. This Patriots era has been beyond fulfilling, of course. But it’s at its pinnacle when Gronk is out there doing Gronk things.

7. Brady had a half-dozen brilliant throws at a minimum in this one, but the best might have been a third-and-3 lob to James White for 16 yards to convert a first down late in the third quarter. It was much prettier and more effective than the eephus pitch Bill Lee thought he was throwing to Tony Perez all those years ago.

8. Anyone want to explain the inexplicable to me? Austin Sefarian-Jenkins appeared to have a touchdown catch that would have pulled the Jets to within 3 points (24-21) midway through the fourth quarter. It was called a touchdown on the field, despite the protests of Patriots defensive backs Malcolm Butler and Patrick Chung.

But after it went to replay, it was determined that Sefarian-Jenkins fumbled, regained possession, then lost the ball through the end zone. Ruling: Touchback. I didn’t see him conclusively fumble once, let alone lose the ball through the end zone.

“It’s one of the strangest decisions on a call like that I’ve ever seen,’’ said Dan Fouts on the CBS broadcast.

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—Al Bello/Getty Images

9. Jets end Kony Ealy batted down two Brady passes in the final moments of the first half. He also drilled him on a throw to Chris Hogan in the third quarter that looked like it rattled the quarterback. Brady appeared to bark at Nate Solder, who was toasted by Ealy on the play, while he was still prone on the turf.

10. By all accounts Ealy has fit in well with the Jets after the Patriots released him in August. I’d love to hear more details on what the Patriots saw in him in the first place, and then what they saw that convinced them their initial belief in him was misguided.

11. Stephon Gilmore, who has received the brunt of the criticism for the defensive backfield’s struggles through the first four games, missed the game with a concussion even though he wasn’t on the injury report all week. Unusual, but I’ll leave the speculation up to those desperate to convince you they know something.

12. If you could have any player back from last year’s Super Bowl-winning defense, who would it be? I think I’d go with Logan Ryan, but I’ll hear you on Rob Ninkovich (if only for the stability). And they could probably use a Chris Long or two as well.

13. When Jeremy Kerley put the Jets up 14-0 with just under 13 minutes left in the second quarter, Fouts opined that they were taking advantage of the Patriots’ injury-depleted secondary. It’s true that Gilmore and Eric Rowe were absent, but it should have been noted that Malcolm Butler – who was beaten for Kerley’s 31-yard catch and was burned on the third-and-10 on the Jets’ first possession – was the holdover wearing the bull’s-eye.

14. Butler played better as the game went on. By the end of the first half, he had three passes defensed and an interception. It was bewildering why McCown didn’t take more shots at the cornerbacks filling in for Gilmore, Jonathan Baldemosi and Jonathan Jones.

15. The Patriots’ tying touchdown (14-14) was set up by that Butler interception at the New England 49 with 39 seconds left in the first half. If his at-close-range interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX was the toughest play he’ll ever make, this one might have been the easiest. He ran a better route than intended receiver Robby Anderson did.

16. After the Jets’ second scoring drive, McCown had a stat line that you’d expect Brady to have a little more than a quarter into the game: 11 of 15, 142 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions. And after the Patriots’ ensuing stalled drive, Brady had a line you’d expect from any McCown brother: 5 of 10, 33 yards. McCown finished with 354 passing yards, while Brady had just 257.

17. How long has McCown been around? He was drafted in the third round by the Cardinals in 2002, the same year David Carr was the No. 1 overall pick by Houston and the Lions took Joey Harrington third.

18. McCown throws fade patterns like his receiver has a seat in the third row.

19. The Patriots used Dion Lewis – who is much better between the tackles than his size and wiggle would suggest – as more of a conventional feature back in this game. It’s about time. Lewis had eight carries in the first half – twice as many as Mike Gillislee – and scored the first New England touchdown on a tough 1-yard run. Lewis had back-to-back 9-yard runs on the drive.

20. Gillislee’s fumble indirectly led to the Jets’ second touchdown and a 14-0 lead, but it’s hard to blame him for it – the ball was poked away from behind by linebacker Demario Davis. It was just the second fumble of Gillislee’s career. Of course, it may have been easier for Belichick to blame him – he didn’t get another touch until there were less than 4 minutes left in the third quarter.

21. The Patriots’ first scoring drive was aided by a 24-yard pass interference penalty on Jets safety Jamal Adams while attempting to cover Gronkowski. Looked like most of the contact was initiated by Gronk – he even got a mitt to Adams’s face – but he’s been flagged unjustly more often than he’s gotten away with stuff through the years. He’s probably due a few breaks on pass interference calls.

22. That scoring drive was nearly aborted when Buster Skrine jumped in front of Gronkowski and got both hands on Brady’s throw. But he couldn’t hold on, which is probably a clue as to why his career path led him to becoming a defensive back rather than a wide receiver. Skrine did hold on to one late in the first half when he hauled in a Brady deep ball intended for Phillip Dorsett.

—Seth Wenig/AP

23. Cooks still has his inconsistent moments, but he has to be the most graceful Patriots receiver in a decade, especially when it comes to getting both feet inbounds while making a ridiculous catch along the sidelines. His Willie Mays-like 42-yard grab of a long fly ball down the left sidelines, which set up the Patriots’ tying score just before the half, was as good as it gets.

24. I’ve never heard of Jets receiver ArDarius Stewart until Sunday. Great name, but seems like a knucklehead as a player. He ran out of the end zone on a kick return after the Patriots’ go-ahead touchdown, but made it to just the 14 yard line before Brandon King buried him. He got up and jawed at a teammate, couldn’t catch McCown’s throw on the ensuing play, then limped to the sideline.