Twenty-seven thoughts on the Patriots’ 27-13 win over the Jets on Sunday . . .
1. It wasn’t pretty, and it’s understandable to wonder why the Patriots aren’t scoring more when the league is trending toward Arena League statistics, but a win is a win is a win, especially on the road against the Jets. The Jets are hardly a model franchise, or even a rival at this point, but they have a habit of playing the Patriots tough at home. The Patriots are now 8-3. That’s all that matters against an opponent with a knack for being a nuisance.
2. Consider: The Patriots beat the Jets at MetLife Stadium by 7 last year, by 5 in 2016, lost by 6 in ’15, and won by a point in ’14. In three of those seasons the Patriots went to the Super Bowl. In two of them they won the thing. There are no big conclusions to be drawn from this one, because this is how it usually goes.
3. One thing I’ve kind of taken for granted this season? Julian Edelman has lost nothing from the player he was before his knee injury. He finished with four catches for 84 yards, fighting for every extra yard, foot, and inch that he could, most notably on his go-ahead, 21-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that put the Patriots up, 20-13.
4. Edelman simply wanted to get into the end zone more than the Jets’ defense desired to keep him out.
5. Rob Gronkowski played his first game since Week 8, and while there was some rust — he needed almost as much oxygen as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did at the Garden during Game 5 of the 1984 NBA Finals — he looked for the most part like his dangerous self.
6. Gronk finished with three catches for 56 yards (on seven targets), but he made a fantastic catch for a 34-yard touchdown, the Patriots’ first of the game and his first since Week 1. He was also a noticeable factor in the running game. Good to have the big fella back.
7. The Patriots’ first touchdown drive was aided by a curious decision by the Jets. James White was called for an offensive pass interference penalty after an incomplete pass on third and 2 from the Jets’ 24. Rather than declining the penalty and forcing the Patriots to attempt a 41-yard field goal or go for it on fourth and 2, the Jets accepted the penalty, giving the Patriots third and 12 at the Jets’ 34.
8. On the very next play, Brady found Gronkowski for that 34-yard touchdown catch. It would have been easy to second-guess the Jets’ decision then, if we hadn’t already first-guessed it when they accepted the penalty.
9. It was odd that the Jets gave Brady one more chance to make a big play given that if the Patriots had failed on third down, a 51-yard field goal still would have been within Stephen Gostkowski’s range.
10. The Patriots ran two straight fade patterns to Gronkowski at the end of the first half, and neither had a chance of working. That seems like such a low-percentage throw, even if it is Gronk on the receiving end. The Jets did a decent job of taking away the middle of the field, but I’m not sure why the fade is so prominent in Josh McDaniels’s playbook.
11. Sony Michel had a superb game, finishing with 21 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown, which gave the Patriots a 27-13 lead in the fourth quarter.
12. Michel had 16 carries for 91 yards when he got knocked out of the game in the third quarter after he was folded, if not spindled, on a run in which he was bent over backward by two Jets tacklers.
13. It was a surprise that he returned to the game, and a better surprise that he ran so effectively (five carries, 42 yards) after coming back. He also could have had another 40 yards had a couple of nifty runs not been called by back holding penalties.
14. Really like Michel, but he runs upright into more tacklers than any running back I’ve ever seen. With a little more improvement, he is going to be a Pro Bowl-type of runner.
15. The sneaky crucial play of the game would have been Cordarrelle Patterson’s 2-yard run to convert a fourth and 1 from the Jets’ 13 in the third quarter . . . that is, if the Patriots had finished off the 15-play drive with a touchdown.
16. Instead, after three low-percentage Brady throws, the drive stalled at the 10, and the Patriots had to settle for a Gostkowski 32-yard field goal after a penalty. It felt as if they left a bunch of points on the field in a similar way.
17. The Patriots had an uncharacteristic five penalties through the first 18 minutes and 27 seconds, the most costly being Trent Brown’s holding penalty that cost Michel a 25-yard run. Brown picked up another holding penalty a few minutes later. Brown has been excellent for the most part this season since the 49ers generously sent him to the Patriots, but Sunday wasn’t his finest showing.
18. The Patriots were sloppy by their usual disciplined standards, finishing with a ridiculous 11 penalties for 105 yards. But it also seemed as if referee Shawn Hochuli was trying to break his old man Ed Hochuli’s record for face time in a single broadcast.
19. Promising start, frustrating ending to the Patriots’ first possession. Brady found Edelman for 36 yards on the fourth play from scrimmage — Edelman’s longest gain of the season — but the possession stalled on the next set of downs.
20. The reason it stalled was because Brady was either late to recognize that Gronkowski was open, or late to deliver the football. The result was that Jamal Adams — perhaps the most impressive Jet — arrived the same time as the ball and drilled Gronkowski as the pass fell incomplete.
21. Former Patriots draft pick Darryl Roberts has made a decent career for himself with the Jets. The 2015 seventh-round pick never played for the Patriots — he spent his rookie year on injured reserve and was cut the next September — but he’s emerged enough to start five of the last six games in his third season with the Jets.
22. The Jets scored first, on a nine-play, 65-yard drive that culminated with a McCown-to-Jermaine Kearse 16-yard touchdown pass. The drive was aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty on third and 7 against the Patriots’ Deatrich Wise Jr.
23. I’ll admit to higher hopes for Wise this season. He had just 3.5 sacks coming into the game, though he did add another in the fourth quarter.
24. A sampling of quarterbacks McCown has backed up in his career: Jake Plummer, Jeff Blake, Kurt Warner, Jon Kitna, Jake Delhomme, Jay Cutler, Cody Kessler, Robert Griffin III, and Johnny Manziel.
25. Most overlooked excellent play of the day? Josh Gordon’s 13-yard catch on first down with approximately five minutes left in the second quarter. Brady’s zipped throw was slightly tipped at the line of scrimmage, and Gordon caught the end of the football as it was about to sail past him.
26. Gordon is up there with Terry Glenn and Randy Moss among Patriots receivers who make tough catches look easy because of their knack for pulling in the ball with their hands rather than catching it against their body.
27. Solid game for one of the most underrated Patriots, Kyle Van Noy, who had a tipped pass and a hard hit on McCown on the same Jets drive in the third quarter. Stephon Gilmore (interception), Patrick Chung (hard hits all day), and Trey Flowers (one sack, relentless pass rush in the fourth quarter) all had their moments for a defense that came through when required.