Patriots

5 takeaways from the Patriots’ dramatic win over the Jets

A dull defensive battle was only broken up at the very end by an electrifying punt return from Marcus Jones.

Marcus Jones Patriots
Marcus Jones runs past Jets punter Braden Mann on his way to scoring the winning touchdown for the Patriots. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

The Patriots defeated the Jets 10-3 on Sunday thanks to a dramatic punt return touchdown from New England rookie Marcus Jones with only five seconds remaining.

Beyond the punt return, Sunday’s game was an inspiring display from Bill Belichick’s defense, which limited the Jets to just 2.1 yards per play throughout the low-scoring clash of AFC East rivals. Still, a lack of production from the Patriots’ offense continues to be a serious point of concern.

Here are a few takeaways as New England improved to 6-4 on the season:

The Patriots defense was excellent.

Jets quarterback Zack Wilson finished the game with just nine completions. His team finished with 10 punts. That statistical comparison alone helps explain the utter ineffectiveness of New York’s offense.

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Wilson escaped without throwing an interception — compared with the three he threw in the teams’ first matchup in October — but only because Patriots defenders dropped multiple passes that could’ve resulted in turnovers.

Matthew Judon once again spearheaded the Patriots’ pass rush, notching 1.5 sacks (bringing his season total to 13.5).

Yet it was a collective dominance from New England’s defense that highlighted the win. In the second half, the Jets went three-and-out on five straight drives, and punted on each of the team’s possessions in the third and fourth quarters aside from the game’s final play.

Mac Jones continues to search for a breakout game.

For the second straight game, Mac Jones was able to avoid any turnovers, completing 23 of 27 passes for 246 yards.

However, the New England offensive output was far from anything that could reasonably be described as quality. Though blame can certainly fall on more than simply the quarterback, Jones was unable to will the Patriots’ offense to a touchdown.

Yet again, the wide receiver contributions were minuscule. Jakobi Meyers led the wide receiver group with just four catches for 52 yards. It was another case of the Patriots finding a way to win despite not getting anything close to the best of what the team’s second-year quarterback has to offer. Jones and the passing game remain firmly in the “work in progress” camp for another week.

The offensive line struggled amid injuries.

An early clue of the Patriots’ problems on the offensive line came during pregame on Sunday. Trent Brown, the team’s mainstay at left tackle, was relegated to the second unit as Isaiah Wynn and Yodny Cajuste were used as the starting offensive tackles.

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Yet Jones was sacked on the Patriots’ first offensive play from scrimmage, and the Jets were able to get to the New England quarterback five more times throughout the day.

Starting center David Andrews and Wynn were both ruled out at halftime due to injuries suffered in the first half. Brown, inserted back into the game at his usual position with Wynn’s exit, looked off the pace and surrendered a pair of sacks.

On the ground, the Patriots were able to grind out a combined 99 yards on 26 carries (3.8 yards per carry). For the Patriots to make a stronger push down the remainder of the regular season, the offensive line needs to find some level of consistency. That might prove difficult, especially given the injuries.

Andrews, a team captain, could potentially miss the remainder of the season due to a thigh injury, according to a postgame report from Ian Rapoport.

Penalties and mistakes

Patriots kicker Nick Folk had an uncharacteristically difficult day on Sunday, missing two field goals of 43 and 44 yards.

Granted, the wind played a role, as both misses came in the open north end of the stadium.

But Folk was also placed in tougher situations by penalties and poor play leading to his kicks. Prior to the first miss, the Patriots were at one point at the Jets’ seven-yard line, but a Cajuste holding penalty and a Jets sack on 3rd and 12 pushed the ball all the way back to the 26-yard line.

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Leading up to Folk’s second miss — after the Patriots’ opening drive of the second half — New England turned a 1st and 10 at the Jets’ 22-yard line into a 4th and 13 at the 25 due to another penalty and a sack on Jones.

In total, the Patriots finished with eight penalties for 55 yards, a figure that Belichick will be eager to address.

Marcus Jones saved the day.

In the end, it was a seemingly miraculous punt return from Jones — a 2022 third-round pick — that made the difference for the Patriots.

Even Jones noted his surprise at the Jets decided to not simply punt the ball out of bounds considering the circumstances. Yet it was far from a straightforward return for Jones, who wove his way through Jets tacklers on his way to the winning score.

The former Paul Hornung Award winner — given to college football’s most versatile player — proved his value beyond his usual defensive back responsibilities. And given how tight the AFC East standings are, Jones’ clutch touchdown could have major implications before the season is over.

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