Even missing their monster tight end, when the Patriots are firing on all cylinders—offense, defense, special teams—they can’t be stopped.
At the end of the game against the Jets, the Patriots had many things to be thankful for.
The Jets could only be thankful that the game was over.
Like almost every recent Patriots game, this one started slowly. The Jets won the toss and elected to kick off to the Patriots—most likely for no other reason than old Rex Ryan knows that the Patriots would rather have it the other way.
On the first play from scrimmage, Muhammad Wilkerson came right up the middle and latched onto Tom Brady. Grounding call against the suddenly surprised QB. Not an auspicious beginning.
Then Steve Gregory, the New York hometown boy, intercepted a Mark Sanchez pass, and things looked a little better for the Pats. But Stephen Gostkowski missed a routine field goal.
It’s not clear which way this game was going.
Unbeknownst to fans at the moment, this is the turning point of the night. Apparently, Gostkowski had discovered the football that was laden with grease. This glistening pigskin would slip off the foot and pop into the air upon contact. The Jets would play with this football all night.
Good work, Mr. Gostkowski.
After this botched field goal, the evening was filled with many highs and very few lows for the Pats. Take, in particular, the vaudeville show that was the Jets' second quarter.
In fifty-two seconds, the Patriots produced 21 points on three glorious plays, thanks to an inept Jets defense. (How nice to put that adjective in front of an opponent's defense.)
The aggression of the Patriots—and the wonderfully slippery spheroid that the Jets used all night—garnered five turnovers.
The first play was an innocent halfback pass into the left flat. Nice call, usually good for 5-7 yards, maybe a first down if all goes well.
If you had told Josh McDaniel that this would turn into an 83-yard Shane Vereen TD, he would have said, “No way.”
But most of the Jets were chasing Patriots far away from the play, and the few who thought about staying left were sealed off effectively by the Pats.
The second play was a botched event turned into a scene from the Keystone Cops. Sanchez turned to hand the ball off, but nobody was there. He had no choice but to hold on and try to get a few yards.
But Vince Wilfork—bless all 300-plus pounds of him—had other ideas. He shoved Brandon Moore quickly and surely backward into Sanchez’s path so that the QB collided with the back of a green uniform. Out popped the slippery pigskin—into the hands of Steve Gregory, who took it 32 yards for another touchdown.
The third play occurred on the ensuing kickoff. Joe McKnight, the Jets kick returner, decided to bring it out from five yards in the end zone. A bad decision in retrospect, as the ball made another trip into air, courtesy of a swat by Devin McCourty. Julian Edelman, who just happened to be in the area, said, “Look what I found,” and took it 22 yards for another touchdown.
Lots of other good things happened.
Like the Patriots stopping the Jets twice on fourth-and-short, one of them being a great goal-line stand.
Like Kyle Arrington, playing close to his alma mater Hofstra, making several good plays, looking like the cornerback we once thought he could be.
And let’s hear it for Stevan Ridley coming up just three yards short of the century mark, in what seemed like an endless series of nine-yard bursts.
And, given our high level of expectation, it’s almost easy to forget Tom Terrific. Looking unusually shifty in the backfield, he merely threw for 323 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Thanksgiving turns out great when the Pats create five turnovers, go 11-for-15 on third down and put the once-feared Jets in the rearview mirror for another year.
And Gronk, when he's healthy again, might find a place in the lineup.
But for now, it’s tasty turkey sandwiches and leftover stuffing, and on to Miami to feast on some Dolphin.