Jets vs. Patriots: Takeaways from New England's 13-10 Win over New York
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith led the Jets to 318 yards of offense, while Tom Brady and his cast of rookie receivers, Julian Edelman and a sputtering ground game put up just 232.
Brady's frustration was easy to see, as the Pats had just nine first downs the entire game, went three-and-out a whopping six times and punted 11 times. Ryan Allen tied a team record for punt yardage (514 yards) in a game, as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe pointed out.
The Patriots defense needed to step up and did so, grabbing three interceptions in the fourth quarter to close out the win. It's been a long time since the Patriots' offense needed the defense to step up like this, and while they got plenty of help from Jets mistakes, they made the critical plays.
Despite the ugly performance on the offensive side of the ball, the Pats are 2-0 with both wins coming over divisional opponents. They'll now have an extended break and a chance to get healthy and regroup after a shaky start that hasn't hurt them in the standings.
Here's what we learned about the Patriots in their home opener.
They Can Get Pressure on the QB
That pressure was critical in forcing four Jets three-and-outs in their final five possessions of the first half.
Chandler Jones recorded two sacks, while Tommy Kelly and Michael Buchanan chipped in with one each. They also hit Geno Smith a combined nine times, including three times by Jones.
While Smith's indecision at times undoubtedly helped the Pats' pass rush, they finished plays much better than they did against the Bills.
The pressure wasn't quite as good in the second half. They'll need to improve their consistency, but once the hits and sacks added up, so did Smith's interceptions and poor throws.
Tom Brady Can Only Do so Much
The popular refrain when discussing the Patriots chances before the game was that they have Tom Brady and he would be able to move the ball regardless of who his receivers were.
We found out the truth on Thursday night—that when Brady is on a different page than all but one of his receivers, he can look very ordinary.
Brady finished the game 19-of-39 for 185 yards and a touchdown, possibly the worst statistical performance of his career. Brady's frustration was clear throughout the game, but he kept fighting and avoided making critical mistakes that might've swung the game.
Brady must continue to throw to his rookie receivers, and he really has no other choice. As he continues to work with them and they gain his trust, the offense will begin to click. It might not look like the 2007 offense, but it's clear there were plenty of big passing plays that were almost made against the Jets.
It's just a matter of time and hard work before the passing game begins to click.
They Have Deep Threats Who Just Have to Catch the Ball
While the Pats' passing game was as bad as it's been in a long time, there were some small positives to take away.
Both Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins were able to get behind the Jets defense on multiple occasions, and Tom Brady had the confidence to take some shots down the field.
In recent seasons, one of the biggest criticisms of the Patriots has been that they lacked a deep threat and had no vertical element to their passing game.
On Thursday night, it looked like they had that element. If only the receivers could've caught the ball.
This bodes well for the long term, and it's something the Pats will continue to try and develop. If they can open up the vertical element of their offense, it will make defending Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola upon their return that much more difficult.
Without a Passing Game, There's No Running Game
The Patriots put up just 54 yards rushing on 24 carries for a measly 2.3 yards per carry.
Some credit has to go to the stout Jets defense, which did not allow a run longer than nine yards. But without the fearsome passing game of recent years, there were not a lot of yards to be had on the ground.
Stevan Ridley did manage not to fumble, though his bobble late in the fourth quarter nearly gave the Jets a huge turnover. While he ran hard as always, he was not a major factor, nor did he look like a back that ran for over 1,200 yards last season.
Without Shane Vereen, the Pats had no reliable receiving option out the backfield. Fullback James Develin had the only catch by a back on the night, one that went for just four yards. Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Leon Washington were all targeted once but could not come down with a single catch.
The Pats must figure out how to get by on the ground until Shane Vereen returns, but once the passing game starts clicking a bit, it should open things up.
Julian Edelman Is the Only Reliable Receiving Threat
It was clear Julian Edelman had to step up with Danny Amendola out of the lineup. He did so in a major way, finishing with a career-high 13 catches for 78 yards. He also returned six punts for 72 yards.
The biggest moment of the night came late in the fourth quarter, when his third-down catch allowed the Pats to take the clock down to the two-minute warning and effectively seal the win.
Edelman was Brady's only go-to target, and yet the Jets still could not prevent him from making plays. It's been a long time coming for the fifth-year receiver, who has flashed at various points in his career but was always either behind Wes Welker or injured and unable to live up to his potential.
With Danny Amendola possibly out up to six weeks, per Michael Whitmer of the Boston Globe, the Pats will continue to need Edelman to contribute in a major way until the rookie receivers can develop some kind of synergy with Tom Brady.
The Rookie Wide Receivers Are Struggling
Perhaps the thing that stuck out most against the Jets was just how far the rookie receivers Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins have to go. Both showed flashes at times, getting deep behind the Jets defense, but both had plenty of miscues with Brady.
Despite Dobson's touchdown, he had three of the team's four drops and moments when he appeared unprepared to have the ball thrown to him. Thompkins almost had a long touchdown of his own, but it was called back after it was ruled the ground aided the catch.
The two combined for just five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown on the night.
It was clear when the Pats went into full rebuild mode at the receiver position that there would be growing pains, but no one expected it to look this ugly. Still, the Pats have no other options right now than to continue to throw them both back into the fire.
In the long run that will be a good thing, assuming Dobson and Thompkins do begin to show some of the flash and skill that they did in training camp and the preseason.
Mistake-Free Football Wins the Day
The list of criticisms and ugly stats for the Patriots is a mile long after this one, but the reason they won the game is simple—they didn't turn the ball over, and they had just three penalties.
That kind of clean football goes a long way, and in the end, it was the difference.
The Pats have long been a team that thrives off turnovers. They are nearly impossible to beat when they win the turnover battle four to zero like they did against the Jets. This hallmark of Bill Belichick's teams looks like it is once again a trait of the 2013 Pats.
Despite the Jets dominating the time of possession 34:00 to 26:00, their eight penalties and three critical interceptions in the fourth quarter are what did them in.
Even in a game when the offense can barely get a first down, just avoiding the major mistake can be enough to win.
What a Difference a Gronk Will Make
The biggest thing the Patriots need right now is to get healthy on offense. While it was reported that Danny Amendola will be out two to six weeks, there was also news that Rob Gronkowski will be back by Week 4 and might even be available for Week 3's game against the Buccaneers.
The Patriots offense is operating now without a receiving back, a receiving tight end and their best slot receiver, but all three will be added back into the mix over the next couple months. The fact that the Pats have been able to win two games with a shell of their potential offense is impressive and gives them the leeway to continue developing their younger weapons.
Once it all comes together, the Patriots offense just might look like the one everyone was used to over the past six seasons.