Someone needs to remind Aaron Dobson that he has hands and they can in fact be used to grasp flying objects out of the air, like footballs.
And someone needs to remind Rex Ryan that field position is a thing and he should care about it. He inexplicably lined up 11 men to block New England’s punts several times with no one fielding the punts. The Jets never came close to blocking the punt. Instead, the Patriots tied a franchise record for punting yardage, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe (h/t Mike Dussault).
Speaking of punting yardage, the Jets and Patriots combined to punt 20 times for 915 yards. That’s 365 yards more than their combined yards of offense.
No one won this game.
New England didn’t win this game. The Patriots technically had more points than the Jets (13-10) when the game ended, sure, but they didn’t score for the last 35 minutes of the game. They should have been docked a point every time Tom Brady cussed out his terrible receivers; the Jets would have won by 10. The Patriots lose.
But that’s not fair, either, since the Jets emphatically lost the game themselves with three interceptions and a stupid personal foul penalty on a late hit from Nick Mangold in the fourth quarter. Then, after Mangold went for Aqib Talib’s knees while he was out of bounds, the Jets started throwing punches and shoving referees. The Jets lose.
The box score for this game is a study in awfulness. The two quarterbacks had a combined QBR of 39.2. They completed 34 passes and threw 40 incompletions, 20 each. New York and New England ran 135 total plays; that means 30 percent of the snaps in this game resulted in incompletions (or interceptions).
And one of the quarterbacks was Tom Brady.
The other quarterback was Geno Smith, who was actually winning me over with his play through the first three quarters.
After all the criticism he took before the draft, his slide down the board during the draft and his terrible performance in the preseason, he came out and had his team within three points of the Patriots. His receivers were dropping passes left and right, yet he’d still put together several solid drives. It was a pretty gutsy performance.
Then the fourth quarter began, and Smith started lofting weak, wobbly passes downfield into double coverage.
Come on, man. If you’re going to throw to the opposition, at least throw hard.
Can we talk about Tom Brady’s receivers?
Dobson was targeted 10 times and caught three passes, while Kenbrell Thompkins was targeted seven times and caught the ball twice. Three other players failed to catch balls thrown their way. Brady was pissed. He finished the game 19-of-39, and in no way was that his fault.
Analysts—and Patriots fans—are going to say this game was good experience for Dobson and Thompkins, and they'll say that, with time, they’ll develop a rapport with Brady and become productive players.
But what if they don’t? What if they’re terrible football players who can’t catch a football in the NFL?
Because that sure was what it looked like Thursday night.
Thompkins went undrafted—maybe there was a reason for that. Dobson was picked in the second round, but he played college ball in Conference USA, which is not exactly a hotbed of NFL-caliber talent. He got a lot of preseason hype. But remember when the 2008 Detroit Lions went undefeated in the preseason? How’d that work out?
If my theory is correct and Dobson and Thompkins are terrible, leaving Julian Edelman as the only healthy player capable of catching passes on the New England roster, then the Patriots might be in trouble.
Much has been said in the past about Tom Brady’s ability to get production out of even lower-tier receivers. Much may have been exaggerated. We learned Thursday night, and against the Buffalo Bills last week, that though Tom Brady may be able to make good receivers look great, he cannot make terrible receivers good.
Should we be surprised? Catching a football in the NFL takes incredible concentration, reflexes, athletic ability and hand-eye coordination. We worship quarterbacks, but there are two parts to each completed pass—the throw and the catch. The best quarterback in the world can’t make untalented pass-catchers better at catching.
So to whom is Tom Brady going to throw the football? Wes Welker is gone. Aaron Hernandez is gone. Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola are out for the next few games. They’ll be back, but Amendola has his injury-prone reputation for a reason, and Gronk has already missed seven games over the last two years.
Can the Patriots turn to their run game? We don’t know yet. The Patriots gained 158 yards on the ground against the Bills, which is encouraging, but only 54 yards against the Jets.
More concerning is that the Patriots have scored 36 points through two games so far this year. They averaged 34.8 points per game last year.
Sure, they’re 2-0. But the Patriots have beaten the Bills—the Bills—and the Jets—the Jets—by a total of five points in their first two games. They needed a last-second field goal to beat the Bills, and they would have lost to the Jets had Geno Smith not choked and thrown those three interceptions in the fourth quarter. And yes, Geno Smith choked.
The Patriots of yesteryear would have won those two games by three touchdowns at least.
As for the Jets, they’re the same circus they’ve been for the last three years. I’ve already mentioned the strange decision from the Jets’ coaching staff to not field New England’s punts. Besides that, they had four turnovers and the personal foul at the end, which led to two Jets getting ejected in the ensuing mini-brawl.
The Jets appear as directionless as ever. They won a fluke game in Week 1, and they gave their Week 2 game to their division rivals. Geno Smith may be a half-decent quarterback sometime down the line, but right now he’s not ready, nor is he being put in a position to succeed by getting thrown into the fire his rookie year.
The Jets should lose at least 12 games this year. They may get a few breaks (like they did in Week 1) and only lose 10 or so, but there’s no way they’ll be relevant for the foreseeable future.
But we already knew that.
The real question after this ugly, ugly game is, for how much longer will the Patriots be relevant?