Patriots vs. Jets: Takeaways from New York's 30-27 Overtime Win over New England
After a flat first half from the Jets, they were clearly the better team in the second half, sparked by a defense that sacked Tom Brady four times on the day. The Jets defense forced three three-and-outs in a row in the third quarter, as New York seized the lead and hung on until it could kick the game-winner in overtime.
Geno Smith and the Jets' ground game moved the ball well in the second half and avoided the critical mistakes that they made in the first meeting in Week 2. Smith ran for a touchdown and threw for one as well.
The Jets got a fortunate call in overtime that gave them new life and ultimately the win. New England fought hard down to the wire, but the its offense just wasn't good enough.
The Pats drop to 5-2 but remain in first place in the AFC East. Here are the takeaways.
Geno Smith Gave the Pats Defense All It Could Handle
Had it not been for Geno Smith's pick-six in the first quarter, this Jets might've ran away with it. His numbers were pedestrian—17-of-33 for 223 yards and a touchdown and an interception—but Smith was clutch when he needed to be, picking up 11 first downs on 21 third downs.
Smith also made plays on the ground, taking in a score and rushing for 34 yards.
The short-handed Pats were ill-equipped to defend the versatile Smith, especially without Jerod Mayo. And the Jets attacked the Pats linebackers in coverage with the short passing game.
This was a big win for Smith and is a legitimate building block for the young quarterback, who could be giving the Pats problems for the foreseeable future.
Stephen Gostkowski Continues Strong Season
Stephen Gostkowski once again had a perfect day, going 2-for-2 on field goals, including the game-tying 44-yarder to send the game to overtime.
He had just one kickoff returned, a 17-yarder. Overall, Gostkowski has been excellent this season, missing just one field goal all season, a rate of 94.1 percent.
Gostkowski has done everything the Pats could ask of him and has been a big boost for a team that isn't putting up points like it used to.
Protection Issues Continue
Tom Brady was sacked four times on the day and also had a strip sack, as the Jets defensive front gave the Pats offensive line problems all day. Nate Solder had an especially bad day and is starting to show some inconsistency that he hadn't previously.
Ryan Wendell also had some struggles in pass protection as well, as Brady was often unable to step up in the pocket.
There's no quicker way to shut down Tom Brady than to get pressure in his face, and the Jets were successful at that throughout the game, often in key moments. Their young defensive front will be a thorn in Brady's side for the rest of his career.
Run Game Underutilized?
The Patriots ran for 90 yards on 20 carries but got away from the running game early in the second half, which led to problems for Tom Brady. The Patriots need to stop thinking they're the old Patriots and realize that they have a real weapon in their ground game.
Stevan Ridley had just 11 carries overall, which is disappointing considering his 17-yard touchdown carry before halftime. Brandon Bolden has become the passing-down back, but he lacks the speed and ability of Shane Vereen and is clearly not the same pass-catcher Vereen is.
The running game can be better, but they ran well against a tough Jets' front and should get more of a chance to shoulder the offensive load.
Run Defense Bends, Doesn't Break
The Jets attacked the Patriots defensive line, which countered with a 3-4 front that featured Joe Vellano, Marcus Forston and Chris Jones as the down linemen.
The Jets ran the ball 52 times for 152 yards. While that's not a great average per carry, they consistently picked up good yardage on early downs and set up manageable situations on third down.
Brandon Spikes made some big plays, including a big third down, but it's clear that the Pats missed Jerod Mayo, especially in coverage.
The Pats defense once again gave the offense a chance to win the game, and despite the injuries, that's all you can ask. Jones, Vellano and Forston remain a work in progress, but they held up fairly well against a physical front in a hostile environment.
Pass Defense Misses Aqib Talib
The Patriots struggled mightily in the first half, and it looked like the lack of Jerod Mayo and Aqib Talib in pass coverage clearly hurt. Kyle Arrington was benched for Marquice Cole for most of the game.
Alfonzo Dennard stepped up with some solid plays, and Logan Ryan was competitive. For the most part, the secondary did a good job. It was the underneath passes that hurt the Pats most, especially when the pass rush was unable to pressure Geno Smith.
Without Talib, the Pats will need Arrington, who just signed a four-year contract this offseason, to step up.
Devin McCourty came through with a versatile performance and was consistent both at safety and (for a few snaps) at cornerback.
The Patriots pass defense was largely dependent on the pressure that Chandler Jones generated. The rest of the Pats front caused much disruption.
Rob Gronkowski Helps, but Doesn't Solve All the Problems
Rob Gronkowski finally made his long-awaited return and led the Pats with eight catches for 114 yards. There was no question that Gronkowski had a calming effect on the Pats offense early in the game.
But despite having Gronk, the Pats still just went 1-for-12 on third down, an unacceptable number that shows they need both Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola back in the lineup.
Getting Gronk back is a big first step, but it's clear that he's not an instant fix for the Patriots offense, even when he turns in an excellent performance.
The rookies and other weapons need to step up even more as well. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins combined for just five catches for 50 yards.
Gronk provided a boost, but he can't do it all himself.
The Pats Are 5-2
The Patriots weren't able to steal their second game in two weeks, but they'll remain in first place with the Dolphins losing to the Bills. Given the injuries during last two weeks, it shouldn't be unexpected that the Pats came out flat and struggled without some of their top players.
Most concerning was how they played their worst football in the third quarter, a trait reminiscent of the 2009 and 2010 losses to the Jets. In both regular-season games, the Jets dominated in the second half, and it was the same this time.
The young Patriots will have to show better resiliency on the road.
Still, the Pats are back in the division next week at home against the Dolphins and have a prime opportunity to get back on track. There's no question the Pats are trending upward, especially on offense with Gronkowski, but they need to find their new identity after the major injuries that have struck.