Patriots-Jets: Matt Cassel Puts in Solid Performance in First Start
1) Cassel put in a solid performance, with zero turnovers. Granted, the playbook was more conservative, with more horizontal than vertical plays (as in '01), but Cassel did his part by playing it smart. He seemed to only blow one play, a running play with Morris going one way and he went another.
2) Ellis Hobbs: He has been high on the list of critics, particularly in New England, but today he put up a great performances, denying and breaking up several key passes.
3) LaMont Jordan: Whether by design or accident, he did not get to play until the second half. This may have been a result of Maroney's shoulder injury, or more rather (or I'd like to think) an act of genius on Belichick's part in anticipating the humid weather at the stadium today.
Not having played at all in the first half gave Jordan all the advantages, as he went to work right away in the second half on fresh legs, battering ahead, eating up yardage, and gaining several downs on a seemingly tired Jets defense.
In addition, there was the usual busy rotation of the defense to prevent fatigue, because once you lose your legs, they are gone for the day, even if you rehydrate and restore your electrolytes.
4) Congratulations to DB Meriweather for securing his first career interception (albeit off a careless underthrown Favre pass). This set up the key touchdown by Morris, on the back of a 22-yard advance by Kevin Faulk.
5) The New England defense put in a generally positive performances, and while they continue to have problems with getting off the field on third down, they did make several key red-zone stops, including a goal-line situation with four-straight stops, including the highlight of Harrison blitzing off the edge to stuff the Jets' Jones.
Other notables were Seymour making a key tackle on a third-down stop, preventing a potential TD, in addition to a monster takedown of Favre by "AD" (Adalius Thomas) that put the Jets in a 2nd-and-23 situation in their territory.
This would seem to be a solid victory for New England, but this is against a Jets team that has a maverick at quarterback, someone who has had a tendency to leave the gameplan and get away with it, and has done so for almost a quarter of a century. There is still a lot of ground to cover before New England faces its first serious challenge at San Diego.
One of the storyline, as I have previously written about, is, now that Brady is out for the year, will we get to see whether it was truly he who made the Patriots who they are, or if it was largely Belichick?
As the year progresses, I believe that we will see it is half of each, and one half cannot live without the other. It is Belichick that sets the stage with the personnel, the gameplan, and the attitude, but it is Brady who finishes. It is Brady who brings the intangibles to the table. It is Brady who finds a way to win. He is one of the greatest finishers in NFL history.
We know that Cassel is no Brady, but will he finish to a good enough degree? Can he finish? Today, he put in a solid performance, but in a big game against a real contender, he must finish the drives and get some touchdowns on the board. The nearest he came to doing that today was uncorking an underthrown potential 50 yarder to Moss off a play-action fake.
I think, overall, it is too early to gauge how good this Patriots team is with Cassel at the helm. It is a good start, but only the beginning. The offense, like in '01, has to gel, has to mesh, and get through some real obstacles before we can start passing out grades.
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