Rear View Mirror Week 16

The Patriots defeated the Jets 41-3 in a rainy Gillette Stadium on Saturday. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (136 yards on 21 attempts and two interceptions) came in the game as medical relief for Bryce Petty (0 for 3 with one interception). No matter who was in the game, the Jets’ offense struggled to find consistency: They were only one-of-11 on third-down conversions, and they were held scoreless for the first 54 minutes of the contest. The Doug Middleton pass interference against Malcolm Mitchell (called, netting 47 yards) was remarkably similar to the Patrick Chung pass interference against Austin Seferian-Jenkins at the goal line (not called). Both plays occurred in the 2nd quarter and each time the defender pulled at the receiver’s second hand, disrupting the catch.

Shaquille Mason (69) helped contain a strong Jets’ defensive line

Photo by Matthew Healey and published by UPI

Nine Observations from Game 15...

1. On the second play of the Patriots’ first touchdown drive, guard Shaq Mason doubled nose tackle Deon Simon with center David Andrew"s before disengaging and pushing linebacker David Harris out of the way for a Dion Lewis’ six yard carry. LeGarrette Blount’s longest run of the day – 12 yards – came in the 2nd quarter and went through a hole Mason created by chipping Muhammad Wilkerson for David Andrews before swallowing up linebacker Darron Lee. At the end of the Patriots’ last touchdown drive, facing third-and-goal from one yard line, they ran behind Mason for a Blount touchdown.

2. NFL MVP candidate Tom Brady deserves credit for keeping the offense humming after losing his best target, Rob Gronkowski, earlier in the season. In the six games Brady has played without Gronkowski, he has a quarterback rating of 100.1, good for 6th best in the NFL. On Saturday he went 17 of 27 before giving way to Jimmy Garoppolo after three quarters. Nice job “creating” a play by Brady in the 3rd when he avoided the rush, circled back into the pocket, to buy time to allow Julian Edelman to get open for a 28-yard pass play.

3. Brady was three-for-three when targeting Gronkowski’s replacements – Martellus Bennett and Matt Lengel – including two touchdowns. Matt Lengel’s 2nd quarter touchdown catch over the middle was open because the Jets’ safeties bit on what looked like a screen pass to Julian Edelman developing in the left flat. Just a minute of game time before that play, New York was in an eight-man zone and inexplicably left Edelman completely uncovered up the right seam for a 35 yard gain.

4. New England’s front seven set the tone when New York tried to get Bilal Powell going early: On the first play from scrimmage, linebacker Shea McClellin held up a double team from guard Dakota Dozier and tight end Eric Tomlinson on a power run left, stringing out the play for no gain. Then on second down, New York ran Powell up the middle but he was brought down for a modest gain by Alan Branch, who had fought off a block from right tackle James Carpenter.

5. Bilal Powell came into the contest averaging 5.7 yards per carry and the Patriots limited him to a 4.0 average on 15 carries. His longest run of the day – 12 yards – was facilitated by Kyle Van Noy (seven tackles) either being fooled by the action right or improvising and being out of position when Powell ran a power play behind left tackle. Van Noy also missed a tackle late in the 1st quarter when Powell ducked under him to escape, and the linebacker was in coverage on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ 17 yard reception in the 2nd quarter.

6. Defensive tackle Vincent Valentine got the start over Malcolm Brown (disciplinary reasons), and he looked like a NFL starter on Saturday. In the 3rd quarter he spun out of a quick double team by center Brondon Shell and left guard Ben Ijalana to tackle Powell for minimal gain. In the 4th, Valentine shed center Wesley Johnson’s block keep Powell from converting a third-and-one.

7. In the 2nd quarter, Jets’ quarterback Bryce Petty injured his shoulder on a tackle of Malcolm Butler after Butler recovered running back Khiry Robinson’s fumble. Credit linebacker Elandan Roberts (in on 11 tackles) for the hit on Robinson that dislodged the football. The circumstances of Petty’s season-ending injury are reminiscent of the injury quarterback Tony Eason sustained in Miami nearly 30 years earlier to the day. Injured tackling Dolphins’ linebacker Mike Brown, his football carrier essentially ended that night as Eason’s body never returned to his 1986 form.

8. In addition to the fumble recovery, Malcolm Butler intercepted Bryce Petty in the 1st quarter on a third-down pass attempt to Robby Anderson, and then he picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick in the 3rd on a ball intended for Quincy Enunwa. Corner Eric Rowe had perfect coverage and made a nice play on the ball to incept a pass intended for Brandon Marshall up the left sideline in the 2nd quarter. Corner Logan Ryan made a notable pass break-up on an out route to Charone Peake in the 2nd.

9. Two random images caught by CBS’s cameras interested this observer. First, punter Ryan Allen ran onto the field to congratulate Cyrus Jones on his short return in the 3rd quarter. The rookie has struggled with punt and kick returns this season and it looks like his fellow special teamer is leading the confidence-rebuild project. Second, Jonathan Kraft was seen at the start of the 4th quarter employing the one-fingered “hunt and peck” on his phone’s key pad instead of the more expedient “two thumbs” method.

…And One Comment about Week Seventeen.

Over the last half of the season the Patriot’s run defensive has been among the best in the NFL. They will get a test on Sunday in Miami as running back Jay Ajayi is fourth in the NFL, averaging 86.6 yards per game and an impressive 5.0 yards per carry – putting him in Ezekiel Elliott and Le'Veon Bell territory for rushing efficiency.

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