ESPN’s Monday Night Football crew promised us the “game of the year.”
One team obliged. In a game where one team consistently executed at the key moments and the other didn’t, it was the New England Patriots who shot to the top of the AFC standings with a comprehensive 45-3 drubbing of the New York Jets.
The Patriots got great performances from most of their key players, while the Jets were largely let down by their biggest names. Was it a fluke, or a sign of things to come?
Jets: Three performances of note
After some exciting performances over the last month, Mark Sanchez (-2.9) has picked a bad time to regress. All three of his interceptions displayed poor decision-making, including one in the red zone when four defenders had a better chance of making the catch than his intended receiver. With two safeties deep most of the time, Sanchez had no success whatsoever going deep (2 for 7, 39 yards, two interceptions on throws more than 10 yards downfield) and was just 1 of 5 for 7 yards when pressured. His receivers hardly helped him out (four drops), but Sanchez looked like a rookie.
When the Jets beat the Patriots in Week 2, one of the main reasons was Antonio Cromartie (-2.7), who completely shut down Randy Moss in the second half. He didn’t cope quite so well with Moss’ replacement, Deion Branch, giving up a 20-yard gain and a 25-yard touchdown (on fourth down) in the first quarter. Perhaps more importantly, he had a costly missed tackle on each of those plays. Cromartie then compounded the Jets’ misery by getting beaten for another score by Brandon Tate later on.
Two weeks ago, Brodney Pool (-2.1) lost his starting job after being identified as the main reason for breakdowns in the Jets’ zone coverage. When Jim Leonhard broke his leg Friday, Pool was thrust back into full-time action. Although the Jets tried to downplay the significance of this loss, it can’t be a coincidence that the Patriots receivers were consistently able to find gaps in the Jets’ zone, which had looked solid in the previous game. Pool also had a poor game in run support, missing two tackles.
Patriots: Three performances of note
In a 42-point game, it’s ridiculous to suggest that one man was the difference between the two teams. However, Tom Brady (+4.1) was pretty close to being just that. Here’s your stat of the night: On passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, Brady was 17 of 17 for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Even when under pressure Brady was able to complete 8 of 9 for 109 yards. He’s the best short passer in the game right now.
When the Patriots first signed Danny Woodhead (+2.9), many suggested it was just to pick his brains regarding the Week 2 showdown (for which he was inactive). Since then, Woodhead’s role has expanded and, although he only rushed for 11 yards on Monday, 50 of his game-high 104 receiving yards came on a shovel pass that was, for all intents and purposes, a running play. That isn’t all he brought to the table, though, as he blocked well and added a special teams tackle for good measure.
A game you win by 42 points would seem to be a strange time to have (by some margin), your worst game of the season. However, that’s exactly what happened to Dan Connolly (-4.6) and Matt Light (-4.1). Connolly gave up a sack, a hit and two pressures, although this — as noted above — had little effect on Brady’s performance. The Patriots also gained just 21 yards — 16 of which were after contact — on eight runs between center and right guard. Light allowed two sacks.
Cornerback Kyle Wilson (-0.6) was in on ten snaps, but rushed the passer on six of them. … Fullback John Conner (-2.1) had an 18-yard kickoff return to near midfield, but was ineffective in his four snaps. The Jets only used a fullback on 13 snaps, after both fullbacks struggled last time against the Patriots. … Running back Joe McKnight (-0.5) carried the ball three times for 19 yards on the final series.
Although they held the Jets to just three points, Brandon Spikes (+2.1) was actually the only defensive player with a rating above 0.6 as many of the Jets’ offensive wounds were self-inflicted. Spikes had seven tackles and an interception. … Jermaine Cunningham (-1.9) graded poorly despite recording five stops, a hit and a pressure. … Devin McCourty (+0.1) had another interception, but also had a missed tackle. … Rob Gronkowski (+2.1) and Aaron Hernandez (+1.6) were great again.
The last time the Jets entered the twelfth game of the season with nine wins was in 1986 … and they lost, 45-3, to a divisional rival (Miami).