The final score doesn’t tell the whole story here as the Jets commanded periods of play but failed to capitalize on their opportunities. Muffed punts and missed field goals typified a game the Jets would like to take another shot at as they fall back in the ultra-competitive AFC East race.
Although the Patriots now have sole possession of first place in the division, both the Jets and Bills are only a game behind and there’s still plenty to play for. Still you’d rather be in New England’s shoes right now so let’s see how they got there.
New England – Three Performances of Note
Cranking up the rush
With Albert Haynesworth’s release, there’s been a lot of recent talk about Bill Belichick’s offseason acquisitions. While the former Redskin didn’t work out, one of his former teammates certainly has. Defensive end Andre Carter (+3.0) is back in his element in New England’s 4-3. Carter rarely comes off the field, and sat out just two of 73 snaps. He’s seen his role steadily increase since the start of the season and is now pretty much an every down player. The four sacks he generated against the Jets don’t really tell the whole story. One came when he was left unblocked and a further two owed more to Sanchez holding the ball longer than he should have. That’s not to disparage Carter’s performance however, as he also registered a further three hits and two pressures taking his total up to 38 on the year. If anything his pressure on a speed rush with 6:09 to go in the second illustrates the kind of the day he had as well as any of his QB takedowns. Carter’s performance is even more impressive when you consider D’Brickashaw Ferguson had only given up one sack, one hit and seven pressures on the year prior to this encounter.
A slow start or starting to decline?
Vince Wilfork (-3.5) perhaps epitomises why Belichick has decided to go with youth over experience on his defense. It could be this is the year that the All-Pro defensive tackle finally loses what has made him so great. One thing is for certain, the Patriots should do a better job of limiting his reps. Wilfork took 69 of a potential 73 snaps which had a detrimental effect on the big man. It was only the second time this year he’s been shut out, but a bigger cause for concern were his struggles in the run game which is a department he typically excels at. Nick Mangold is no easy matchup but it was with Brandon Moore that Wilfork had the toughest time. Moore, graded positively on four occasions, most notably with 2:27 to go in the first when he was able seal Wilfork on an inside run.
The dynamic tight-end
Rob Gronkowski (-0.2) was clearly Brady’s favorite target against the Jets. New York’s linebackers and safeties had trouble covering him all day as he finished eight of 11 for 113 yards and a pair of scores. Brady had an almost perfect rating when targeting him. Gronkowski’s highlight was probably the touchdown catch on a crucial third and three with five minutes to play in Q3 where he went up over Donald Strickland to make the grab. He now ranks second amongst TE’s in yards per pass route run behind only the Saints Jimmy Graham. He wasn’t his usual superb self in the run game but still held his own, only grading negatively on two plays. The main reason for his average grade was the three penalties he conceded, one of which was an unfortunate illegal touching of a pass where he just slipped out of bounds.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Clogging the middle
Sione Pouha (+3.3) is a really fun player to watch. Focus on him on any run down and chances are high that he’ll make a play. He not only occupies double teams but gets off blocks and makes tackles too. Pouha was only on the field for 36 of 70 plays (22 of them runs) which makes his +3.3 grade that much more impressive. He graded positively on five of those plays with three tackles either at or behind the line of scrimmage. Pouha also made some plays that didn’t show up on the stat sheet. He stood up up the richest guard in the NFL (Logan Mankins) on one run play with 6.06 left in the third quarter. While not really not known for rushing the passer, Pouha even added a pressure on his eleven rushes.
Rising to the challenge
We went in depth into how Chris Myers is the best center in the NFL but Nick Mangold (+3.8) isn’t likely to give up his crown easily. He’s really come along since the early part of the season when he was battling injuries. To be fair he was given a slightly easier job in pass protection because the Patriots blitzed so rarely. Mangold was generally able to double team with his guards rather than being left on an island. Mangold (+2.4 in the run game) always looked to have an advantage against the Patriots’ linebackers especially with Brandon Spikes sidelined with injury. The game went as expected with Mangold grading negatively on just one occasion and not until less than eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
Victimized once again by Brady
Eric Smith (-5.7) will be glad the Jets don’t have to play the Patriots again barring playoffs. He’s had his two worst games of the season against Brady and company, mostly because of the matchup problems their TEs pose. In coverage (-3.7) he allowed seven of nine targets to be completed for 90 yards and one TD. Gronkowski beat him for first downs on four separate occasions and Wes Welker chipped in with one of his own. In the run game he made seven tackles but all of them were downfield. Sebastian Vollmer also got the better of him the only time a run came right at him. To round off a poor day he added just a single unblocked hit on his nine pass rushes.
– You can tell both coaches preach solid fundamentals with the two teams combining for just five missed tackles on the night.
– The Patriots had 19 QB disruptions but from just five different players.
– 2010 second round pick Jermaine Cunningham played just four snaps all of which came in garbage time.
PFF Game Ball
Andre Carter had a productive day rushing the passer against a very good pass-protecting left tackle.
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