Patriots at Jets Review: Pats Miss Out On Chance To Lock Up #1 Seed

The Patriots made things hard on themselves in the AFC playoff race with an overtime loss to the possible playoff bound Jets.

The Jets came into the game on a four game winning streak, and have been playing for their playoff lives.

Todd Bowles and his team deserve a lot of credit for how they played on Sunday. They controlled the game until the Patriots scored on defense.

The Pats scored just 14 offensive points (fewest this season) and had only 284 total yards of offense (fewest this season).

The Patriots had just two drives of 10+ plays and 60+ yards, struggling to get anything consistent going on offense.

Combine that with a handful of big time plays by a big time receiver (Brandon Marshall), and you can see why the Pats lost on Sunday.

Let’s take a look at both sides of the ball as the Patriots’ regular season nears its end:

On Offense

Pass Protection: We know the Patriots offensive line has been dismantled by injuries this season, and after starting LT Sebastian Vollmer went down on the first offensive possession of the game it got even worse. Having said that, there’s a trend building over the last six games that should be really scary to Pats fans. Over the last 6 games, Tom Brady is 13-45 (29%) on plays taking more than three seconds from snap-to-throw. You could see it on Sunday. Any time Brady tried to hang on to the ball a bit longer the Jets defensive line started to cave in on him. The Jets don’t have many speed rushers, but they have guys that can push the pocket. They smothered Brady too often on Sunday.

Run Game: The Patriots run game has been non-existent since Dion Lewis tore his ACL in Week 9, and you couldn’t expect much when facing this stout Jets run defense. The Patriots tried to mix the run in more than they did in Week 7, but it was to no avail on Sunday. The Jets did a very good job up front stopping the run, and even threw in a few run blitzes depending on the down and distance, but this probably should have been a game where the Pats abandoned the run. Even when down in the second half, the Patriots ran 10 times for just 17 yards. Many people have given the Pats flack in the past for not running enough, but when you’re averaging just 2.86 yds per rush against one of the best run defenses in the NFL, running the ball 22 times seems counterintuitive.

3rd Down: I have outlined the Patriots struggles on third down since Julian Edelman’s injury a number of times in recent weeks, but the problems were exacerbated against one of the league’s best third down defenses. The Patriots were just 1-10 on third down on Sunday, and were forced to go for it three times on fourth down (converted all three). Without a good possession receiver, and a receiver that can uncover quickly (note offensive line woes), it’s going to continue to be tough sledding on 3rd down.

On Defense

Jets Spread The Field: The Jets run more four wide receiver sets than just about anybody in the NFL these days, and it was the perfect approach against a depleted Patriots secondary. The Jets were able to find holes in the Patriots secondary by attacking their depth. Without Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung, the Patriots were without two of their best DBs in coverage, and had to rely on Jordan Richards, an injured Justin Coleman, Leonard Johnson, and Tavon Wilson. The Jets depth receivers (Kenbrell Thompkins and Quincy Enunwa) didn’t go off, but they had a number of big catches. Especially Enunwa, who had two catches of 20+ yards, and the big 48-yarder in OT. Either Chung or McCourty most definitely would have been on Enunwa, who is listed as a WR but is basically a TE.

Brandon Marshall: This was a tip your hat game to Brandon Marshall. Sometimes you play against an All-Pro caliber receiver and get beat, and that appeared to be the case for Logan Ryan and the Patriots secondary on Sunday. Ryan held up pretty well in coverage on Marshall (4 of 7, 50 yards, TD), as the Pro Bowler just made two or three spectacular catches against Ryan in coverage. The short TD to Marshall was great play design by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. It wasn’t the first time the Jets ran that play on the goal line, but when Marshall gets a head of steam coming in motion across the formation he’s going to be tough to stop in such a small area.  On the big 33-yard TD, safety Duron Harmon had good coverage on Marshall, but lost the ball in the air and gave up the TD. Harmon was in good position, and actually had a good chance of intercepting the pass had he found the ball.

Run Defense/Dont’a Hightower: The Patriots got gashed on the ground by the Jets on Sunday (143 rush yds, 5.30 yds per carry), as they were out physicalled at the point of attack by the Jets offensive line. They also gave up five runs of 10+ yards, tying a season high. The alarming part of this is that usually when the Patriots struggle stopping the run it’s due to the absence of Dont’a Hightower. Hightower played on Sunday, but wasn’t himself due to that MCL sprain in his knee. This was Hightower’s worst game of the season, as he was not close to the same disruptive force that he typically is when fully healthy. The Patriots defensive line didn’t help matters either, as they got held up too easily at the line of scrimmage, allowing the Jets’ offensive lineman to get blocks on Hightower and Collins.

Why Belichick Bet On His Defense: It sounds like I have been hating a bit on the Patriots defense, but overall this was another solid performance. They didn’t get the job done in OT, but they gave up just 20 points through four quarters, and scored six of their own. Belichick rolled the dice when he elected to kick off in overtime, and it was probably due to his defense locking down, especially in the fourth quarter. The Jets went just 36 yards on 3 drives (all ending in punts) in the fourth. After surrendering a touchdown after the Revis interception, the Jets drive chart looked like this: fumble, made FG, punt, punt, punt, TD (OT). When you start to break it down, you can see that the Patriots defense was the far more consistent unit on Sunday.