Monday, October 25, 2004

Patriots 13, Jets 7 (10/24/2004)

It was said all week that the Pats and Jets were mirror images of each other. Teams that didn't turn the ball over, didn't commit stupid penalties, made the sure tackles to avoid the big gains, were solidly-spectacular on special teams -- or to put it in cliché form, they didn't beat themselves. So it supposedly would come down to which team could make those few plays down the stretch to preserve the win on defense or win the game on offense. In the end, both of those came to pass: the Pats defense stopped the Jets on four straight downs near the end of the game and the offense ran out the clock when every single person watching knew Corey Dillon was getting the ball.

Not an artistic masterpiece, but a 13-7 win nonetheless. The Pats have now won 21 consecutive games and 18 straight in the regular season (both NFL records, although only one is "official"), and most important of all, they beat their division rival to grab a one-game lead in the division. And it's a good thing. The next two games are on the road against teams with winning records, and both those teams have extra time to plan for the Patriots because they have their bye week before they play the Patriots. Not going to be easy.

As for yesterday's game, I don't think I need to break it down by offense, defense, and special teams. Statistically, the teams came out of the game pretty even. But it seems to me the entire game was encapsulated by six plays late in the game, starting with the Jets on offense at the Patriots 37 yard line:

2nd down and five: The Jets run the fullback in motion to the left, drawing Eugene Wilson to cover him and leaving Asante Samuel with no deep help against Justin McCareins, who has consistently beaten Samuel all day. At the snap, McCareins goes to the end zone (looked like a post route that Samuel shielded him away from), and the pass is thrown behind him and looks like it might be complete. But Wilson had faked covering the fullback and then raced to the end zone and helped with McCareins. Wilson breaks up the pass. It seemed like Wilson knew exactly what play was about to be run, and he also knew that a 10-yard completion to the fullback was much less dangerous than a touchdown at that point.

3rd down and five: Curtis Martin tries to run a quick hit to the offensive left, seeming to catch the Patriots while they were still making their adjustments. But just before Martin hits the line, Jarvis Green (I think it was him) reaches out to grab him by the shoulder pads, slowing him down and pulling him back just enough for Willie McGinest and Richard Seymour to make the tackle for a three-yard loss. The Patriots rotated their defensive linemen a lot in this game, and it just goes to show you that you never know who might make an important play at a crucial time.

4th down and eight: Wayne Chrebet comes in from the sideline and when the huddle breaks, he goes to the slot left. Pennington never takes his eyes off of him as he drops back to pass, and when the throw goes Chrebet's way, he's double-covered short and there is deep safety help as well. Rodney Harrison knocks the pass away, but either of the other two defenders (I believe it was Wilson deep and Samuel short, but it might have been Randall Gay short) could have made the play, and someone else should have been open on the play. But once again, it seemed like the Patriots knew who was the most likely receiver on that play and had him well-covered.

Now the Patriots have the ball at their own 30 with just over two minutes left in the game. With the 2:00 warning and two Jet timeouts remaining, the Pats need to get at least one first down. Everyone in the stadium, watching at home, and (presumably) in the Jets huddle knows that Corey Dillion is going to carry the ball three times.

1st down and ten: Dillon runs over left guard for six yards.

2nd down and four: Dillon runs up the middle for two yards.

3rd down and 2: Dillon runs off left tackle for four yards and a first down. The Jets knew the Patriots would run, and they ran for the first down anyway. No last-second heroics, no dangerous punt return, nothing. Ballgame over.

I hope you enjoyed the game as much as I did. And I also hope you've gotten a chance to watch (or see in person!) some of what the Red Sox have been doing. Between the Pats and Sox, they are undefeated in their last 27 games; pretty astounding when you think that a week ago, the Yank-mees missed a chance to sweep the Sox out of the playoffs. Great time to be a sports fan from New England.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: "If the Patriots are undefeated after six games, imagine what they might be like when they get Troy Brown, Deion Branch, and Tyrone Poole back."

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 6-0!

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