Sunday, December 31, 2017

Patriots Cruise to 26-6 Win Over Jets

The Patriots made it look easy, waltzing to a 26-6 win and clinching home-field throughout the AFC playoffs. The game gives them not only a week off before their playoff run begins, but means that if they win one more game, the AFC Championship Game will be in Foxboro on January 21! Next week... there will be lots of football watching as the Pats next opponent will be revealed.

So not a ton to learn from this game. The Jets dropped enough passes for an entire month of games, committed a series of stupid defensive penalties, and toward the end just plain gave up on tackling anyone. Looks like they had early tee-times scheduled for tomorrow and wanted to get out of frigid Foxboro.

The running game took center stage, which is odd because they had more backs inactive (3) than active (2). Dion Lewis led the attack with 26 carries for 93 yards, while special teams stalwart Brandon Bolden had 9 carries for 46 yards. Bolden's carries mostly came late, and he plowed and barreled through the whipped Jets defense.

It was Lewis who wore them down, making the first tackler miss multiple times, delaying his runs while blockers got in position, and bursting through seemingly non-existent holes. He had an outstanding year, leading the team in rushing yards and averaging 5.0 ypc. He also had 32 catches for another 200+ yards. Not bad for the smallest guy on the team.

The receivers didn't impress much. Brandin Cooks led the team with 79 yards (5 catches), but he cost the team at least two long completions (one when he didn't fight for the ball and one where he slowed the route prematurely). He also obviously didn't want to hit the ground on a sideline pass, and that cost him the chance to get two feet in bounds for another catch. Aside from that; Phillip Dorsett made a nice grab and the rest of the receivers were invisible.

TB12 only got sacked twice, and both times were coverage sacks. He did a decent job, with a lower-than-average completion percentage. But he had two touchdowns and no INTs on a cold and windy day, which is probably all you can ask.

The O-line obviously did a decent job, keeping Brady mostly clean and doing a nice job of run blocking. Shaq Mason continued his great year, and tight end Rob Gronkowski contributed more blocking than in the pass game (0 catches on 0 targets).

The defense really just waited for the Jets to implode. There were so many dropped passes and seven three-and-outs. The Pats only made 47 tackles for the game, to the Jets 69, which tells you about the offensive efficiency of each team.

The defensive line looked dominant against the pathetic Jets O-line. Lawrence Guy and Trey Flowers were solid all game, and newcomer James Harrison notched five total tackles and two sacks (on consecutive plays).

Linebacker? Don't ask. Kyle Van Noy returned for a few plays, but he barely saw the field, made no notable plays, and ended up a stat-sheet no-show (zero tackles or other defensive plays). If Van Noy can't play in the post-season, this is clearly their weakest position on the field. A time-bomb waiting to explode on them if the Steelers or an NFC foe can figure out to attack their short coverage zones.

No report on the secondary; the Jets dropped so many passes that it's impossible to give them a grade.

Special teams had two standouts; punter Ryan Allen and gunner Matthew Slater. In the fourth quarter, Ryan had three punts. Two were downed at the four yard-line by Slater, one of which was converted into a safety a few plays later. And one skipped out of bounds at the three yard-line. That's a good season for some punters, so having it all in one quarter is very impressive.

So where does that leave us? A week off isn't a bad thing at this point in the season. If you're religious, pray for Van Noy's health; he'd be the biggest returning player we could get (with Edelman out of the picture). Enjoy watching the Patriots next foe get the snot kick out of it this weekend and try to stay warm.

Biggest On-going Issue: It is, and will likely always remain the linebackers. Still not enough pass coverage ability in that group; expect to see safety Patrick Chung in the hybrid role the entire playoffs.

Non-Brady MVP: (tie) Lewis and Allen. Not every day you can include a punter. Although I did consider giving it to the Jets receivers.

Statistical Oddity: Tom Brady now has more career touchdowns (488) than the top four Jets quarterbacks combined. (Stole this one from the television broadcast.)

Water-cooler Wisdom: "Remember when the Pats were 2-2 and the sky was falling?"

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 13-3!

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