Patriots Struggle in Second Straight as Jets Walk the Walk

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September 20, 2009

Patriots Struggle in Second Straight as Jets Walk the Walk
In years past, the New England Patriots have subscribed to a healthy diet of humble pie. Sunday, though, the New York Jets were the ones humbling the Patriots with a 16-9 victory at Giants Stadium.

Since the Patriots began playing their championship brand of football in 2001, there have been very few occasions when an opponent has dominated them in every phase of the game, but that is exactly what Rex Ryan‘s Jets did in their Week 2 meeting. The Jets had a better game plan and their execution was far superior to that of New England. And after a week’s worth of trash talk, the Jets’ play was flashy and overwhelming — and their victory could not have been any more convincing.

Sunday’s result should be alarming for the Patriots (1-1, 1-1 AFC East), whose improbable comeback last week against the Buffalo Bills masked a number of deficiencies. Without Leodis McKelvin‘s fumble on a fourth-quarter kickoff return, the Patriots could be winless through two weeks for the first time since 2001. For a team with Super Bowl aspirations, it’s distressing to see how fragile they’ve looked so far.

“We’re not really firing on all cylinders right now,” quarterback Tom Brady told reporters in his postgame news conference. “We’ve got to identity where the issues are and try to correct them. I think that’s most important.

“To not get the ball in the end zone,” Brady continued, “that’s not acceptable. You’re not going to win any games if you’re not in the end zone. We did the same thing last week until five minutes left in the game. We’ve got to do a better job of throwing the ball down there in tight quarters. It puts too much pressure on the defense when you don’t score a touchdown.”

The Jets, who seemed at times to be overly infatuated with the sounds of their own voices last week, backed up every last word Sunday on the field. Their ferocious blitzing put constant pressure on Brady, who finished 23-for-47 for 216 yards, no touchdowns and one interception and threw four consecutive incompletions to end the game. The Jets pressure caused a number of mistakes along the Patriots’ offensive line, which killed itself with holding and procedure penalties. In all, the Patriots were penalized 11 times for 89 yards.

Then there was the defense, which statistically had a strong showing with 16 points allowed. However, once Ryan turned quarterback Mark Sanchez loose, the Patriots couldn’t deal with the unpredictability of New York’s offense, which controlled the pace of play throughout the second half.

For the most part, the Jets (2-0, 1-0 AFC East) did exactly what they wanted to do against the Patriots, and they’ll probably remind New England of that in the days leading up to their Week 11 matchup at Gillette Stadium. If that game is to have as much significance as it deserves, the Patriots have some serious corrections to make.

That starts with Brady, who has yet to find a consistent rhythm with his receivers — particularly, newcomer Joey Galloway. Bill Belichick, too, has to show some dedication to the running game. The Patriots attempted just one rush in the fourth quarter, and Fred Taylor lost one yard on a third-and-1 play on which the Jets didn’t even have defensive tackle Kris Jenkins on the field.

These sloppy situations have plagued the Patriots throughout their first two games, while the Jets have arguably played two more complete games than any other team in the league so far this season. The Patriots heard about it last week, and unless there is a radical change of attitude in New York, they’ll continue to hear about it until they do something to stop it.

“That’s Coach Ryan,” wide receiver Randy Moss told reporters at Giants Stadium. “That’s his philosophy. At the same time, when you’re the opposing team and listening and hearing and reading things, that’s billboard material. But at the same time, he doesn’t play. The team plays, and they backed it up. You’ve got to really commend those guys from the top to the bottom.”

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