FOXBORO, Mass. — A win is a win, especially for the 2014 New England Patriots.
The Patriots’ 27-25 victory over the New York Jets on Thursday night would have seemed like a breath of fresh air last month following a 41-14 walloping by the Kansas City Chiefs. After two big wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills, however, it seemed like a step back.
Frankly, it’s to be forgiven. The Patriots’ matchup against the Jets was their fourth game in 18 days, and they were lucky to get out of that stretch with a 3-1 record. They head into a weekend off (and three consecutive home games) with a 5-2 record and a firm hold on the AFC East lead.
The Patriots were feeling positive after the two-point win, but there are plenty of teaching points to be made.
Let’s get the positives out of the way: The Patriots’ offensive line held up exceptionally well against a stout Jets front seven, and quarterback Tom Brady was sacked only once, when he scrambled and slid for a 1-yard loss. The Jets hit Brady seven times, but in general, he had more time to pass. Brady threw for 261 yards and three touchdowns, and Brandon LaFell continues to get himself acclimated into the offense, catching four passes for 55 yards.
The Patriots also were able to generate some pressure, sacking Geno Smith three times and hitting him four more.
Let’s not act like the Patriots should be overly happy with a close win against one of the NFL’s bottom-feeders, though. The victory highlighted some of New England’s biggest issues after it lost running back Stevan Ridley and linebacker Jerod Mayo to season-ending knee injuries, and the Patriots should have trounced the hapless Jets.
RUN DEFENSE ISSUES
The Patriots allowed 218 yards and one touchdown on 43 carries to the Jets, including 107 yards on 21 carries by Chris Ivory. The run defense should improve when Sealver Siliga returns from a foot injury, but it’s concerning to see big nose tackle Casey Walker be pushed around inside. Linebacker Jamie Collins also had issues filling rushing lanes while taking over for Mayo.
?We?ll watch it on film, and after every game, there?s always going to be something you can say, ?You know it would have been better with Mayo there,? ” safety Devin McCourty said. “I mean, he?s one of our best players, so I think we?ll just have to watch the film and see what we can do and now focus on the guys that are out there, and I?m sure, like you said, it?s not just one guy that?s being gone that hurt us in the run game. We?ll see what we got to do to fix some things — by the way they ran it (Thursday) — I?m sure we?ll see some of those same plays going forward.?
The Patriots had 208 yards in the first half but just 115 in the final two quarters. Brady was 8-of-15 passing in the second half, and Shane Vereen and Jonas Gray combined for just 20 yards on 10 carries.
“Our execution was pretty poor, so we didn?t throw it great, we didn?t catch it great, we didn?t block great, we didn?t run it great,” Brady said. “I think it was just bad offensive football. It?s hard to stay on the field and move it down the field and keep possession and ultimately score points. So there are a lot of things we need to better, certainly all of it would have helped.”
Photo via Elise Amendola/Associated Press