FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots fans might not trust their team’s secondary, but coach Bill Belichick proved Sunday that he does.
The Patriots’ game plan against the New York Jets was to do everything they could to stuff the run, forcing Ryan Fitzpatrick to try to beat them through the air. The game turned into a shootout, with 93 total passes, which, in turn, led to a 30-23 Patriots win.
When betting on Patriots quarterback Tom Brady versus Fitzpatrick, always take the four-time Super Bowl champion, regardless of the talent on their secondaries.
The Patriots’ pass defense surrendered 295 yards and two touchdowns and didn’t pick off Fitzpatrick, but it proved it could hold up in difficult circumstances. The Patriots usually had seven defenders near the line of scrimmage, forcing one-on-one coverage down the field. That allowed them to limit the Jets to just 89 rushing yards and 3.1 yards per carry. The Jets’ running backs, including star Chris Ivory, ran for just 2.6 yards per carry.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler shadowed Jets wideout Eric Decker, while Logan Ryan covered Brandon Marshall. Rookie Justin Coleman took on the Jets’ No. 3 receivers Jeremy Kerley, Chris Owusu and Devin Smith, while safety Patrick Chung also chipped in and Devin McCourty helped over the top. Safety Duron Harmon, usually the Patriots’ nickel defensive back, took on a lessened role as the Patriots focused on run defense.
The results weren’t perfect, but with little help from linebacker or a pass rush, it worked. The Patriots won, and it’s a testament to Belichick that he stuck with the plan to fruition.
Here’s how the Patriots fared in coverage:
Malcolm Butler: 5-11, 82 yards, illegal use of hands, holding, 18-yard pass interference
Logan Ryan: 4-7, 67 yards
Dont’a Hightower: 3-3, 32 yards, holding
Patrick Chung: 3-6, 28 yards, two PBUs
Jamie Collins: 1-2, 23 yards, PBU
Justin Coleman: 3-7, 22 yards, TD, PBU, illegal use of hands
Rob Ninkovich: 1-2, 9 yards, TD, four PBUs
“You know, it’s a position that’s always pressured,” Ryan said about playing cornerback. “You don’t want to make the wrong step. A lot can go wrong, a lot can go right, as well, so it’s just a pressure position. It’s the NFL, so it’s a competitive league. It’s not going to be perfect, but you just want to finish with more points than they have.”
That was the secondary’s manta after the game, and Butler still had his confidence, despite giving up 82 yards and being charged with three penalties.
“(Receivers) are going to catch balls,” Butler said. “It doesn’t matter who you are. You’re going to get a ball caught on you. But you try your best to limit them and not give up a catch almost every play. Some of those games come, but like I said before, I thought I played well, held them off long enough and got the ‘W.’ That’s all that matters.”
That the Patriots had confidence to stick Ryan on Marshall is a positive development. Ryan didn’t enter the season as a starter, but he has been the Patriots’ most consistent cornerback through six games. Marshall rattled off 100 yards in each of the Jets’ previous four matchups with touchdowns in three of those games before he ran into Ryan on Sunday.
“He’s a guy who wants the ball,” Ryan said. “Good or bad play, he wants to ball again like any great competitor would, so I knew to keep bringing it because after the first quarter, after the second quarter, he’s going to keep wanting the ball. He’s going to demand the ball, and they’re going to find a way to get that guy the ball. That’s why he’s been having those games — 100-yard streak he’s been having — so he’s definitely a big part of their offense, so I knew the ball would be coming my way.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Oct 25, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) catches the ball against New England Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan (26) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports