Patriots-Jets Takeaways: Defense Comes Up Clutch After Early Struggles

The Patriots' defense made plays when it mattered

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The Patriots’ defensive performance Monday night was, all things considered, concerning, but the unit did come up big when it mattered with a key turnover and sack to put New England’s offense in position to complete a fourth-quarter comeback in the 30-27 win.

The Patriots’ secondary made Joe Flacco look “elite,” while their pass rush had trouble generating pressure against an offensive line that lost its best player, Mekhi Becton, early in the game.

Here are our top takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 9 win:

All advanced stats via Pro Football Focus.

PASSING GAME
Cam Newton had one of his most efficient games of the season, going 27-of-35 for 274 yards. Of those eight incompletions, one was thrown away, one was spiked and one came on a QB hit. His adjusted completion percentage was 84.4. His adjusted completion percentage coming into the game was 78.2. It was Newton’s second good performance in a row after three consecutive games of struggles.

Newton was great under pressure, going 7-of-10 for 40 yards. Among those three incompletions, one was thrown away and one came on a QB hit. Newton wasn’t sacked and didn’t turn the ball over.

Newton was asked on WEEI about why he didn’t take more shots downfield. Newton went 2-of-4 for 53 yards on throws of 20 yards or longer.

Patriots pass catchers didn’t have any drops in the game.

Jakobi Meyers, who had 12 catches on 14 targets for 169 yards, now ranks third among qualified NFL wide receivers with 2.91 yards per route run. He only ranks behind Green Bay Packers Pro Bowler Davante Adams and Minnesota Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson.

Meyers was flagged twice. He was penalized for holding and an illegal shift.

Pass protection
RG Shaq Mason: QB hit, three hurries, holding penalty (declined)
LT Isaiah Wynn: QB hit, hurry
C David Andrews: two hurries
OT Korey Cunningham: hurry
LG Joe Thuney: hurry
QB Cam Newton: hurry

— Among players with pass-blocking snaps, right tackle Michael Onwenu (39 snaps), tight end Ryan Izzo and fullback Jakob Johnson (seven snaps apiece) and running backs Rex Burkhead (six snaps), Damien Harris (three snaps) and James White (two snaps) were clean and didn’t allow any pressure. Onwenu was charged with a holding penalty.

— Cunningham’s pressure came on just four snaps. He briefly filled in for Wynn, who left the game with an ankle injury, at left tackle.

RUNNING GAME
We’re still waiting for a timeline on running back Damien Harris’ chest injury, but it didn’t look good Monday night. He took a hard shot from Jets linebacker Tarell Basham, left the game and didn’t return. He was pointing to his ribs as he walked toward the locker room.

Harris carried the ball 14 times for 71 yards and had another impressive performance. If he misses time, the Patriots could activate Sony Michel off of injured reserve to take his lead-back spot in the offense. Burkhead also could see more playing time.

Elusive rating
Harris: 3.71 yards after contact per attempt, four avoided tackles, 106.1 elusive rating
Burkhead: 2.67 yards after contact per attempt, two avoided tackles, 35.6 elusive rating
Newton: 2.33 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle, 25.9 elusive rating
WR Gunner Olszewski: 2 yards after contact per attempt, 0 elusive rating
White: -.5 yards after contact per attempt, one avoided tackle, -8.3 elusive rating

— Harris’ elusive rating was the best of his NFL career. He was extremely difficult to bring down.

— Burkhead is having a really strong season as the Patriots’ change-of-pace back.

— White still isn’t getting very involved in the offense, which is strange. He only has two double-digit-touch games this season.

PASS DEFENSE
The Patriots struggled mightily in coverage with top cornerback Stephon Gilmore inactive (knee). Gilmore returned to practice last week, so it doesn’t appear to be a long-term issue.

Pass coverage
CB JC Jackson: four catches on nine targets, 97 yards, two TDs, interception, pass breakup, defensive pass interference
CB Jason McCourty: 4-5, 69 yards, TD, defensive pass interference
SS Terrence Brooks: 1-1, 23 yards
CB Jonathan Jones: 2-2, 19 yards
SS Adrian Phillips: 2-2, 13 yards
DB Joejuan Williams: 1-1, 12 yards
LB Shilique Calhoun: 1-1, 11 yards
SS Kyle Dugger: 1-1, 8 yards
LB Chase Winovich: 1-1, 5 yards
DB Myles Bryant: 1-1, 5 yards

— Jackson definitely struggled while matching up against Jets wideouts Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. He made up for it, however, with a key interception. The Patriots were trailing 27-20 before the pick then marched down the field to tie the game with a Newton rushing touchdown. The defensive pass interference penalty on Jackson was kind of ticky-tack and came on an uncatchable ball.

— Jason McCourty also struggled in coverage while taking on Perriman, Mims and Jamison Crowder. The touchdown he let up was an unbelievable throw and catch by Joe Flacco and Crowder.

That’s bad luck.

Pass rush
DE Deatrich Wise: sack, QB hit, two hurries
OLB Derek Rivers: QB hit, hurry
Winovich: two hurries
DT Adam Butler: QB hit
DT Carl Davis: hurry
DE Tashawn Bower: hurry
LB Josh Uche: hurry
Phillips: hurry
FS Devin McCourty: hurry

— Winovich was back to playing the majority of snaps (67 percent) after seeing his playing time dwindle since the Patriots’ Week 5 bye. He wasn’t overly productive as a pass rusher but did play well in run defense. He was also a core special teams player.

— Uche only played four defensive snaps, all as a pass rusher, with starting linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley inactive. That was a pretty big surprise, since Uche was Bentley’s top fill in Week 8. Adrian Phillips (41 snaps), Terez Hall (30 snaps) and Anfernee Jennings (seven snaps) mostly filled in at inside linebacker. Rookie safety Kyle Dugger also saw snaps at linebacker.

— Wise’s sack was a key play near the end of the fourth quarter. The Jets were facing second-and-2 while the game was tied 27-27 when Wise looped around to bring down Flacco, putting them in a third-and-7 situation. Flacco’s next pass fell incomplete to Perriman. The Patriots kicked the game-winning field goal on the ensuing drive.

RUN DEFENSE
Despite being down Bentley and starting defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, the Patriots’ front seven held up well, allowing just 65 yards on 18 carries.

Tackling efficiency
Wise: three stops
Winovich: two stops
DT Byron Cowart: stop
LB Anfernee Jennings: stop
Davis: stop
Phillips: stop
Jason McCourty: stop
Hall: one stop, one missed tackle
Jackson: missed tackle
Bower: two missed tackles

— Hall started at inside linebacker after being elevated off the practice squad Monday afternoon for his NFL debut. He’s undersized at 6-foot-2, 235 pounds but was solid in the middle of the Patriots’ defense.

— The Patriots were left with Cowart (36 snaps), Nick Thurman (23 snaps), Davis (12 snaps) and Butler (10 snaps) at defensive tackle with Guy out. Butler only played in passing situations. The Patriots have Isaiah Mack coming off of the exempt list to help out after being claimed off waivers from the Tennessee Titans. Guy practiced this week, so he shouldn’t be out for too long either. It will be interesting to see how snaps are divvied up once everyone is back.

NESN’s New England football takeaways are presented by Valvoline Instant Oil Change.

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