FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots didn’t just beat the New York Jets on Sunday to earn their first home victory of the 2021 season. They bludgeoned their longtime AFC East rivals.
The Patriots routed the Jets 54-13 at Gillette Stadium to improve to 3-4 on the season. The rebuilding Jets, who’d shown promise by upsetting the Tennessee Titans three weeks earlier, fell to 1-5.
It was the first win in Foxboro for Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones, who also went over 300 passing yards for the first time in his blossoming NFL career.
Here are seven thoughts on Jones’ performance:
— Now this is what the Patriots’ offense is supposed to look like.
New England used a combination of heavy formations, frequent misdirection and bruising ball-carrying to pummel the Jets defense throughout the first half.
Damien Harris racked up 60 rushing yards on five carries over the Patriots’ first two possessions (and finished with 106 and two touchdowns on 14 carries). Underperforming tight end Jonnu Smith was heavily involved early (five targets, two catches, 52 yards; one carry, 5 yards) before leaving with a shoulder injury in the second quarter. On 13 of their first 19 plays, the Patriots used either two tight ends, two backs or both, per NESN.com’s live tracking.
Hindered by slow starts early in the season, the Patriots have found the end zone on their opening drive in three straight games and opened with back-to-back touchdown in each of the last two games.
The Jets had no answer. New England went touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown on its five first-half possessions. Although Jones had another strong statistical outing (more on that below), he wasn’t the driving force of this early offensive onslaught. That’s exactly the formula the Patriots should look to replicate in the coming weeks.
— Jones and his wideouts had trouble connecting on deep balls for much of the game, but the QB delivered an absolutely beautiful bomb to Kendrick Bourne on what proved to be his final pass of the day.
With the Patriots up big in the fourth quarter, Jones heaved one down the left sideline for Kendrick Bourne, who hauled it in for a 46-yard gain.
Bourne was dragged down at the 1-yard line. Backup running back J.J. Taylor scored the first of his two touchdowns one play later to put the Patriots up 47-13. Bill Belichick then gave Jones the rest of the afternoon off, inserting veteran Brian Hoyer (who went on to lead yet another touchdown drive).
Jones’ final line: 24 of 37, 307 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, 111.7 passer rating. He completed passes to nine different receivers, including a team-high six to running back Brandon Bolden. Two more (N’Keal Harry and Gunner Olszewski) caught balls from Hoyer.
Jones nearly had four touchdown passes, but Bourne and Hunter Henry both were tackled at the 1-yard line on different plays, setting up a pair of short touchdown runs.
— The lone first-half drive that did not result in a Patriots touchdown featured two of Jones’ worst passes of the day. He tried to force a throw to Smith that was nearly intercepted by linebacker Quincy Williams and missed an open Henry on third down, forcing the Patriots to settle for a Nick Folk field goal.
— Not known for his wheels, Jones converted one third-and-10 with a 13-yard scramble. It was the young QB’s second 10-plus-yard carry of the season.
Three plays later, Jones hit Bolden for a 15-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
— Head coach Bill Belichick has shown a reluctance this season to keep his Jones-led offense on the field on fourth down. Entering this week, the Patriots had attempted just three fourth-down conversions all season, with all three coming on the same garbage-time drive against the New Orleans Saints.
Belichick upped the aggressiveness Sunday. Late in the first half, after a trick-play throwback flopped on third-and-1, the Patriots went for it on fourth-and-short and converted.
It was a smart play call by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who subverted New York’s expectation for an inside handoff or QB sneak by dialing up a sprintout pass. Jones dashed to his right and hit Jakobi Meyers for 3 yards and a first down.
Jones’ touchdown pass to Henry — the tight end’s fourth in the last four games — seven plays later put the Patriots ahead 31-7 at half.
— For the second time in as many meetings, Jones enjoyed a better day than fellow rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
Wilson wasn’t the interception-prone disaster he was when these teams met back in Week 2, but he went 6-for-10 for 51 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury and not returning. Both of the Jets’ touchdowns came with backup Mike White behind center.
— McDaniels frequently sampled from the trick play platter in this one.
The Patriots’ first touchdown came on a wide receiver pass from Bourne — who hadn’t attempted a pass in the NFL or college before Sunday — to Nelson Agholor. Later, New England tried what appeared to be a double pass on third-and-1 and an odd Harris-to-Jones Wildcat pitch pass, both of which failed.