Four Takeaways From Patriots’ Much-Needed Win Over Jets

The Patriots won 22-17 at MetLife Stadium

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Oct 30, 2022

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Patriots entered Sunday’s game sorely needing a win over the AFC East rival New York Jets. The road there wasn’t pretty, but New England achieved that goal, prevailing 22-17 at MetLife Stadium.

The victory improved the Patriots to 4-4 on the season, with a winnable matchup against Sam Ehlinger and the Indianapolis Colts up next on their schedule. After that, they’ll have their bye week and a home rematch with the Jets, setting up a realistic path to playoff contention in the AFC.

The Patriots now have taken 13 straight in this biannual division series, with the Jets winless since 2015.

Here are four at-the-buzzer takeaways from Sunday’s result:

1. Line play hamstrings Mac Jones, offense
How did the Patriots’ offense look in the first half of this game? Four letters: U-G-L-Y. They failed to find the end zone despite starting two of their first five drives in New York territory, settling for a pair of Nick Folk field goals.

The biggest culprit for these struggles was the offensive line, which was simply overwhelmed by the Jets’ talented front seven. Jones was sacked on two of his first three dropbacks and three of his first seven and the Jets racked up nine tackles for loss in the first half alone.

Both of New England’s right tackles were victimized, with Isaiah Wynn (who was bumped from the starting lineup in favor of Marcus Cannon) surrendering a sack on his first pass-blocking snap. Cannon was beaten around the edge by linebacker Bryce Huff, who hit Jones’ hand as he threw to force an interception.

Rookie left guard Cole Strange really struggled, committing two holding penalties and multiple pass-protection breakdowns before seemingly being benched in the third quarter. Wynn, who’s rarely played guard in his career, replaced the first-round pick for several series. The Patriots also were shorthanded up front, with James Ferentz starting in place of longtime center David Andrews. He had a tough time against standout defensive tackle Quinnen Williams in a difficult matchup.

The Jets totaled six sacks into the game, including a third-quarter strip-sack that New England was able to recover. It was the highest sack total of Jones’ NFL career. Those problems up front made it difficult to properly evaluate Jones in his first full game since his Week 3 high ankle sprain. Jones went 24-for-35 for 194 yards and a touchdown with one interception in the win.

Jones, though, was not blameless for the Patriots’ offensive deficiencies, and one decision by the quarterback late in the second quarter nearly proved disastrous for the Patriots. With possession at the Jets’ 25-yard line after a Ja’Whaun Bentley interception, Jones fired a pass directly to cornerback Michael Carter, who returned it 84 yards for a touchdown. He appeared to have expected receiver Jakobi Meyers to break outward, not inward, on the play, but Carter would have been lurking in that spot regardless.

Fortunately for New England, Jones was drilled by John Franklin-Myers after he released that pass. Franklin-Myers was flagged for roughing the passer, and the Patriots retained possession. Trailing 10-3 at the time with three timeouts remaining, they opted to run the ball three times, take a knee and kick a field goal — a telling indictment of their trust in Jones in that situation. Later in the game, Jones threw a third-down pass straight to C.J. Mosely that the linebacker dropped.

A 35-yard Rhamondre Stevenson run on the opening play of the second half sparked the Patriots’ lone touchdown drive, which Jakobi Meyers capped with a 5-yard score on fourth-and-1. Otherwise, the Patriots leaned on Folk, who went 5-for-5 on field-goal tries.

Stevenson was New England’s most productive offensive player, finishing with 16 carries for 71 yards and seven catches for 72 yards.

2. Zach Wilson sees ghosts
The Patriots don’t have everything figured out at the quarterback position, but at least they don’t have Zach Wilson. Wilson, who’d gone three consecutive starts without a touchdown pass, did his best Sam Darnold impression on Sunday, completing 47.2% of his passes and throwing three interceptions, including two baffling ones to veteran safety Devin McCourty in the second half.

The Patriots didn’t record their first sack or quarterback hit until more than halfway through the fourth quarter, but frequently pressured Wilson, with Matthew Judon and Deatrich Wise leading that charge. This was the type of performance New England’s defense — throttled last week by Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears — should have been able to muster against a Jets team that was missing its top running back (Breece Hall), its best offensive lineman (Alijah Vera-Tucker) and one of its top receivers (Corey Davis).

New York’s first touchdown came after back-to-back miscues by Jabrill Peppers and Joshuah Bledsoe, who were playing larger defensive roles in the absence of injured safety Kyle Dugger. Peppers was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a late hit, and tight end Tyler Conklin beat Bledsoe for six two plays later.

Wilson made things interesting with another touchdown pass to Conklin with 1:51 remaining, but New England recovered the ensuing onside kick and kneeled out the remaining clock.

3. Special teams save the day
The Patriots once again had to deal with a few kicking-game mishaps, as Pierre Strong was called for an illegal block in the back on one punt return and DaMarcus Mitchell made the mistake of rolling into the end zone after downing a Jake Bailey punt, resulting in a touchback.

Overall, though, this was the most impactful New England’s special teams have been all season. Folk provided 15 of his team’s 22 points. Marcus Jones — largely a nonfactor since taking over as the top punt returner — broke one for 32 yards, with Peppers planting a Jets player into the turf to spring him. Jack Jones appeared to partially block a 45-yard Greg Zuerlein field-goal try, causing him to push the ball wide left.

4. Early injury shrinks receiver room
Starting wideout DeVante Parker suffered a knee injury on the Patriots’ first offensive snap and did not return, with the team officially ruling him out after halftime. The Patriots had the depth to withstand the injury with five receivers active Sunday, but Parker’s absence didn’t result in increased production for any of their reserve options. Meyers was busy with nine catches for 60 yards and a touchdown, but Tyquan Thronton caught just one pass for 13 yards, Nelson Agholor had one catch for 2 yards, and Kendrick Bourne’s lone target fell incomplete.

The severity of Parker’s injury was not immediately clear. If the Patriots expect to be without him for multiple games, that could impact how they approach this Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. Agholor and Bourne both have been rumored as potential trade candidates.

Speaking of trade candidates, if the Patriots plan to be buyers ahead of the deadline, offensive tackle is one spot that could use an upgrade.

Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
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