EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The New England Patriots secured the victory they so badly needed Sunday, beating the New York Jets 15-10 in a soggy slugfest at MetLife Stadium.

Was it a stirring, emphatic win for Bill Belichick’s club? Certainly not. The Patriots couldn’t capitalize on chance after chance to put the game away late, punting on their final six possessions and finding the end zone just once.

But after dropping their first two games for the first time since 2001, they didn’t need to win pretty. They just needed to win, and they did, improving their record to 1-2 ahead of next week’s road matchup with the imposing Dallas Cowboys.

Matthew Judon sacked Zach Wilson in the end zone for a safety with 2:18 remaining, and a Hail Mary as time expired bounced off Randall Cobb’s fingertips.

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Here are nine thoughts on the Week 3 win:

1. This was not a particularly impressive performance by the Patriots’ offense, which scored points on just three of its 13 possessions and didn’t run a single play in the Jets’ red zone.

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Quarterback Mac Jones went 15-for-29 for 201 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions as New England went with a ground-and-pound game plan. The Patriots did have far more success running the ball than they did in Weeks 1 and 2, with Ezekiel Elliott spearheading that effort.

The former Cowboys star finished with 80 yards on 16 carries (5.0 per attempt). Rhamondre Stevenson added 59 yards on 19 attempts.

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The Patriots also finished the game with no turnovers after coughing it up twice in each of the first two games.

2. Lacking depth at cornerback and clearly not fearing Wilson’s passing ability, the Patriots played far more snaps than usual in their base defense, only deploying five or six defensive backs in obvious passing situations.

This throwback strategy led to massively increased roles for two players who were healthy-scratched in Weeks 1 and 2: outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings and defensive tackle Sam Roberts. Both players started the game, and Jennings was especially impactful, notching five tackles, a tackle for loss and a bone-rattling quarterback hit.

Wilson was his usual terrible self for most of the game — ugly sacks, panic plays, etc. — but found a groove in the fourth quarter to lead a 13-play, 87-yard touchdown drive. That one drive accounted for more than half of New York’s 171 total yards.

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3. Rookie Christian Gonzalez played every defensive snap for the third consecutive week, with Myles Bryant starting at the other cornerback spot and Shaun Wade playing in three-corner nickel.

Gonzalez spent much of the game shadowing 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson, who finished with five catches for 48 yards (including a 29-yarder on the final drive). The first-round draft pick has exceeded expectations so far, and the Patriots have sorely needed him. Cornerbacks Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones all were unavailable for Sunday’s game due to injury.

4. The Patriots had to play the second half without two of their veteran defensive tackles. Starter Davon Godchaux and reserve Daniel Ekuale suffered ankle and elbow injuries, respectively, during the same second-quarter series and did not return.

New England’s D-line held up well without them Sunday, but their statuses will be worth monitoring this week. The Patriots aren’t overflowing with defensive tackle depth even when everyone’s healthy.

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5. If you correctly predicted the Patriots’ first touchdown scorer in this game, you probably made a nice chunk of change.

New England took a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter on a 58-yard catch-and-run by third-string tight end Pharaoh Brown.

Brown, who signed with the Patriots just before the season, saw substantial playing time as a run blocker in heavy sets before his catch, including a handful of snaps as a makeshift fullback. Bill O’Brien followed those up with a play-action shot play, and the Jets weren’t prepared for it.

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A wide-open Brown caught the ball around the 40-yard line and outran a half-dozen New York defenders to the end zone. It was Brown’s first touchdown since 2020, his first catch as a Patriot and New England’s longest play of the season to date.

Brown added another reception after halftime to finish with two for a game-high 71 yards.

6. The Patriots made a change up front, starting Vederian Lowe at right tackle over the struggling Calvin Anderson. They also had the rest of their starting five intact for the first time this season, with left tackle Trent Brown returning to join left guard Cole Strange, center David Andrews and right guard Mike Onwenu.

That unit didn’t stick for the duration. Strange exited with a knee injury during the third quarter and was replaced by Atonio Mafi.

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The O-line wasn’t perfect but showed improvement. Mac Jones was not sacked, and the Patriots allowed just two tackles for loss.

7. The wet and windy conditions in East Rutherford weren’t ideal for the kicking game, and it was an eventful afternoon for New England’s field-goal operation.

Rookie kicker Chad Ryland made kicks of 48 and 51 yards — not chip shots, even at the NFL level — but missed from 48 and badly from 57. Both of his misses featured high snaps from veteran long snapper Joe Cardona.

8. After being benched last week for fumbling, rookie receiver Demario Douglas was right back in the mix for the Patriots. He caught one pass on three targets for 15 yards and rotated with Jabrill Peppers at punt returner with Marcus Jones on injured reserve.

Officials also missed a blatant pass interference against Douglas late in the first half that would have set up a prime scoring opportunity. Instead, they had to settle for a 57-yard field goal that Ryland missed.

9. Speaking of penalties, those were a problem for the Patriots’ offense. Strange was flagged for holding; Brown and Onwenu jumped offsides on back-to-back plays; JuJu Smith-Schuster was popped for an illegal blindside block; and New England had one penalty for 12 men on the field.

Smith-Schuster, a disappointment through his first three games as a Patriot, finished with one catch for 5 yards.

Featured image via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images