Sunday, December 16, 2007
NOT WHAT WE EXPECTED, BUT IT'LL DO
This picture of Brady rushing makes me laugh. It seems so out of place, unreal even.
The Patriots were favored by more than three touchdowns, but that's how many TDs both teams combined for in a sloppy and dull 20-10 New England victory. And only one of those touchdowns was scored on offense.
The Pats got on the board first. Eugene Wilson got an early Christmas present from Kellen Clemens in the form of an interception. Wilson returned it into the end zone to put New England up 7-0.
It seemed as though the route was on, but the Pats wouldn't get into the end zone for another 23 minutes of game clock.
The Pats added a field goal after coming up a yard shy of a first down inside the Jets' 10 yard line. It was 10-0, New England. New York was still very much in the game.
The Jets got on the board thanks to a Chris Hanson mishandled snap. He tried to get the punt off after bumbling the slick pigskin, but it was blocked, scooped up by David Bowens, and ran into the end zone. 10-7 New England.
The Pats drove into Jets territory, but the drive stalled just past midfield. The Patriots had a lot of stalled drives. Third downs were a major problem for Brady and the boys, they only converted 6 of 16, even though most of them were 3rd and around 4 to 6.
Kelley Washington came up with a big special teams play in the form of a blocked punt to give the Pats possession of the football on the New York 3 yard line. Washington has been a monster on special teams this season. He has 15 tackles, as well as a forced fumble. Now he can add a blocked punt to his solid season of work.
Maroney dove into the end zone, scoring what would turn out to be the only offensive touchdown of the game, giving the Pats a 17-7 lead going into the half.
In the third quarter, a Brady interception threatened to turn into a Jets score, but Adalius Thomas and Richard Seymour were able to force a fumble on their own 10 yard line. Eugene Wilson recovered and the Pats were safe once more.
An absolutely stupid false start penalty on 3rd and 1 contributed to a Patriots punt, but the Jets were eventually forced to punt after crossing midfield.
In the 4th quarter, the Jets mounted a lengthy, drawn out drive that only resulted in 3 points. It was 17 plays long and took 7:40 off the clock. Even though they scored, it was more of a benefit to New England than to themselves. The Pats got the ball back with a 17-10 lead and 6:08 on the clock.
On 3rd and 10, Brady hit Welker for a gain of 16. The yardage put Wes past the 1,000 mark, the first time he has ever reached the milestone of 1,000 receiving yards. This is only the 2nd time in team history that the Patriots have had a pair of 1,000 yard receivers.
Randy Moss had the play of the game, hauling in a 46 yard bomb from Brady, despite Kerry Rhodes' interference. You'd think that we'd be used to such amazing grabs at this point in the season, but they continue to astound.
The drive would end in a field goal and a 20-10 lead.
The Jets responded immediately with a kickoff return that landed them at New England's 31. They drove into the red zone, and appeared to score a touchdown with 2:38 on the clock. But the play was overturned. Eventually, New York was forced to attempt a field goal which went wide left, effectively ending the game.
New York's last gasp drive saw Pennington sacked three times.
I wouldn't go so far as to say the Patriots played poorly, but I would say that they lacked an edge and a crispness that we're used to seeing them have.
The defense played very well, yielding yardage but not points. They only allowed 3 by the Jets offense. Adalius had one of his best games with 9 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Seau added a pair of sacks to the effort. The Jets got into the red zone 4 times and came away with a scant 3 points from those opportunities.
Brady did not look his best. Perhaps it was the weather, but his passes seemed to float a bit, missing open receivers, and rarely hitting them in stride. Only five Patriots had receptions, we're used to seeing 8 or more different guys getting thrown to.
Special teams was hit or miss. The kickoff coverage didn't perform nearly as well as we've seen them do in previous games, and the bungled punt was a huge play that kept the Jets in it.
Laurence Maroney had a very solid day, rushing for 104 yards on 26 carries (precisely 4.0 yards per attempt). This was one of the few games that saw more rushes (35) than pass attempts (27).
The Patriots had numerous opportunities to extend drives, and maybe put the ball in the end zone, but they failed to do so. Again, the weather was not conducive to offensive football. Freezing rain is much worse for passing offenses than snow, and the 30 MPH crosswinds whirling around Gillette weren't helping Brady throw the deep ball with any accuracy.
But the Patriots still won because they're very good, and the Jets suck. I'm sorry, but there's no other way to put it.
This is only the 2nd time in NFL history that a team has reached the 14-0 mark. The last time was in 1972, when the Dolphins finished THEIR regular season at 14-0. The Pats have two more games to go. The best record in Patriots franchise history is 14-2, accomplished in 2003, and 2004. Now that feat has at least been matched. New England also clinched home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Pats host the 1-13 Dolphins next Sunday at 4:15. The Dolphins beat Baltimore in overtime on Sunday. The early point spread has the Pats as 21.5 point favorites.
I wonder what excuse Mangini will come up with on Monday to try to discredit the Patriots this time. Maybe the heat wasn't working in their locker room. Or perhaps all the snowball throwing caused radio interference, disrupting the Jets' radio communications.
Bill Belichick 4, Eric Mangini 1.