A lot of people didn't give the Patriots a chance in this game. But I was cautiously optimistic. Why? Because I don't think the Jets are that good.
Sure, the Pats' defense was a slapped together hodgepodge of obscure practice squad players. During player introductions, I was surprised NBC had photos for all of them. And it's not like the Patriots' defense has been a dominating force before this latest rash of injuries. But Mark Sanchez and the Jets' offense are not well equipped to take advantage of these weaknesses.
This game featured a weak defense facing a weak offense, and a strong offense facing a strong defense. And it came down to which team made the most/biggest mistakes, and which team best took advantage of those mistakes.
The Jets made the biggest and the most mistakes. A muffed punt, a missed 24 yard field goal, they gave Brady the ball back with time before the end of the half, Greene couldn't catch a ball and that turned into a pick, and Sanchez threw an interception that was his own fault. The Jets also looked confused at all times. They were never entirely certain what they were doing, let alone had any idea what the Patriots were going to do.
The Pats took advantage of these mistakes. And they didn't make many of their own. There was a botched shotgun snap that Brady was able to recover. And the safety, of course. That was basically it. The Pats didn't turn the ball over, they didn't allow many big plays.
The Pats also improved as the game progressed. Especially Tom Brady. Up until that drive before halftime, he was 6/14 for 129 yards (76.2 rating). He finished the game 20/25 for 200 yards and 3 TDs (139.6 rating). He was two different quarterbacks. One was clumsy and random. The other was efficient and ruthless.
The Pats were still in the game despite the slow offensive start because of the defense. Andre Carter and Rob Ninkovich had career games. Carter was credited with 4.5 sacks, and Ninkovich intercepted two passes. It wasn't pretty, but the Red Zone defense was tight, they didn't allow big plays, and they occasionally got to Sanchez.
Rob Gronkowski had yet another monstrous performance. 8 catches for 113 yards and 2 TDs. Did you know that Belichick drafted him? That's right. The guy everyone has been critical of as a GM drafted Gronk in the 2nd round. He's already caught 18 TD passes in his just-starting career.
By the way, Wes Welker's 46 yards put him over 1,000 yards for the season. It's Week 10.
Chad Ochocinco made the most noise he's made all season. 2 catches for 65 yards, one of them was a huge 53 yarder. He's not going to get cut. He might not be a significant positive contributor, but unlike Haynesworth, he's not a negative.
So things weren't as bad as we thought they were. But this win isn't unbelievably impressive either. The Jets are a 5-4 team and they played like a 5-4 team. The Pats' schedule from here on out is very easy, and with 2 wins against the Jets in their pocket, and Buffalo struggling, there's no excuse to not win the AFC East.
Pats host Kansas City on Monday night.