After 59 minutes and roughly 35 seconds of the worst offensive football of the last 25 years in the NFL, Rookie Marcus Jones showed off his return game prowess in a big way against the New York Jets. With some good blocking and speed in front of him, an 84-yard return served as the game-winner as well as the only touchdown of the game on either side. With that, the Patriots improve to 6-4, while putting the Jets to dead last in the AFC East on a day where getting into first was achievable with a win for them.
Although a win going into a short week is nice, the Patriots have some real, serious problems on offense. Nearly all of which reside in the offensive play-calling of Matt Patricia. With a week off to get better, he may have gotten worse. Not great considering there are back-to-back Thursday night games on the horizon.
For the Win
Typically, you don’t want to be in a spot where a punt return score is basically a necessity to win. Luckily, the Patriots now have someone who is an explosive play in a box in the return game. Funny enough, this might not have even happened. Jones ended up getting fixed up with an ankle issue and was replaced by Myles Bryant for at least the final punt of the third quarter. He was in for the last one, and Jones clearly made it count. Give a ton of credit to Brendan Schooler, Anfernee Jennings, and Raleigh Webb for some massive blocks which allowed Jones to cut it upfield. Never let anyone tell you special teams doesn’t matter either. On the topic, good game for new punter Michael Palardy, especially with the wind.
Enough is Enough
Nine games into the season, I can now comfortably say the Patriots shouldn’t wait until the offseason to make a change at offensive coordinator. Matt Patricia should lose his play-calling/game-planning duties now. He continues to stay predictable, continues to mentally short-circuit whenever the Patriots get in or around the red zone, and continues to not call good situational offensive football. This all things considered was his worst game of the season, and quite frankly it isn’t close.
In the first half, the Patriots ran 12 plays on first down in total. Seven of those plays were runs that went for an average of two yards on the dot. Remember when Bill Belichick said that C.J. Mosely was basically calling out plays pre-snap? Yeah, that was probably happening again. Bad play calling also led to just two trips inside the red zone all game and every fourth-quarter drive ending in a punt as well. This isn’t even getting into that horrendous 4th and short run call at the dead end of the third quarter. Infuriating isn’t even the word for it at this point.
Patricia keeping his pseudo-Ernie Adams role and offensive line coaching duties at this juncture is fine, but it’s beyond clear at this point that he is nowhere close to being a worthy offensive play caller. Mac Jones was good in spite of him today, but it’s clear that he hasn’t progressed as planned with Patricia running the offense. Even if that means Joe Judge takes things over for the short term, that feels like a better approach to continuing to go down this path. Three points offensively is pathetic, regardless of the opponent, and I put that squarely on the shoulders of Matt Patricia.
Offensive Line Injuries Pile Up
The offensive line got beat up in more ways than one on Sunday, suffering two key injuries. The massive one comes in the form of David Andrews, who just came back after a concussion in Week 7. Now the mainstay up the middle could be out for the rest of the season with a calf injury, according to Ian Rappaport of NFL Network. Secondly, Isaiah Wynn, who went down with a foot injury yesterday could be missing some time as well according to Jeff Howe of the Athletic. The Andrews loss obviously hurts more, but those are two guys the Patriots couldn’t afford to lose at this juncture.
You may be wondering what will this offensive line potentially look like moving forward. For the short term, it may be for the best if Trent Brown, who was a reserve against the Jets, slot back in at left tackle, with Yodney Cajuste, who had a rough outing on Sunday, sticking on the right side. Not the ideal situation, but they don’t have many options now. Marcus Cannon is currently on IR and the earliest he can come back is Week 14. The positive is that Wynn’s injury doesn’t seem to be of the season-ending variety. Any changes on the outside would be temporary.
Center is where things get muddy. Right now, James Ferentz is the guy but he has looked rough for the time he’s been in there. One name to keep in mind should Ferentz struggle is Chasen Hines. The rookie out of LSU is a guard by trade but was the Tigers' backup center on the 2019 National Championship team. Right now, he is on IR and is slated to revert to the roster on Week 13. Should Ferentz struggle, Hines could be worth a look. Regardless of what things look like, this unit must be better than they have been these last three games. As a group, the Patriots offensive line has allowed 16 sacks, 12 of which are from the New York Jets.
Outside of the fact they had no takeaways with the opportunity to get some, this Patriots' defense was once again shut down. In total, they held the Jets to 77 passing yards and 59 rushing yards. Furthermore, the Jets in total had TWO total yards gained in the second half. That means you sitting there reading this, were only two yards off an NFL team’s offensive output in half of a regular season game.
Matt Judon picked up another 1.5 sacks to his name (new career high of 12.5), but he wasn’t alone in this game. Kyle Dugger got his first sack of the year, which nearly ended up being a scoop and score for Davon Godchaux. Additionally, Mack Wilson was credited with a half sack along with two QB hits. Those four plus the likes of Raekwon MacMillan and others were money in the run game as well. Top marks all around.
The Secondary kept things airtight on their ends as well. If not for an underthrown semi-deep ball finding Denzel Mims, no Jets pass catcher would have gotten over 20 yards on the day. Could have used those dropped picks from Devin McCourty and Jonathan Jones, but outside of that, this was a much better performance than the initial Jets matchup strictly from a coverage standpoint.
Up Next: Primetime Thanksgiving Feast
The Patriots haven’t been featured on Thanksgiving since the Butt Fumble game in 2012. That changes this Thursday night when they make the trip to U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the 8-2 Vikings. Minnesota did enter the weekend 8-1 but were throttled so badly by the Dallas Cowboys that CBS switched over to Bengals-Steelers for those outside of the Dallas/Minnesota market. A stark contrast to their thrilling win in Buffalo a week ago. Even so, they remain as the No. 2 seed in the NFC behind the Philadelphia Eagles, the other team who defeated them earlier in the year.
The first thing to note about the Vikings is their pass rush. The duo of former Packer Za’Darius Smith and Vikings lifer Danielle Hunter have combined for 15.5 sacks on the year, along with 24 TFL and 26 QB hits before this Sunday. They’ll be a handful, especially with the Patriots' injuries up front. Speaking of, the Vikings will be without a massive piece on their offensive line in Christian Darrisaw. During Sunday’s game against Dallas, he suffered a concussion, with head coach Kevin O’Connell immediately ruling him out for Thursday during his postgame presser.
As for the rest of the offense, this is the most firepower the Patriots may see all year, even more than Miami. Justin Jefferson pound for pound may be the best wideout in football, and his partner Adam Thielen is no slouch. Dalvin Cook is in that top tier of running back with guys like Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, and Derrick Henry. And not to mention the fact that Minnesota now has T.J. Hockenson in the fold, whom the Patriots shut down earlier this year. The X-Factor here is Kirk Cousins, who might be the worst primetime QB in NFL history. With Washington, he was 3-10 under the lights and is currently 6-9 with the Vikings. Keep in mind as well, the Vikings are 6-0 in the 1 PM EST window (7-0 including London Game). 1-1 in the 4 PM EST window, and 0-1 in primetime this season.
Final Score: New England Patriots 10, New York Jets 3
Gaffney's Three Stars:
1st Star – Marcus Jones (84 Yard Punt Return TD)
2nd Star – Matt Judon (1.5 Sacks, Hits New Career Sack Record of 12.5 in 10 games)
3rd Star – Damien Harris (8 Rushes for 65 Yards, 2 Catches for 28 Yards)