EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The conversation after the Patriots’ 30-27 overtime loss to the Jets on Sunday focused on the esoteric rule change that wiped out a missed field goal and put Nick Folk 15 yards closer to his winning kick.
But lost in the shuffle was the fact that the Patriots’ young defensive line, playing without tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, had a solid effort against the Jets’ physical offensive line.
Chris Jones, the rookie flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for pushing teammate Will Svitek in the back in an attempt to block the field goal, had 10 tackles, two sacks, and three tackles for loss on Sunday. He was in no mood to celebrate his accomplishments, however.
“It would’ve been great if we would’ve won, but we lose, so everything that happened before that is just out the window,” he said.
The Patriots had to make several adjustments to the defense on Sunday in playing without Wilfork and Kelly, as well as linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Aqib Talib.
They often played a 3-4 base defense, with end Rob Ninkovich moving to outside linebacker. On several snaps, the Patriots’ three-man defensive line was filled with unproven youngsters — Jones, a rookie sixth-round pick who was cut by Houston and Tampa Bay before landing in New England last month; Joe Vellano, an undrafted rookie out of Maryland; and Marcus Forston, a second-year player who spent most of last year on the practice squad.
Vellano had seven tackles and a quarterback hit, while Forston had two tackles, one for loss.
The Jets did score 30 points and gain 383 yards, but one of the touchdowns came on a Tom Brady interception, and the defensive line withstood the pounding of 52 rushing attempts by the Jets, holding them to a 3.4-yard average.
“The whole defense has really rallied,” Brady said. “They lost some veteran leadership, but they come in here and they fight. The young guys who have been in there, Chris, Joe, have made plays.”
Second-year end Chandler Jones also continued his excellent season, coming up with two more sacks and compiling a team-high 11 tackles with two for loss, and a forced fumble.
Jones, the Patriots’ first-round pick in 2012, now has 6½ sacks, surpassing his total of six from his rookie year, when he played through two sprained ankles.
He consistently beat Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson off the snap.
“Chandler works hard every day. That’s not something new,” Vellano said. “There’s no shortcuts to that.”
Chris Jones’s teammates showed sympathy after Sunday’s game. Jones has played admirably since Wilfork was lost with a season-ending Achilles’ injury in Week 4. Prior to Sunday, Jones played in 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 6 against the Saints, and had 1½ sacks against the Bengals in Week 5.
Jones has had to learn the Patriots’ defense on the fly. He was cut by the Texans after training camp, claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay, released again nine days later, and claimed by the Patriots on Sept. 11, the day before the Week 2 game against the Jets.
Ninkovich said the Patriots’ young defensive linemen will benefit from getting significant playing time.
“The young guys with the repetitions they’re getting on the team, that’s very valuable,” Ninkovich said. “[Jones] is doing a great job for us, putting pressure on the quarterback. He’s got to continue to do that, we’ve got a lot of games to go.”Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.