Instant Analysis from the Patriots' 30-27 win over the Jets:
▪ Cam Newton flopped in Seattle and he failed in Buffalo, but the third time was the charm in Monday night’s impressive comeback win over the Jets. The Patriots forgot to show up for the first three quarters, but credit Newton and the Patriots for coming alive and several key plays in the fourth. He led the Patriots to 13 points in the final frame, led two length-of-the-field drives, then moved the Patriots 45 yards in the final minute to put them in position for the game-winning field goal.
Believe it or not, this was the Patriots' first win after trailing by 10 points entering the fourth quarter since the Super Bowl LI win over the Falcons. The time before that was Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks.
“Cam did a great job,” coach Bill Belichick said after the game. “Hung in there, made some great reads, good checks. Cam did a nice job with it.”
A Patriots team that is 3-5 and most likely going nowhere this year showed a lot of fight in a fourth quarter in which they forced an interception and held the ball for 13:36. The Jets ran just four plays and gained 3 yards in the entire final frame.
The Patriots snapped their four-game losing streak and finally saw some reward for their hard work. A comeback win like this should build some confidence in the locker room, particularly for Newton, who looks like he needs it.
▪ Of course, let’s keep this in perspective — needing a 10-point comeback to beat the winless Jets is not exactly something to crow about. Before Monday night, the Jets had lost seven of their eight games by more than one possession.
It’s still mortifying that it took a Herculean fourth-quarter effort just to beat the Jets, the NFL’s only winless team at 0-9. The Patriots have been hit hard by injuries and opt-outs, but that’s not a good excuse. They have little talent, no depth, no creativity on either side of the ball, and a quarterback still trying to learn a new offense. This was a nice win, but let’s not overrate it, either. It’s the Jets, after all.
▪ Newton had great passing numbers, but they were a little misleading. He completed 27 of 35 passes for 274 yards and a 99.0 rating, and at one point in the fourth quarter he had completed 22 of 24 passes. But the ESPN crew relayed during the broadcast that Josh McDaniels considers Newton “like a rookie learning our system,” and it showed.
He stares down his receivers too long, doesn’t see the field, and has very little pocket awareness. Broadcaster Brian Griese would be a rich man if he had a nickel for every time he pointed out Newton missing an open receiver. And Newton got absolutely crushed by safety Ashtyn Davis on a blitz, with Newton not seeing the defender screaming right at him from his front side.
Newton’s accuracy is still below-average, and he missed Jakobi Meyers on a deep ball late in the fourth quarter that should have tied the game. Most frustrating was Newton slipping to the turf on several key plays, including two third downs in the fourth quarter. He can’t use his athleticism if he can’t stay on his feet.
▪ Credit to Josh McDaniels and the Patriots offense for finding a rhythm in the second half. They went touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal on their four drives. They went 78, 63, 77 and 45 yards, and took 7:33, 9:26, 3:53 and the final 0:47 off the clock. They ran the ball 26 times in the second half and threw it 21. For the game, the Patriots ran 41 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. In their three wins this year the Patriots have run the ball 42, 38 and 41 times.
▪ The Patriots' secondary was pretty awful without Stephon Gilmore. Joe Flacco once again killed the Patriots with jump balls, throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns in his best game of the season. J.C. Jackson, who does have a great nose for the ball, got picked on badly without Gilmore playing across from him. Jackson allowed four catches on seven targets for 97 yards and two touchdowns, getting beaten for 50 yards and 15 yards by Breshad Perriman. Jackson did redeem himself late in the fourth quarter with his fifth interception of the season, setting up the Patriots' tying drive.
Flacco was also 4 for 5 for 69 yards when targeting Jason McCourty, and 3 for 3 for 31 yards against Jonathan Jones.
▪ Most frustrating about the Patriots defense is how it couldn’t get a finger in Flacco’s face all night. They blitzed him on 46.2 percent of throws, per NFL Next Gen stats, yet the Patriots had only four quarterback hits and just one sack, late in the fourth quarter. We know they don’t have great 1-on-1 pass rushers up front, but it’s disconcerting that they can’t even get pressure when they blitz.
▪ At least Jakobi Meyers can play. The second-year receiver had a career game, catching 12 passes for 169 yards, his first career 100-yard game. Meyers has been pretty much the entire passing game since Julian Edelman went on injured reserve. Last week against Buffalo he led the team with six catches, 10 targets and 58 yards. Against the Jets he led the team in targets (14), catches and yards.
At this point, there is little doubt that Meyers, undrafted last year, is better than N’Keal Harry, a first-round pick in the same draft class.
Meyers also had a tremendous block on Damiere Byrd’s 31-yard catch late in the fourth quarter. Those are the plays that will earn the trust of the coaching staff.
▪ Running back Damien Harris was also a positive, rushing 14 times for 71 yards and grinding out some tough runs in the second half. He has been one of the few bright spots for the Patriots this season and looks like a good find for the next few years. But then he suffered a chest injury late in the fourth quarter and left the game. Because the Patriots aren’t allowed to have nice things this year.
▪ The Patriots are razor thin with their depth right now, yet Bill Belichick still refuses to play his rookies. Safety Kyle Dugger, the top draft pick, played four snaps. At linebacker, Belichick played Terez Hall, called up Monday from the practice squad, more snaps (30) than second-rounder Josh Uche (three) or third-rounder Anfernee Jennings (six).
At least Chase Winovich finally got back into the mix. After seeing his playing time decrease all the way down to five snaps last week, Winovich played 31 of 44 snaps on Monday and had four tackles.
▪ Kicker Nick Folk nailed a 51-yarder at the buzzer to seal the win, and has quietly been steady this year. Folk went 3 for 3 on Monday night, and hasn’t missed a kick since Week 2, connecting on his last 14 field goal attempts. The 36-year-old journeyman hit from 45, 29 and 51 yards Monday night, the latter of which was a season-long. He doesn’t have the biggest leg, but he kicks them straight and true.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.