FOXBOROUGH — Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 54-13 win over the Jets:
▪ Richard Seymour, honored as the newest Patriots Hall of Fame inductee at halftime, called Sunday’s game against the Jets a “homecoming game.”
That’s exactly what it felt like. The 2021 season has been a grind, and the Patriots badly needed a feel-good game to boost their confidence. The 1-5 Jets were the perfect punching bag.
Everyone went home happy Sunday. Mac Jones got his first 300-yard game and hit a 46-yard deep ball. Damien Harris rushed for 100 yards. Eleven players made a catch, and five different players got in the end zone. The defense created two interceptions. Josh McDaniels dialed up trick plays and was still calling deep passes well into the fourth quarter. Smiles all around.
Everything the Patriots had done wrong in recent weeks, they got right against the Jets. They protected the football, finished their drives with touchdowns, went 6 for 6 in the red zone, played great on the offensive line, and Bill Belichick was aggressive on fourth down, which led to a touchdown.
It doesn’t matter that the Jets are one of the NFL’s worst teams and played for more than half the game with backup quarterback Mike White subbing for an injured Zach Wilson. The Patriots had to win this game to stay in the playoff race, and they badly needed a win at home after starting 0-4 at Gillette Stadium.
No one is giving the Patriots a medal for winning, but it’s nice to leave a game feeling good for a change. There’s nothing wrong with a little ego boost, especially when it comes at the expense of the Jets.
▪ Despite the easy win, the Patriots suffered a handful of unfortunate injuries. Safety Devin McCourty, the on-field coach of the defense, left in the second quarter with an abdomen injury. Tight end Jonnu Smith, who had two catches for 52 yards early in the game, left with a shoulder injury. And linebacker Harvey Langi, who was already subbing for an injured Dont’a Hightower, left with a knee injury.
The Patriots don’t have their bye until Week 14, so they can’t afford to have the injuries pile up.
▪ But the Patriots did get healthy along the offensive line, and the unit put in arguably its best performance of the season. The Patriots got right guard Shaq Mason (abdomen) back, Isaiah Wynn started at left tackle after having a full week of practice, and Ted Karras played left guard, as the Patriots finally moved Mike Onwenu from left guard to right tackle. This is definitely the Patriots’ best offensive line combination with Trent Brown still out.
The Patriots responded by churning out 151 yards on the ground and averaging a healthy 5.2 yards per carry (before kneel-downs). The line opened huge holes for Harris, who had 14 carries for 106 yards, including a 32-yarder in the first quarter. And Jones had solid protection all day, getting sacked just once on 40 drop-backs. And that was more of a communication breakdown than a true sack.
Onwenu is the Patriots’ fifth starter at right tackle in seven games, but hopefully the Patriots can settle on this combination and get some continuity up front.
▪ McDaniels was on point with play-calling, especially with the screen game. The Patriots opened the game with a 28-yarder to Smith, a 15-yard touchdown to Brandon Bolden, a 28-yarder to Bolden before halftime, and a handful of other nice gains.
It’s never easy facing a team for the second time in a season, especially just five weeks apart, but McDaniels toyed with the Jets’ defense. The Patriots scored points on their first six drives (four touchdowns, two field goals). They gained 300 yards in the first half, pieced together several lengthy scoring drives, and didn’t punt until 2:11 remained in the third quarter.
This was easily the best game of the season for McDaniels and the offense.
▪ But perhaps it’s time for McDaniels to put the double pass away for a bit. The first time Sunday it worked, with Kendrick Bourne hitting Nelson Agholor for a 25-yard touchdown. But the second time was almost a disaster, with Bolden lobbing the ball back to Jones and Jones having to throw the ball away before getting crushed by a defender. The Patriots have now called a double pass five times this season. They completed the pass on their first four (two by Jakobi Meyers, one by Bourne and one by Jones), but the play isn’t going to be as effective if they keep calling it so much.
▪ Agholor has a little Dave Kingman in him. He did have two catches for 51 yards and his second touchdown of the season, but his batting average isn’t great. He caught just two of five passes thrown his way, and for the season, he has caught just 19 of 36 passes (52.8 percent), the lowest percentage among Patriots receivers, running backs and tight ends.
▪ Jones’s feel-good moment Sunday: On the Patriots’ third touchdown drive, he converted third and 10 (a 19-yard pass to Meyers), third and 10 again (a 13-yard scramble) and third and 7 (Bolden 15-yard touchdown catch). Jones also didn’t throw an interception for the first time since Week 2, snapping a streak of four straight games.
▪ Jones also had to like Belichick giving him the opportunity to convert a fourth and 1 instead of attempting a 53-yard field goal with Nick Folk. Jones hit Meyers for an easy 3-yard pass, and seven plays later the Patriots scored a TD to make it 31-7.
▪ Jones was lucky Jets linebacker Quincy Williams didn’t pick him off in the first quarter on a pass Jones telegraphed to Smith. But overall, Jones did a better job of not letting the Jets’ defenders get their hands on the football.
▪ Second consecutive week the Patriots’ defense made an impressive short-yardage stand. Last week they stuffed the Cowboys four times on the goal line and forced a fumble. Sunday they stopped the Jets on third and 1 and then fourth and 1, with rookie Christian Barmore making the key play.
▪ Boy, do the Jets stink. They were coming off a bye, yet still were a disorganized mess and couldn’t even pretend to stop the Patriots’ offense (which isn’t exactly the Greatest Show on Turf). The Jets once again didn’t score a point in the first quarter, becoming the first team since the 2008 Lions without a point in the first quarter over their first six games. This coaching staff, with a first-time head coach in Robert Saleh and first-time offensive coordinator in Mike LaFleur, looks like it may be in over its head.
▪ Give credit to the Jets’ White, who made his NFL debut after being drafted in the fifth round in 2018. Knowing the Patriots were going to tee off on him, he hung tough and completed 20 of 32 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown. He led a 77-yard touchdown drive after halftime, threw a really nice fade pass to Jamison Crowder for 21 yards, and wedged a nice TD pass in to Corey Davis, though Jalen Mills never made much of an attempt to play the ball. White did throw two interceptions.