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Christopher L. Gasper

Patriots will face a real QB in the playoffs, right?

The Patriots brought Jets quarterback Bryce Petty to his knee in the first quarter. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Let’s hope there is not a false sense of security that is serving as insulation for the Foxborough Bubble. The real season isn’t going to be as easy as Saturday’s early Christmas gift from the NFL’s schedule-maker — “competition” in the form of the wretched New York Jets. It’s not going to feature a parade of unproven, unqualified, or underwhelming quarterbacks, which is what the Patriots have faced the last six weeks with the notable exception of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.

There won’t be any more walkovers like the Patriots’ 41-3 annihilation of the NYJ at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.


The Patriots should be commended. They are playing their best and most balanced football of the season, peaking for a playoff run. But they’re going to be confronted with better teams and better quarterbacks in the playoffs, the only season that matters in these parts. And it’s hard to shake the feeling that some of these feel-good performances are not just attributable to the Patriots’ excellence, but the capabilities, or lack thereof, of the quarterbacks they’re facing.

The next backup up on the buffet of pedestrian passers the Patriots have feasted upon is Miami Dolphins QB Matt Moore.

All it takes is one bad day against one good quarterback and the season ends before the NFL’s high holiday in Houston, Super Bowl LI. Unless everything breaks for the Patriots — like the fibulas of Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota and Oakland’s Derek Carr did on Saturday — lifting the Lombardi Trophy is going to require the Patriots beating high-caliber, competent quarterbacks in back-to-back games.

There aren’t many of those left in the AFC, especially with Mariota and Carr felled by injury.

There is a difference between clowning the latest in a long line of Jets wannabe QBs in Bryce Petty and doing it to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in a playoff game, followed by (gulp) Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl.


Proven playoff quarterbacks have been a rare sighting on New England’s schedule. Petty was the latest of the plebeian QBs the Patriots have faced. The Fightin’ Belichicks have faced only four quarterbacks this year who have a playoff victory on their résumé — Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle’s Wilson, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, and Flacco.

Wilson, Flacco, and the Ghost of Kaepernick, who only nominally counts, are the ones the Patriots have faced who have more than one postseason victory. They’re 13-2 overall, but 1-1 against proven, non-transient playoff performers.

Since their Sunday Night Football loss to the Seahawks Nov. 13, a game in which Wilson threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns and led Seattle to scores on seven of its nine drives (discounting a kneel-down), the Patriots defense has not allowed an opponent to top 400 yards of offense.

No opponent has generated 350 yards of offense.

The Patriots haven’t allowed a touchdown the last two games, and Flacco and Co. needed a pair of special teams miscues by the Patriots just to find the end zone.

The defense is playing its best football of the season. It’s not only keeping teams out of the end zone. It’s demoralizing them.

However, the caveat is that over the last six games they haven’t faced an offense ranked higher than 17th in the league in total offense when they played them.


The Jets entered 21st in total offense and 30th in points per game. They lived up to their billing.

On a sodden Saturday, the sun eventually came out, but the Jets never came to play. The J-E-T-S were a J-O-K-E. They got roasted like chestnuts on an open fire.

The Jets were down, 27-0, at the half. New York entered the game with the worst turnover differential in the NFL (minus-19) and 30 turnovers, the second-highest total in the league. They lived up to their reputation as gift-givers. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler responded to his Pro Bowl snub with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Petty evoked memories of (Off the) Mark Sanchez with his bumbling play. On the Jets’ first series, the piteous Petty essential sacked himself on third down, backing into left tackle Ben Ijalana.

On the second series, he made a terrible decision trying to fit a throw into a covered Robby Anderson. It was intercepted by Butler at the Jets’ 47, the first of four Patriots takeaways that led to 24 points.

The Patriots turned that pick into a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Martellus Bennett, the first of Brady’s three touchdown passes in the first half.

The second-best quarterback at Gillette on Saturday was Jimmy Garoppolo, who replaced Brady with 27 seconds left in the third quarter and the Patriots up, 34-0.

The Jets’ first six offensive plays gained negative-6 yards. After the second turnover, a fumble by Khiry Robinson that led to a 22-yard field goal, the Patriots had more points (13) than the Jets had offensive plays (12) with 11:13 left in the first half.


On that fumble, Petty injured his shoulder tackling Butler. He left the game with a coveted 0.0 passer rating. He was replaced in the second quarter by deposed Jets starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who finished 8 of 21 for 136 yards with two interceptions.

What can you learn about the Patriots on a day like this?

“That we’re focused,” said safety Duron Harmon. “This game is long. I’ve seen it over and over again. You can be up 21 and then the next thing in the fourth quarter it’s a 3-point game, and it’s an all-out fight. For us to come in here and be focused enough for us to play a solid four quarters and not let up, man, it’s exciting.”

The Jets’ ineptitude reigned at Gillette.

On the first play of a rebooted third-quarter drive, referee Gene Steratore announced a false start against the Jets by saying, “False start, everyone but the center.”

You just don’t get that type of high comedy from humorless NFL officials often.

This game was laughable. At some point in the playoffs, the Patriots will be confronted with quarterback play and an opponent that are not.


Correction: Because of a reporter’s error, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was omitted from the list of quarterbacks the Patriots have faced this season who have won multiple playoff games in their careers in an earlier version of this story.


Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

Correction: Because of a reporter’s error, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was omitted from the list of quarterbacks the Patriots have faced this season who have won multiple playoff games in their careers.