Safety Duron Harmon gave an entertaining quote Saturday following the Patriots’ 41-3 win over the Jets, about how Bill Belichick and the coaches will still find a way to pick out all of the team’s flaws in the film review.
“Oh, trust me — all the flaws,” Harmon said. “Flaws that we didn’t even know we had in the game. But they’re going to find them, and they’re going to make sure we learn from them.”
It’s easy enough to point out all of the ways the Patriots were great in Saturday’s blowout, but Belichick won’t let his players rest on their laurels as they get ready for the playoffs. There’s always room for improvement.
■ The red zone offense could still be better. The Patriots had one drive fizzle out at the 11-yard line, and another at the 4. The Patriots reached first and goal at the 4, then threw three incompletions, forgetting about the running game that has carried the offense this year. They had another red zone possession revived by a Jets holding penalty in the end zone on third down, which led to LeGarrette Blount’s final touchdown.
■ Tom Brady had a clean pocket for most of the day, but the run blocking was inconsistent. The Patriots rushed 40 times for just 114 yards, an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Of Blount’s 20 carries, 10 went for 2 yards or fewer, plus a stuffed run from the 1. Sheldon Richardson twice blew up run plays by tossing aside Martellus Bennett and Joe Thuney, and safety Rontez Miles stuffed a run play after fighting through Chris Hogan. Richardson was the one Jets defender to play well, powering through Thuney to put a hit on Brady as he threw.
■ There were some uncharacteristic mistakes. Brady had tunnel vision on third down early in the game, locking onto Hogan over the middle and missing a wide-open Julian Edelman at the goal line. James White dropped what would have been a long gain after beating Miles on a wheel route.
■ The run defense was a little shaky, allowing 111 yards on 3.8 yards per carry. Bilal Powell ripped off consecutive runs of 12 yards in the second quarter as Patrick Chung was late to recognize the play. Overall, the Jets had four runs of at least 10 yards.
Of course, the Patriots won by 38 points. We’re grasping for straws here. But you can bet that Belichick will be grasping for those same straws to keep his players hungry as they head into the playoffs.
Other observations after rewatching the game:
When the Patriots had the ball
■ We’re really nitpicking with Brady from above, because he was excellent as usual. While he missed Edelman on that one play, he did a great job of coming off his primary and finding Bennett over the middle for a first down in the first quarter, and again on the Matt Lengel 18-yard touchdown. Malcolm Mitchell was the primary receiver and was open across the middle for what would’ve been a short gain, but Brady saw the zero-safety coverage in the middle of the field and threw a perfect pass to the inside of Lengel streaking across the middle for the easy touchdown.
■ It was great to see Brady show confidence in White by coming back to him again after the bad drop. White beat David Harris easily on a flag route to the corner, and Brady lofted a perfect pass for the 25-yard touchdown. And on third and 1, White got 7 yards of cushion from Darrelle Revis, and made an easy 6-yard catch for the first down.
■ Brady went hard after Jets rookie cornerback Juston Burris. Brady went after Burris on second and third down from the 4-yard line, and to his credit the rookie made two nice plays to deny Hogan and Edelman. But Lengel beat Burris to the inside for his 18-yard touchdown, and Burris committed holding in the end zone on Michael Floyd on third and goal from the 7 to give the Patriots a new set of downs.
■ That Lengel play, the first time a pass has ever been throw his way in the NFL, seemed like a message to the other AFC playoff teams. Any time Lengel is on the field, you now have to account for him.
■ Other than Thuney having some struggles with Richardson, and Shaq Mason getting beaten by Muhammad Wilkerson for a sack, the offensive line was excellent, especially in pass protection. Brady had all day to throw, such as on his 22-yard completion to Hogan over the middle, and he was sacked only once and hit just two other times in 27 dropbacks. Brady also helped himself, showing off his Russell Wilson impression with some spinouts and impressive mobility. Brady also spun right into a sack by Harris, but it was negated by a holding penalty by Revis.
And although Thuney and Bennett had their struggles Saturday, Thuney had a great block to cut free Dion Lewis for a 9-yard run, and Bennett had a great block on a 14-yard run by White.
■ A special helmet star for fullback James Develin, who has really picked up the slack since Rob Gronkowski went down. Develin has played a career-high 43 and 41 snaps the last two weeks, and laid out several punishing blocks against the Jets. He had a great cut block on the edge to spring Lewis for a 6-yard run, and a great seal on a 12-yard run by Blount.
■ Speaking of Lewis, he has an incredible ability to make something out of nothing. He caught a swing pass and was surrounded by three defenders behind the line of scrimmage, yet still managed to turn it into a 5-yard gain on second and 10. It’s quite impressive to see a small, speedy running back run with such power.
■ The Jets didn’t blitz often, but when they did it worked pretty well, as Brady was 1 for 4 against a five- or six-man rush. Hogan’s 22-yard catch came against a four-man zone blitz, and Edelman’s 35-yard catch came on a coverage breakdown on a three-man rush.
■ The Patriots definitely seem to be managing Edelman’s snaps as they ready for the playoffs. For the fourth game in a row he played fewer snaps than Hogan and Mitchell, getting just 36 snaps Saturday. Yet he still has led the Patriots in targets each game, catching 5 of 8 for 89 yards against the Jets.
■ The Patriots ran 75 offensive snaps compared with just 56 for the Jets. The Patriots have been over 70 snaps in five of their last six games, and have held their opponents under 60 snaps in three of those games. Overall, they have run 86 more snaps than their opponents in the past six games, an average of 14.33 plays per game. That’s two extra series that the Patriots are getting for themselves.
When the Jets had the ball
■ It sounds weird to say, but the Jets were actually kind of taking it to the Patriots in the middle of the second quarter when down 13-0. Powell pieced together consecutive 12-yard runs with some nice power blocking up front, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy looked lost in coverage on a 17-yard post play to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, and Khiry Robinson had a nice 10-yard run in which he punished Harmon at the end with a big thump. But this being the Jets, Sefarian-Jenkins dropped an easy touchdown on third down after beating Chung to the post, Nick Folk then missed the 34-yard field goal, and that ended any threat of the Jets coming back.
■ The Jets’ offense was a total mess. Right tackle Brandon Shell neglected to block Jabaal Sheard, who then plowed right through the running back and into Bryce Petty for the sack. And Petty, in just nine snaps, showed that he has no business being in an NFL huddle right now. He had no pocket presence, stumbling right into Chris Long for a sack. Petty panicked with the football, rushing a throw underneath to Powell that he bounced in the dirt despite having a clean pocket and all day to throw against a three-man rush. And he threw a wobbly, underthrown pass to Robby Anderson that was easily intercepted by Malcolm Butler. Make fun of Ryan Fitzpatrick all you want, but he is at least a credible NFL quarterback.
■ Shea McClellin has really done a nice job replacing Jamie Collins. He got a nice shot on Fitzpatrick after beating the guard, is good at playing in space in coverage, and has done a nice job setting the edge. Van Noy looks a bit lost in coverage, but he’s solid in the run game. Powell made the Patriots look silly on one run, though, making Van Noy, Rob Ninkovich, and Elandon Roberts all whiff.
■ Roberts had played just 15 snaps in the previous four games, but played 28 in what seemed like a preseason game. And once again, he brought the lumber. His two hits on Powell in the first quarter created loud thuds, and he whacked Robinson for a fumble after shooting up the middle and avoiding the tight end.
■ When the Jets went shotgun and four wide receivers, the Patriots countered with their little-used quarter package on defense with seven defensive backs — Chung, Harmon, Butler, Logan Ryan, Eric Rowe, Devin McCourty, and rookie Jonathan Jones, who got the fourth cornerback spot over Cyrus Jones. Rowe did a nice job on Brandon Marshall, who, in an interesting development, was reduced to the third receiver role. Quincy Enunwa played 54 snaps, Anderson played 43, and Marshall only played 29, and he was even taken off the field on a third and 11 with the Jets in a four-receiver set (Butler’s interception). Ryan had an excellent day in coverage, especially his diving pass breakup on Charone Peake.
■ Another perfect day for Stephen Gostkowski, who hit both chip-shot field goals and did a nice job with directional kickoffs. Four of his eight kickoffs went for touchbacks, but none of the other four came out past the 23-yard line, including one that was stopped on the 14.
■ Nate Ebner had two more special teams tackles, and Jonathan Jones and Brandon King each added one as the Patriots once again displayed smothering coverage. Jones, especially, is becoming a playmaker on punt and kickoff coverage.