FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots came away with a 30-14 win over the Jets on Sunday, improving to 3-0 with a hard-fought, drama-less win over a division rival.
Time to celebrate, right?
Yet Bill Belichick’s postgame comments were a bit tempered, as usual.
“Obviously, there’s some mistakes we made, things we need to improve on,” he said. “We’ve just got to do a few things better, and that’ll help us a lot.”
That’s Belichick-speak for: “We really did not play well today on offense.”
Belichick will never criticize his team in public. Whenever he is asked about specific issues, he answers in generalities.
“There’s room for improvement from everybody,” he said Sunday.
But Belichick knows there are several issues lurking beneath the blowout scores. Specifically, the offense has a ways to go. And a deep, talented offensive roster suddenly looks a little thinner.
On Friday, the Patriots had the best receiving corps in the NFL, headlined by Antonio Brown, Julian Edelman, and Josh Gordon, and supported by James White, Phillip Dorsett and Rex Burkhead.
But at one point in the third quarter Sunday, the Patriots were relying on Dorsett, Burkhead and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers. Edelman left the game right before halftime with a chest injury. Gordon left the game twice for various ailments, but returned both times. And we all know what happened to Brown.
The Patriots also didn’t have White, who missed the game for the birth of his son, or fullback James Develin, who missed the game with a neck injury, or tight end Matt LaCosse, who missed the game with an ankle injury.
After racing out to a 20-0 lead, with touchdowns on their first three possessions, the Patriots stalled the rest of the afternoon. They only scored 10 points on their next 11 possessions, with seven punts.
“Obviously, not good enough to score points,” said Tom Brady, who threw for 154 yards in the first quarter and finished with 306 yards and two touchdowns. “I wish we would score points on every possession. We just didn’t get the job done.”
The run game was especially dreadful with Develin and LaCosse out of the lineup. The Patriots rushed for just 68 yards on 27 carries (2.5 average), and Sony Michel rushed nine times for just 11 yards all day.
The Jets have a tough defense under longtime NFL coordinator Gregg Williams, and the Patriots’ patchwork offensive line, with backups at center and left tackle, couldn’t create any space.
“We’re probably not where we want to be, but I know everyone’s going to work really hard to continue improving,” center Ted Karras said. “We’re 3-0, we got a win against a division opponent who’s really good on defense, but yeah, obviously there’s a lot of things to work on.”
The Patriots at least appear to have avoided disaster with their injury situation. Edelman’s X-rays reportedly turned up negative. Gordon returned after dislocating his finger and finished with six catches for 83 yards, including two highlight-reel catches. White will be back next week, and Develin hopefully will be back soon.
The Patriots got plenty of contributions from their role players – six catches for 53 yards and a touchdown from Dorsett, two nice catches for 38 yards for Meyers, and a 41-yard catch-and-run from tight end Ryan Izzo.
And the Patriots are fortunately playing a creampuff schedule early in the season, so they can still struggle on offense yet come away with a 16-point win.
“When you’re missing your best players, it gets more challenging and your margin of error goes down. But every team deals with it,” Brady said. “And we’re going to deal with it all year. Guys who are in there, they have to go and do a really good job. When we’re all healthy, it feels good, but we’ve still got to go execute. And when we’re not, we’ve still got to go execute, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
But Sunday’s game, while an easy, blowout win, showed that the Patriots’ offense still has plenty of work to do. The Patriots will need to play better in the second half of the season when they face real teams — Kansas City, Baltimore, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Houston.
“This is part of the challenge — a lot of things you can’t plan for, and you’ve just got to do the best you can do,” Brady said. “A lot of moving parts, a lot of guys playing a lot of positions they’ve never really been in. But, that’s the NFL, so there’s nobody feeling sorry for anybody out there. There’s no teams that are, ‘Man, poor Patriots.’ No one feels sorry for us. We don’t feel sorry for them. It’s just, we’ve got to go out there and try to win a game. Certainly, 3-0 is a good feeling, but you don’t really get anything for three wins. We’ve got to do a lot more than this.”