Ben Volin’s thoughts immediately after the Patriots finished their 30-14 win over the Jets.
FOXBOROUGH — Obviously, the Patriots had an easy win on Sunday, defeating the Jets, 30-14. Tom Brady threw for 306 yards and two touchdowns, Josh Gordon had an incredible sideline catch, and the defense now hasn’t allowed a touchdown since the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship game, a streak of 16 straight quarters.
But the Patriots also aren’t playing real competition yet this season. They faced a disorganized Steelers team that had Ben Roethlisberger with a shredded elbow. They faced a tanking Dolphins team that had no interest in playing last week. And Sunday they faced Jets’ third-string quarterback Luke Falk, whose greatest accomplishment Sunday was that he only threw one interception. The other 10 drives ended in punts.
The Patriots should be winning these games by big margins (frankly, Sunday’s win should’ve been bigger). But they won’t be facing JV teams forever. Come November, they will be playing real NFL teams — the Chiefs, Cowboys, Eagles, Ravens, and Texans. And Sunday’s win over the Jets revealed a Patriots team that has several concerning issues right now, despite their three blowout wins.
The depth on offense is being tested. And suddenly, a passing attack that looked like it had the best weapons in the NFL is getting a little thinner. Julian Edelman left the game with a chest injury. Josh Gordon twice left the game due to injury, though he returned both times. And of course, Antonio Brown is gone.
Gordon had two fantastic catches on Sunday, Phillip Dorsett stepped up with a 25-yard touchdown, and the passing attack will improve when James White, who missed the game for the birth of his child, returns next week. But if Edelman’s injury is serious, the Patriots’ passing attack could be in trouble.
■ The run game is a mess right now, particularly Sony Michel. For the day the Patriots finished with 69 yards on 25 carries, and it was a slog throughout the game. Rex Burkhead was the only one who could get anything going, rushing 10 times for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Michel was especially bad, rushing nine times for 11 yards. He had a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter, and otherwise rushed seven times for two yards. On a third-and-1 run in the fourth quarter, Michel lost three yards. When the Patriots got down to the goal line in the third quarter, they ran a play-action pass, then handed off to Burkhead. They just don’t trust Michel in short-yardage situations.
Yes, the Patriots were missing fullback James Develin on Sunday, and he’s terrific in the run game. Yes, the offensive line has a hole at left tackle, and misses center David Andrews. But Michel, who has 108 yards on 45 carries this season (2.4 average), just isn’t getting it done.
■ And he isn’t contributing in the passing game, either. Remember all that talk in training camp (not from here) about Michel supposedly taking a bigger role in the passing game this year? Well, Michel didn’t get a pass thrown his way in the first two games, and the one pass to him on Sunday was a throwaway from Brady under pressure. Bill Belichick likes to talk about players taking a jump in their second season, but Michel looks like he has taken a step back.
■ The offense started out with fireworks, scoring three consecutive touchdowns and gaining 11 first downs. But they hit a wall over the final three quarters, gaining just 10 first downs the rest of the way and punting on six of their final eight possessions.
They couldn’t run the ball consistently, and couldn’t put themselves in manageable down-and-distance situations.
■ The kicker situation is becoming a serious issue. Stephen Gostkowski missed his third extra point of the season in the first quarter, pushing it wide right. Gostkowski subsequently moved his kicking point from the middle of the field to the left hash for the rest of the game, and made the rest of his kicks.
Gostkowski is 6 of 7 on field goals this year, but he isn’t inspiring much confidence right now by missing at least one makeable kick every game.
But can the Patriots do much about it this year? What are the odds that a free agent kicker off the street would be more dependable than Gostkowski is? The Patriots may be forced to just ride this season out with him, and bite their nails every time he lines up for a kick.
■ And the Patriots certainly weren’t perfect on Sunday. They had a bad penalty for 12 men on the field, in which no one on the field recognized the mistake until far too late. Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt that the Jets recovered in the end zone, ruining the Patriots’ shutout and touchdown streaks. And Jarrett Stidham threw an ugly pick-six midway through the fourth quarter that promptly earned him a seat on the bench. The Patriots allowed 0 points from the Jets’ offense, but 14 points from their defense and special teams.