Patriots Defensive 3rd Down Playoff Analysis (2nd Half edition)
This is where shit gets real, when you’re trailing a playoff game and every 3rd down stop is huge. Let’s see who did and who didn’t show up for the Patriots defense when everything was on the line…
3rd & 5: Draw stopped. Who made the play: Defensive line. The Jets clearly saw the Patriots as susceptible to sub-defense run and they tried quite a few of them. Seems like on every 3rd down it was either a quick inside slant or a draw play. The Pats were ready for a quick pass, with the corners up on the line, and with six defenders in the box they were also ready for this sub-run.
3rd & 1: A gap run succesful. Who Didn’t Make the Play: bunch of guys here, Wilfork submarined and was taken out, Gerard Warren was easily pushed to the other side, and Mayo/Spikes were late on the fill. Credit the Jets O-Line. The Pats had stopped them on 2nd and 1 for no gain on the previous play. No luck this time.
3rd & 6: Incomplete. Who made the play: Rob Ninkovich, for the second time Ninkopoop’s pressure off from the defensive left end pass rush position forces Sanchez into a hurried throw that was incomplete, intended for Jerricho Cotchery who was actually fairly well covered by Darius Butler. Also worth noting this was the play Ninkovich was hurt on. Things went down hill after this, whether it was due to his absence or not is arguable.
3rd & 4: Touchdown to Holmes. Who didn’t make the play: Kyle Arrington. This was basically the game sealer for all intents and purposes, putting the Jets up 21-11 with 13mins left. It came just two plays after the deflating Jerricho Cotchery short reception that turned into a long gain. The Pats rushed three guys but Sanchez let go of the ball before anyone (even Demarcus Ware) could’ve gotten there. Credit to Sanchez and Holmes for just a disgusting throw and catch, that was practically indefensible.
3rd & 4: Run stopped short. Who made the play: Brandon Deaderick, who got good penetration and blew the run up before it could develop. The Jets were just trying to milk the clock at this point but still a good play by Deaderick to keep at least a small glimmer of hope alive. That hope quickly faded.
Summing it all up
The Jets converted just 2 of 5 third downs in the second half, but it was really plays on first and second down that really hurt them all game. The Jets faced just one third down that was longer than 6 yards. That is insane and a clear sign that the Pats were not winning the early down battles.
Really this defense gave the offense a chance to stay in the game through three quarters but in the 4th quarter the wheels fell off.
But really this is about what we saw from this defense all year long, minus their signature turnovers. Credit Mark Sanchez for playing airtight, mistake-free football. One errant pass could’ve been the difference, but he didn’t make that mistake.
When you look at what did the Patriots in on third down in this game, it was never Sanchez sitting pretty with all the time in the world because the pass rush couldn’t get there. It was the quick passing game, and lapses in coverage that killed the Patriots. Although it’s clear that the Patriots were not dominating the line of scrimmage on first and second down either.
The selection of Ras-I Dowling makes a little more sense to me after really looking closely at what wasn’t working for the Pats this day. He’s another big, physical corner who should be able to nullify those quick passes by being physical on the line, and he should also be able to shore up a secondary that was far more responsible for the Jets staying on the field than any poor pass rush.