The Patriots hung on once again to beat the Jets 24-17 to move into first place in the AFC East for the first time in 2017.
It was another up-and-down performance for the Pats that closely mirrored what we saw against the Buccaneers 10 days earlier. One drive they’re forcing three-and-outs or marching down the field, the next they’re getting gashed by big plays with wide open receivers or going three-and-out themselves.
It’s a maddening display of inconsistency that has become the hallmark of this edition of the Pats. What drives you nuts is that they show they’re capable of being dominant at times on both sides of the ball. But in crunchtime neither side of the ball seems to deliver with authority.
But deliver they did even if there is plenty to pick apart.
Still, a win is a win, especially a divisional win on the road. The Patriots definitely still have a long way to go, maybe longer than they’ve ever had to go in the middle of October, but four wins buys you some time.
Here’s how it all went down.
TOM BRADY LEAN BACK pic.twitter.com/RKAfIIlpe2
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 15, 2017
On the Jets first drive they converted four third downs, totalling 70 yards and a touchdown. Those third down plays made up the majority of the initial scoring drive that lasted 13 plays and 88 total yards. It was just the kind of start the Patriots would want to avoid, but the kind of drive that we’ve almost become used to with the Patriots’ defense this season.
The teams traded punts, with the Patriots defense forcing a three-and-out on their second possession. But on the next drive Mike Gillislee fumbled as the Pats were driving with good field position, giving the Jets back the ball at their own 22. Once again the Jets put together a long touchdown-scoring drive, passing over the Patriots defenders like they it was easy peezy. A 31-yard touchdown pass to Kerley finished off the drive.
The offense continued to struggle, going three-and-out and giving the ball back to the Jets, but the defense’s feast or famine performance continued by forcing a three-and-out of their own.
The defense recovered from the poor start to force their second- and third-straight punts, but the offense was unable to capitalize again as Brady threw a deep interception targeting Philip Dorsett and Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal.
The Jets looks poised to extend their lead before the half, but Malcolm Butler grabbed an interception and the Patriots offense drove down the field with a 42-yard pass to Brandin Cooks. Rob Gronkowski finished things off, tying the game at 14 at halftime.
The Patriots offense would continue to click on their opening possession of the second half, with passes of 17- and 19-yards to Cooks, and a 33-yard touchdown to Gronk on 3rd-and-11 that gave New England their first lead of the game.
The defense would feed off that energy as well, getting a stop on third-and-one and then, when the Jets went for it on fourth down, pressure by Malcolm Butler forced an errant throw that Devin McCourty picked off. After a sloppy start where the defense allowed long touchdown drives on two of their first three possessions, the Pats D had forced three-straight punts, followed by two-straight interceptions. Hard to put together a better stretch than that.
The offense would reel off an 11-play drive that stalled in red zone, forcing them to settle for a 28-yard Gostkowski field goal to extend the lead to 24-14 in the early fourth quarter. That was 24 unanswered points by the Patriots.
But the defense wasn’t done playing like shit in this one, as they reverted back to their first quarter ways, or so it appeared. Austin Seferian-Jenkins looked like he had scored a touchdown, yet upon review the refs somehow reversed the touchdown and ruled he had fumbled the ball out of the end zone for a touchback. Yeah I’m rooting for the Patriots but it looked like a pretty mind-boggling call to even me.
The Patriots could do nothing with the gift call, punting for the first time since early in the second quarter. The Pats defense would immediately respond with one of their signature plays of the 2017 season so far — the wide open wide reciever. Despite that opening 44-yard pass play, the Pats defense would Bend but not break in the red zone, holding the Jets to a field goal, their first points since the first quarter.
The Pats lead stood at 24-17 with 3:40 to play, but like in Tampa Bay, the offense couldn’t close the game out, going three-and-out and giving the Jets a chance at a tying touchdown.
Dont’a Hightower‘s sack put the Jets in a 3rd-and-17 hole but they were able to convert a 4th-and-12 with a 32-yard pass that made things interesting. But again, like Tampa Bay, the Pats stiffened and forced McCown’s final 4th down pass fell incomplete sealing the victory for New England.