By Gregory Hunt
Gillette Stadium became soaked in a heavy rain Thursday night, and the New England Patriots looked as dreary as the weather. Still, the Patriots were able to grind out a 13-10 victory over the New York Jets. The Patriots have been fortunate to face rookie quarterbacks in each of the first two weeks of the season (Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel and New York’s Geno Smith), but they will need to get much better if they expect to make the playoffs, let alone contend for the AFC Championship.
Offense Grade: D
The Patriots offense is in critical condition. During the game telecast on NFL Network, analyst Mike Mayock pointed out on numerous occasions how much of a “disconnect” there was between quarterback Tom Brady and his rookie wide receivers Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson. In the first half, Dobson dropped two passes that would have resulted in big yardage, and he also missed a read in the red zone on a play that should have resulted in a Patriots touchdown.
Oddly enough, Dobson scored a 39-yard touchdown on his first NFL career reception to finish New England’s opening drive of the game, but he wasn’t a factor the rest of the night.
Receiver Danny Amendola did not play in the game, and he is now expected to miss 2-6 weeks of action due to a groin injury. When Amendola was signed during the off-season as a free agent, ostensibly to replace Wes Welker who signed with the Denver Broncos, the knock on Amendola was that he couldn’t stay healthy. Regretfully, he’s living up to that reputation.
The Patriots running game never got on track, thanks in part to the absence of running back Shane Vereen, who will miss at least eight games with a broken wrist. Vereen is New England’s best running back when it comes to catching balls out of the backfield, so he was missed in the passing game as well as the running game.
Defense Grade: B
Utilizing only a four-man rush for most of the game, the Pats were able to get consistent pressure on Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Rob Ninkovich was particularly adept at blowing up plays, and Chandler Jones had two of the team’s four sacks (although his sack dance could use some work). Credit must also be given to defensive backs Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard, who combined for three interceptions. Admittedly, all of them came on bad throws by Smith, but they still made those catches when the Patriots desperately needed them. Two of them happened in Patriots territory, allowing New England to cling to a slim lead, and the third one iced the game with less than a minute remaining. Talib also forced a fumble, which was recovered by safety Devin McCourty.
Special Teams Grade: C
Punt returner Julian Edelman, who became the NFL’s all-time leader in punt return average last week (minimum 75 attempts), made several terrific returns, but the Patriots were rarely able to take advantage of the field position. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski was solid as usual on kickoffs and made one chip-shot field goal, but he badly missed a 43-yard field goal as the first half expired. Punter Ryan Allen, who saw a lot of action with 11 punts, had an impressive punting average that would have been even better had gunner Marquice Cole not downed one prematurely.
Coaching Grade: B
This is a game that can’t be pinned on head coach Bill Belichick and his staff. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called the best game he could given the personnel he had on the field. McDaniels can’t utilize the hurry-up offense very much because his rookie receivers just haven’t grasped the offense well enough to consistently make the right reads on the fly.
Once defensive coordinator Matt Patricia saw that his squad could be effective with just a four-man rush, he didn’t need to call many blitzes.
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Gregory Hunt is a Boston native and a life-long fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics. He’s also particularly fond of lacrosse, IndyCar racing and women’s college basketball. He currently works for Examiner.com where he serves as the Senior Manager of Content and Media Access. He also writes for Examiner.com as the New England Patriots Examiner. His work can be found on Examiner.com.