By Gregory Hunt
Thanks to a key Patriots penalty in overtime, the New York Jets came away with a 30-27 win over New England Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The loss dropped the Patriots record to 5-2, but they remain in first place in the AFC East by one game over the 4-3 Jets. The loss also snapped New England’s 12-game winning streak against AFC East opponents.
The Patriots continue to be a work in progress, but full credit must be given the Jets, particularly their rookie quarterback Geno Smith and their entire defensive unit. Smith is showing an increasing ability to make big plays, while the New York defense, which came into the game ranked fourth in the NFL, can smother opposing offenses almost at will.
Offense Grade: C-
The highlight of the game was the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who saw his first action of the season after recovering from a series of arm and back surgeries. Gronkowski looked impressive on several seam routes and he also threw a key block on a 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Bolden. He finished the game with eight catches for 114 yards, but he couldn’t quite corral a high pass from quarterback Tom Brady late in regulation that would have led to a go-ahead touchdown.
Even with the addition of Gronkowski, Brady continues to struggle from the pocket. For the second time this season, Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass, which is remarkable considering that the first failure broke a streak of 52 consecutive games with a TD pass. Brady completed only 48.7 percent of his passes (22-of-46), and he also threw his first pick-six since 2011.
Running back Stevan Ridley looked impressive, but he didn’t get nearly enough touches. He gained 50 yards on a mere 11 carries, including one for a 17-yard touchdown, and he also caught two passes.
Defense Grade: C
The Patriots came into this game with several major parts missing, but none was more important than linebacker Jerod Mayo, who is out for the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in last week’s 30-27 win over the New Orleans Saints. Mayo normally calls defensive signals, so this responsibility fell to fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Hightower’s signal calling was okay, but he doesn’t have the kind of mobility that Mayo has, so he was exposed on a number of plays where he needed to drop into pass coverage.
New England gave up 177 yards rushing, but only because the Jets stubbornly ran the ball 52 times for a modest 3.4 yards per carry. Although cornerback Kyle Arrington didn’t look good in giving up a touchdown catch to Jeremy Kerley, the defensive secondary held its own in spite of the loss of CB Aqib Tablib, who missed the game with a hip injury. Safety Devin McCourty and CB Alfonzo Dennard both successfully defended would-be touchdown passes, and rookie CB Logan Ryan gave the Patriots an early lead with a pick six.
Special Teams Grade: F
This was one of the worst special teams performances by the Patriots in recent memory. The biggest mistake was by rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones, whose unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a missed field goal in overtime allowed Jets kicker Nick Folk to make the winning kick the second time around. Without that penalty, New England would have taken possession of the ball near midfield with 7:11 remaining in the overtime period. Earlier in the game, rookie linebacker Jamie Collins negated an impressive punt return by Julian Edelman with a block in the back, and linebacker Chris White committed holding on a kick return by LaGarrett Blount.
Coaching Grade: D
The play-calling of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels looked impressive in the first half, as he had Gronkowski get involved in the offensive early. However, Brady explained to reporters earlier in the week that the Patriots needed to have an effective running game in order to defeat the Jets, yet the Patriots got away from the running game far too early. New England’s third down efficiency was abysmal, as the Pats converted only 1-of-12 third downs (8 percent).
Conventional wisdom dictates that a defense should always put a heavy rush on a rookie quarterback, but New England’s pass rush against Smith was non-existent. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t appear to call any blitzes, particularly on third down. New England quietly accumulated four sacks, two each by Chandler Jones and Chris Jones, but New York converted 11-of-21 first downs (52 percent).
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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 aExaminer.com.