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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Patriots Take A Time Machine Back To The Glory Days, Demolish Jets 37-16

There wasn't a Jets-Patriots game in recent memory that had such a lack of hype. Riding a two-game losing streak, looking extremely vulnerable and fatally flawed in so many ways, the Pats were becoming as irrelevant as I can ever remember in the last decade.

Well thankfully for us, a funny thing happened on the way to morphing into also-rans of the AFC East and the NFL, New England (6-3) showed their still the team to beat in the division with a 37-16 win tonight at MetLife Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

With the loss, the Jets (5-4) not only fall to second-place but they also drop the season series (2-0) to the Patriots which could be a factor in playoff tiebreakers.

Tom Brady (26 of 39, 329 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) and head coach Bill Belichick became the winningest QB/Head Coach duo in NFL history with their 117th win (sorry Dan Marino/Don Shula).

Another interesting stat that was highlighted on NBC's typically superb broadcast: New England hasn't lost three straight games since 2002-the fourth longest streak in NFL history.

The way that this one played one was shocking since New England's secondary suffered another injury (separated shoulder to Devin McCourty) with guys like Sterling Moore, Philip Adams, Antwaun Molden, Ross Ventrone (he exists!), Sergio Brown and James Ihedigbo all getting playing time. Oh and Patrick Chung didn't even suit up.

The reason the Patriots defense played so well was mostly because of two incredible performances: Andre Carter set a team-record with 4.5 sacks while Rob Ninkovich had two interceptions including his first career interception.

Did I mention that Jeff Tarpinian got his first career start (at linebacker) along with Moore (at safety)? Yup, this is real life.

It is amazing though what a pass rush can do. The Patriots had 15 sacks in their first eight games of 2011; they got a third of that total tonight alone. Mark Anderson had half a sack and he added some pressure from the defensive end position as well. Of course, facing Mark Sanchez (20 of 39, 306 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) and the plodding Jets offense is a big help too. Still, New York had been playing great coming into this pivotal matchup, winners of its last three games.

I can't believe it took me this long to mention him but Rob Gronkowski (8 catches, 113 yards, 2 TDs) was the best skill position player on the field. With Wes Welker (6 catches, 46 yards) held in check by the incomparable Darrelle Revis, Gronk stepped up as he usually does.

Hell, even Chad Johnson (2 catches, 65 yards) made a couple plays, including a 53-yard catch on a blown coverage by Kyle Wilson. Deion Branch (5 catches, 58 yards) made it four consecutive games with a score against the J E T S.

Santonio Holmes (6 catches, 93 yards) was the only Jets receiver or running back to really stand out. Shonn Greene (13 carries, 61 yards) had a decent game but as the deficit piled up, New York was forced to abandon the run-something they're loathe to do.

New England lead 6-0 after the first quarter thanks to a pair of field goals (50-yard and 36-yard) by Stephen Gostkowski. Nick Folk missed a 24-yard chip shot on New York's opening drive, an omen of ineptitude to come by his mouthy teammates.

It looked like a replay of last weekend's loss to the Giants as the Patriots defense slowly started to crumble. It wasn't there fault that New York got on the board by forcing an intentional grounding by Brady in the end zone, which was a safety.

Sanchez gave the Jets their only lead of the game as he took a quarterback draw two yards for a touchdown. New York led 9-6 with 1:20 left in the first half but they left Brady and Co. too much time on the clock.

Looking much more precise than he did earlier in the half (when he could have had three interceptions), Brady hit Gronkowski for a momentum turning 18-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left in the half.

Unlike the Giants game or any other contest this season, New England's defense got better in the second half while the offense worked in conjunction with it. What a concept!

After a 27-yard field goal by Gostkowski in the third quarter (thanks to Niko Koutouvides' fumble recovery on a muffed punt), Ninkovich made his first pick of Sanchez on what Cris Collinsworth termed a "triple tip." Somewhere Bibi Jones drools to death. Speaking of everyone's favorite porn star, her boy Gronk caught a 5-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive to give New England a commanding 23-9 lead. A two score lead against Sanchez and the Jets is analogous to a 30-point lead against most normal teams.

Plaxico Burress gave temporarily hope to Fireman Ed and his many friends (haha yeah right) with a 7-yard touchdown catch to begin the fourth quarter.

From there, Branch (8-yard TD) and Ninkovich (12-yard interception return) clinched it with a pair of scores in the span of three plays.

What this win gives Patriots fans more than anything is hope which is something that has been lacking with this team for longer than we care to admit. The Bills (5-4) got embarrassed today by the Cowboys, 44-7, so they're quickly coming back to Earth. Most promising, as Al Michaels pointed out late in the broadcast, the Pats have statistically the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL.

We all know that nothing really matters until this team proves it can win in the postseason. Making the playoffs is still basically a forgone conclusion. When the 2011 playoffs roll around, it will be four years since the last Patriots playoff win.

The road to respectability for this defense continues next week in another primetime game: Monday night at Gillette vs. the Kansas City Chiefs (4-5) and Matt Cassel.

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