Friday, September 13, 2013
No Seriously, What the Hell Did We Just Watch?
I have seen plenty of ugly football in my life, I used to cover high school football in Massachusetts after all, but tonight's Patriots-Jets debacle at Gillette Stadium was a new low. The Patriots (2-0) beat the Jets (1-1) 13-10 in their 2013 home opener that set the game of football back at least 20 years and made me want to huff ether.
How wretched did New England play against one of the worst teams in the NFL? Well I'm happy you asked. They had nine first downs, went 4 for 18 on third down conversions and only gained 232 total yards. Just like on Sunday when the Pats were lucky enough to be lining up against the hapless Bills, once again this evening they were rewarded by the NFL schedulemakers since there are only a handful of teams that would have lost to the Patriots with the level they played at.
New York lost because they had four turnovers (3 interceptions by rookie quarterback Geno Smith and a fumble by wide receiver Stephen Hill). Tom Brady (19 of 39, 185 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT) had one of the most mediocre games of his legendary career and it's easy to see why: Julian Edelman (career-high 13 catches, 78 yards on 18 targets) was his main weapon in the passing game. A confluence of factors contributed to this being such a stinkbomb: short week, no Danny Amendola or Rob Gronkowski, poor execution and lack of chemistry. That about covers it, no?
Rookie Aaron Dobson was left wide open and as a result of New York's boneheaded blitz call, his first NFL catch was a 39-yard touchdown. After Aqib Talib forced a fumble on Stephen Hill's (4 catches, 87 yards) 33-yard catch and recovered by Devin McCourty. He returned it 44 yards to the New York 8-yard line but the Pats had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski. Foreshadowing!
Nick Folk got the Jets on the board with a 37-yard field goal later in the first quarter and Gostkowski's 30-yard kick in the second quarter turned out to be New England's final points. That's right, the team that won this pig orgy didn't score for the final 34:55. New York made it somewhat competitive as Bilal Powell had a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter which cut it to 13-10. As you can see, neither squad scored in the listless fourth quarter. I feel bad for the poor saps that paid all that money to go to this awful game, get stuck in traffic for hours then sat through that complete with buckets of rain. Fun times!
Obviously the Patriots' defense was the key to the win: they had four sacks (2 for Chandler Jones and 1 for Tommy Kelly and Michael Buchanan), three interceptions (2 for Talib and 1 for Alfonzo Dennard) and they took advantage of the fact that they were playing a rookie quarterback for the second week in a row.
Smith did his part to piss the game away by tossing all three of his picks in the fourth quarter that some people call winning time. Dobson (3 catches, 56 yards on 10 targets) and KenBrell Thompkins (2 catches, 47 yards on 7 targets) were never on the same page with Brady. That's not to say that every throw was perfect to them but they each had numerous passes clank off their hands. There are reports of Amendola being out until Week 6 which is a scary proposition. I don't know who the Pats could get at this point but they need a dependable veteran that knows their system and can jump right in (Brandon Lloyd?) to help out the rookies-Josh Boyce didn't even get a snap for some reason.
With a very rainy night and nobody to throw to besides Edelman on like 5-yard catches, you figured that Stevan Ridley (16 carries, 40 yards) would get plenty of yards assuming (big if) he didn't fumble. There was no Shane Vereen so this was mostly Ridley in the running game but for the second straight contest he was held to under 50 rushing yards (granted Sunday he would have surpassed that if he hadn't gone to the doghouse).
Knock on wood, it seemed like the Pats made it through this game relatively unscathed despite the short week and quick recovery time. The best thing I can say for them is that now they get a couple extra days off before they host the Buccaneers (0-1) on Sunday, September 22 (1, Fox). For what it's worth, Tampa Bay lost to the Jets in Week 1 (on the luckiest sequence) which is good news for the Patriots. They need as much time as they can get to try and improve this sorry offensive unit.
UPDATE 9/14: It was a quiet day in Foxborough after last night's nailbiter vs. the Jets. The Patriots re-signed rookie guard Josh Kline to the practice squad and released offensive tackle R.J. Dill.