NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed
What a relief. The defense stepped up and the offense continues to pile up the points. Read on to see the six keys to the Patriots victory.
I don’t buy all the chatter that the Jets are done. Patriots 5th Quarter ran a poll yesterday and it seemed like the consensus was that the Bills are a bigger threat to the Patriots in the second half of the season than the Jets are.
Apparently the Patriots fan base has forgotten that the Patriots get to play the Bills in Foxboro and the Jets in New Jersey on Sunday night.
The Jets still get Miami twice, Denver and Kansas City, all winnable games, and they get the Chargers at home, the Giants at “home” and games against the Eagles, Redskins and two against the Bills. That’s not a very tough schedule.
I’d still put money on the Jets making the playoffs. I do think the Jets are an undisciplined team and that comes from their coach. Sometimes being “one of the guys” isn’t the best way to lead. A loss to the Dolphins at home could bury them.
That being said, here’s my six keys to victory over our current most hated rival:
STRONG PLAY FROM CORNERBACKS
Even without Ras-I Dowling, the Patriots defense only allowed 158 yards through the air and a lot of that is thanks to some nice coverage from the Patriots secondary in their zone coverage. Leigh Bodden didn’t allow a single reception on three targets while Devin McCourty allowed 2 receptions on four targets for 28 yards and Kyle Arrington allowed two receptions for 43 yards on four targets.
Patrick Chung allowed three receptions on three targets for 42 yards, James Ihedigbo allowed 2 receptions on two targets for 11 yards. The linebackers didn’t fare as well allowing 7 receptions on 9 targets for 42 yards, but as long as the Patriots are holding opposing teams to mostly be passing in the flat, they’re gonna be in good shape. McCourty and Arrington played every snap for the Patriots while Bodden, still recovering from injury played 21 of 54 snaps. Chung played every snap while Ihedigbo played 51 and Sergio Brown played just three.
IMPROVED PASS RUSH
Even with Nick Mangold back for the Jets, the Patriots were still able to get some pressure on Mark Sanchez. On 27 dropbacks from Sanchez, the Patriots were able to get pressure on 10 of those snaps. They registered 5 QB hits and 2 sacks. It’s still not great, but it’s certainly an improvement.
Ninkovich and Wilfork each had three pressures while Ihedigbo and Anderson each had two. Haynesworth (20 snaps), Anderson (19 snaps) and Jermaine Cunningham (8 snaps) still aren’t seeing much time along the line while Wilfork (48 snaps), Andre Carter (40 snaps) and Kyle Love (30 snaps) are being used a lot. For some reason the Patriots don’t like to use Shaun Ellis in the 3-4, so he took exactly 50% of the snaps while the Patriots showed more 2 and 3 DL sets. Thanks as always to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com for the defensive snap counts.
THIRD DOWN DEFENSE
The Jets went only 3 for 11 on third downs, best for the Patriots since the Dolphins went 2-14 in week 1. The Patriots did a nice job stopping the run, which in turn made it easier to stop the Jets on 3rd down. The Patriots also did a nice job covering the Jets receivers beyond the ten yard line. Gary Guyton played all 54 snaps and limited his mistakes this week while Brandon Spikes also came up with 52 snaps. A big surprise was a player the Patriots faithful have been calling for all year, Dane Fletcher, didn’t see any snaps on defense.
The Patriots also did a nice job stopping big plays, allowing only 2 plays over 20 yards all game. The Patriots had been averaging more than 8 big plays a game before week 5. The Patriots didn’t force any turnovers against the Jets, which kind of goes to show how fluky turnovers can be.
RUN, RUN, RUN
For weeks we’ve been praising Wes Welker as the key player in the Patriots offense, this week it was BenJarvus Green-Ellis. “Lawfirm” averaged 5.0 yards per carry for 136 yards and pretty much kept his legs moving all game. Green-Ellis played 61 snaps out of 81 for the Pats. Ridley came back down to earth this week, but that was really only because Green-Ellis was playing so well. Fletcher saw three snaps for the Patriots on offense as a fullback and Thomas Welch saw 13 snaps as a 6th offensive lineman.
You have to give credit to the Patriots offensive line for the big running game as well. If the Patriots can keep running the ball with success, they’ll be even more difficult to stop on offense. Since the Patriots run so well with only one back, it becomes easy to change the play at the line depending on the opposing defense’s alignment.
THE RETURN OF AARON HERNANDEZ
It was obvious Hernandez wasn’t 100% and neither was Rob Gronkowski (illness), but just their presence in the offense made a big impact. None of the three deep balls to Hernandez connected, but the Patriots gained some valuable field possession on two of them with penalties. A lot of credit is due to both tight ends for going for 66 and 65 snaps. One of the biggest benefactors to having both tight ends on the field was Deion Branch who came back strong for 74 yards on 7 receptions and 8 targets.
Even though he was covered for most of the game by Darrelle Revis, Welker still came away as the Patriots leading receiver with 124 yards on 5 receptions and 8 targets. Hernandez lead the game with 9 targets and dropped a sure thing touchdown that fell into Cromartie’s hands for an INT at the end of the 2nd half. It was a bad play, but I’m not sure we would have seen that out of a fully healthy Hernandez.
(ALMOST) MISTAKE FREE FOOTBALL
For the second time in a row the Patriots won the penalty battle as the Jets committed 8 penalties for 89 yards while the Pats committed 6 for 50. The Pats couldn’t for any turnovers, but they only turned the ball over on the botched catch and are the only team this season without an offensive fumble lost.
If the Patriots can run and if they aren’t making dumb mistakes or letting up big plays it’s going to be very difficult to beat this team. The zone defense is helping to improve the Pats and I think we’re starting to see the pass rush we envisioned. The Patriots are good shape for 2011.