NFL

Takeaways from the Patriots’ Week 3 Win at the Jets

The Patriots squeaked out their first win of the season in a 15-10 road victory at the Meadowlands. The defense held New York’s offense to 2.8 yards per play and forced seven three-and-outs. Despite losing both of their top nose tackles before halftime in Davon Godchaux and Daniel Ekuale, Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall ran for fewer than 20 yards with no scores.

Offensively, there were some major positives to take away. This was the first time New England didn’t turn the ball over, and the offensive line may have finally found its right tackle with Vederian Lowe acquitting himself well for a second straight week. That said, Mac Jones struggled mightily downfield on a rainy afternoon, and the offense continues to hurt itself with penalties and missed opportunities.

Still, a win is a win, especially against a division rival in a tough environment. Here are my key takeaways from today’s game.

Offense Makes Two Big Improvements…

The Patriots’ offense clearly set out to establish itself on the ground today, leaning heavily on two and three tight end sets and going under center far more than we saw in the first two weeks. Entering the game, that would’ve seemed like a tall task with the offensive line’s injury struggles and inconsistent play. But the group, solidified by Vederian Lowe’s move to right tackle, managed to put up 157 rushing yards and hold the Jets to zero sacks.

Not only did the run game help keep an otherwise lethargic New England offense on the field, but it led to their only touchdown of the game on a 58-yard catch and run by Pharaoh Brown off of play action.

Bill Belichick acknowledged postgame how the rushing attack helped keep pressure off of Mac Jones, while David Andrews expressed pride in how the unit handled New York’s stunt-heavy scheme.

Ezekiel Elliott looked the best he has since joining New England, averaging 5.0 yards per carry on 16 rushes. Rhamondre Stevenson wasn’t as statistically efficient at 3.1 yards per tote but fought hard for every yard and played a big role in keeping the offense competitive.

On a day that left much to be desired from New England’s offense, the trenches deserve a tip of the cap for an impressive outing.

…But Is Still Hurting Itself with Self-Inflicted Errors and Missed Chances

The Patriots’ success up front was a big step forward, and finishing without a turnover deserves praise against a ball-hawking Jets squad. But the offense continues to hurt itself with self-inflicted errors, and their lack of a downfield passing game hurt them on several possessions.

New England was called for five penalties today, with three coming on a three-play drive. Two drives were directly derailed by these mistakes, while a sideline completion to DeVante Parker bailed them out of another. Stevenson also dropped a 3rd down target early that would’ve gone for a big gain but resulted in a punt.

These errors hurt, but the true backbreaker today was the near-complete lack of a downfield passing game. Whether it was due to weather, lack of sync, or potential missed calls, Mac Jones had several deep passes that were completely uncatchable, with most coming on 3rd down.

New England’s offense needs to become more than the dink-and-dunk machine we saw to open the season, but their lack of execution today really hurt. On the plus side, Jones went to Demario Douglas in multiple man coverage situations, including one play that the quarterback changed before the snap. If that duo can find some downfield chemistry, it could take a lot of pressure off the team’s other receivers and potentially strike some fear into opposing defenses.

Defensive Front Dominates One-Dimensional Jets Offense 

Through the first two weeks, New England countered offense’s base groupings by using linebacker-safety hybrid Marte Mapu as a Swiss Army knife to add both speed and physicality. Against the Jets, we saw them use a true 3-4 defense, featuring Keion White and Anfernee Jennings on the edges with Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai or Mack Wilson inside. This move showed both a healthy respect for the Jets’ running game and a clear lack of fear in their tight ends or passing attack, which proved to be a wise call.

Ja’Whaun Bentley and the defensive front built a wall up all game, holding Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall to 18 yards each and no scores. Zach Wilson was sacked three times, including a timely Matthew Judon takedown that resulted in a safety when New England desperately needed a stop.

The defense finished with seven tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits, reflecting how they lived in the Jets’ backfield. New York did string together a long 4th quarter drive to make the game competitive, but for the most part, New England’s defense dominated the day and made plays when they had to.

Christian Gonzalez Becoming Bona Fide No Fly Zone

After impressive performances against A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in Week 1, then Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle in Week 2, Christian Gonzalez continued his hot streak against Garrett Wilson and the Jets’ receiving corp.

He only registered one pass breakup on the day, but his impact went beyond the stat sheet. He smothered New York’s receivers to take away Zach Wilson’s reads and made critical 3rd down tackles to end drives.

Though he had an iffy pass interference call to set up a Jets touchdown run, Myles Bryant stepped up in place of Jonathan Jones and provided consistently tight coverage.

This is the second game in a row where Bryant had to bump outside, where he rarely played last season and acquitted himself well.

Leftovers

  • Injuries to monitor: In addition to Godchaux and Ekuale being ruled out before halftime, Cole Strange was replaced by Atonio Mafi late in the game
  • Chad Ryland missed two of his four field goal attempts, but Bill Belichick alluded to weather and the overall operation potentially being at fault (two high snaps from Joe Cardona)
Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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