Most believed that given the teams’ impressive defenses, suspect offensive attacks and the rainy conditions at MetLife that Sunday afternoon’s battle between the Jets and the Patriots would be a low-scoring, somewhat ugly affair. And it absolutely was, but it was still good enough for Bill Belichick’s team to get the 15-10 victory for its much needed first win of the season.
6 Rings Postgame Show: It wasn't pretty, but Pats get first win
With both teams settling for punts or long field goal attempts throughout the first half – neither team ran a play in the red zone in the first two quarters -- New England took a 10-3 lead into halftime thanks to a big play touchdown from arguably the most unlikely names in tight end Pharaoh Brown.
Chad Ryland hit his second long field goal of the game to extend the lead to 13-3 in the second half before Zach Wilson and the Jets put a long drive together to make the game interesting on a short TD run. Things got very interesting in the final seconds on a Wilson Hail Mary attempt gave Randall Cobb a chance to steal the game, but the veteran just couldn't make the catch off the deflection at the goal line.
The win pulls the Patriots to 1-2 on the season, tied in the AFC East with the Jets trailing the undefeated first place Dolphins.
Before turning the page to next weekend’s trip to Dallas to take on the high-flying Cowboys, here are some of the key highs and lows from the victory in a must-win spot on the road early in the season in New York.
Team defense – Going against a Jets’ offensive line without Duane Brown and moving linemen all over the front, New England’s defense dominated New York early. From front to back against both the pass and the run the Patriots were on point, forcing Zach Wilson’s unit into five straight punts to open the game with just a single first-down allowed in those possessions. Building a 10-3 halftime lead, New England held New York to just 1-of-8 third downs with a total of 39 yards in the first 30 minutes to set the tone for the game. Judon then put the final nail in the Jets' coffin on the day with his second sack of the game for the safety to end any last New York comeback hopes. New England held the Jets to 1.7 yards per carry on the day on the ground as well as just two of 14 third down conversions.
Pharaoh Brown – Who says blocking tight ends can't make game-changing plays? Brown had the play of the day for the Patriots with a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown on a play-action pass in the second quarter on busted coverage by the Jets. It was Brown’s first touchdown in three years and gave the visitors a 10-0 lead. Brown joined the Patriots practice squad from the Colts cutdown list in August and a month later made the biggest play of the early season for New England. Brown actually added another catch in the third quarter, for 13 yards.
Christian Gonzalez – Three games into his NFL career, New England’s No. 1 pick and No. 1 CB is building quite a resume for himself. He held his own against A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in Week 1, was very good against Tyreek Hill a week ago and was up to the challenge of Garrett Wilson in New York. Sure, the Jets passing game is limited under Zach Wilson’s watch, but Gonzalez saw a lot of Wilson on this rainy afternoon and was once again up to the matchup with an elite opponent. Gonzalez is the real deal. For what little it may be worth, CBS’ Tony Romo says that Gonzalez is “already one of the top corners in the NFL.”
Ezekiel Elliott – New England’s rushing attack wasn’t exactly dominant against the Jets, but it was better than it’s been as the veteran Elliot led the way. With Rhamondre Stevenson not finding a ton of success early, Elliott’s first run of the day went for 12 yards. He kept picking up chunks along the way to the tune of 16 carries for 80 yards to lead a rushing attack that churned out a total of 157 yards on the ground.
Field goal operation – The stat sheet says rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed attempts from 48 and 57 yards in the first half in New York, but he wasn’t he only part of the operation that didn’t get the job done. Joe Cardona had two high snaps on the attempts in the rain and the second led to a less than ideal hold by rookie punter Bryce Baringer. While the two rookie specialists are getting their feet under them in the NFL they could use a little more consistency from their veteran long snapper. When he did get a good snap and hold, Ryland was good from 48 yards in the first quarter and 51 yards in the third quarter.
Interior O-line – Playing with its projected starters again to open the game in Cole Strange, David Andrews and Mike Onwenu, New England’s interior line had its hands full with Quinnen Williams and the Jets front. The run blocking was inconsistent, especially in short yardage. The pass protection wasn’t great, with Mac Jones getting hit pretty regularly, including 3 QB hits from Williams. Strange left the game in the third quarter giving way to rookie Atonio Mafi.
MetLife turf/paint – The turf at MetLife has been criticized a lot in recent years, especially early this season when it was in the conversation again after Aaron Rodgers’ Achilles injury in the opener. Between a terrible paint job in which the white from all the Jets’ logos was spreading all over the field and the players to lots of early slipping in the wet conditions, the MetLife turf left a lot to be desired once again.
Lots of little mistakes – Strange had an early hold. Stevenson had an ugly drop to force an early punt. Then in the third quarter there were three straight penalties on the offense -- a blindside block by JuJu Smith-Schuster, a false start on Trent Brown and an Onwenu false start that created third and 23. On the next series Jones and the offense were flagged for 12 men in the huddle. You can get away it those cumulative little mistakes against Wilson’s Jets but not against better foes. Also less than ideal that New England could not run the clock out over a couple late drives and kept giving the ball back to New York, leading to a last-second Hail Mary attempt that gave Randall Cobb and the Jets the chance to steal the game.
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