Patriots vs. Jets thumbs up, thumbs down: Marcus Jones provides exciting end to defensive day

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Sunday’s rivalry battle between the Patriots and Jets at Gillette Stadium lived up to the (non)hype as New England beat New York 10-3, the home squad’s 14th straight win in the series.

As expected for two teams led by young, scuffling quarterbacks and impressive defenses, yards and points were hard to come by in the windy, cold conditions. Mac Jones and Zach Wilson were sacked a combined 11 times.

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The teams were tied at halftime 3-3, on field goals by Nick Folk and Greg Zuerlein, a score that held into the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

That’s when rookie Marcus Jones saved the day with the 84-yard punt return for a touchdown to save fans from overtime and may have saved the Patriots’ season as New England improved to 6-4 on the season and leap-frogged the Jets’ in the AFC East standings. Thanks to Jones and the New England defense, the season remains very much alive with seven difficult games remaining on the schedule.

Before moving on to the short week for Thanksgiving night’s matchup with the Vikings in Minnesota, here are the highs and lows from the low-scoring win over the Jets.

Thumbs up

Marcus Jones – The rookie former All-American punt returner may have saved New England’s season with a 84-yard punt return for a touchdown with less than 30 seconds to play. Jones has been a productive revelation in the return game this season, no play bigger than the game-winner against New York.

Rhamondre Stevenson/Damien Harris – While the rest of the New England offense was far from impressive coming out of the bye, the Patriots running backs once again proved they can carry their share of the load.
Stevenson did much of his damage through the air, with 6 catches for 56 yards to go along with 15 carries for 26 yards. Harris was the better fo the duo on the ground, churning out 8 carries for 65 yards while adding 2 catches for 28 yards.

Michael Palardy – After getting signed from the practice squad when Jake Bailey (back) was placed on injured reserve late last week, Palardy was impressive in difficult conditions in his New England debut. Despite the wind and cold, Palardy averaged 45.3 yards on seven punts with two inside the 20. He also had to take over the holding duties, in which Nick Folk hit one of his three attempts.

Run defense – Other than a couple Wilson scrambles, the Jets totaled nine rushing attempts for 10 yards in the first half. Things didn’t get much more productive on the ground for New York in the second half as the visitors finished with 23 carries for 59 yards on the day, with Wilson (26 yards) doing the bulk of the positive work. Other than the QB, the Jets carriers had 20 attempts for 33 yards. The New England defensive front was dominant.

Thumbs down

Trent Brown – New England’s big left tackle was in uniform but did not start against the Jets after reportedly missing a couple practices during the bye week. Instead, Isaiah Wynn returned to his former left tackle spot while Yodny Cajuste got the start at right tackle. Brown then entered the game at left tackle in the second quarter when Wynn went to the sideline with a foot issue. The big man was beaten badly for a sack late in the quarter to force a long Nick Folk field goal that hit the crossbar. New England also lost David Andrews in the first quarter to a thigh injury. Despite the bye, the Patriots' offensive line remains a bit of a mess.

Pass protection – Speaking of that mess, for the third straight game – with a bye in the middle – New England’s unsettled offensive line allowed at least four sacks. While the Jets started that streak with 6 sacks on Halloween Eve in New York, this time Gang Green got to Mac Jones again another half dozen times. Jones actually threw well when he wasn’t under pressure, but he didn’t react well to the consistent Jets rush.

Jonnu Smith – It appeared that the athletic New England tight end might have a big gain in the red zone on a jet sweep in the first quarter, only to see Smith lose the ball and have to dive back on the fumble to avoid the turnover. It left a 3-yard gain and the Patriots eventually settled for a short Nick Folk field goal. It was yet another strange play for Smith in his disappointing year-plus in New England, although he actually bounced back a bit and finished the game with 4 catches for 40 yards after the quizzical play.

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