by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
The final score might make this win over the Jets look easy, but until Laurence Maroney bolted through the line for the 31-14 final with five minutes left, few in Foxboro felt that way.
When the Patriots led 24-0 with under a minute left in the first half, their punt from deep in their own territory seemed inconsequential. Maybe that was the problem. The home team allowed a blocked punt return for a touchdown, giving the annoyingly scrappy visitors some momentum for a hard-fought second half.
Some other notes on this closer-than-comfy contest…
Big Apple Turnovers: It looks like a bit of the shine has come off the rookie. Quarterback Mark Sanchez had a rough day, throwing four interceptions and fumbling once. Sanchez completed eight of 21 passes for 136 yards, 62 of those coming during New York’s only offensive scoring drive that began the second half.
Special Teems With Problems: The aforementioned blocked punt. Two penalties on Brett “Special Teams Are My Living” Lockett. A missed 40-yard field goal at the end of the first half. Allowing an average of almost 30 yards per kickoff return (five for 148). No, it didn’t affect the final outcome, but all that stuff adds up. Now it needs some fixing.
You hear me, Coach Scott O’Brien?
Tom Delay: Hard to watch Tom Brady have two delay of game penalties called against him. Considering he played at home, we don’t consider crowd noise an issue. But, hey, if that’s our only complaint about his day (28 of 41, 310 yards, TD), we’ll just shut up now.
Bodden Paid For: This off-season, when free agent defensive back Leigh Bodden got signed, many questioned his pedigree (from Cleveland through 2007 to winless Detroit in 2008). After three picks Sunday, his first one returned for a TD (you can watch the clip here), Bodden seems to feel at home in New England.
Jet-Throw Tully: Remember how old friend Tully Banta-Cain seemed like an underdog to return to the roster over other pass-rushing linebackers? Yeah. Well, Banta-Cain’s two sacks of Sanchez (including a forced fumble late) raised his team-leading total to five, one more than Derrick Burgess and Adalius Thomas combined.
Phys. Edelman: With about five minutes left and leading by 10, the home team needed a first down. Rookie receiver Julian Edelman caught the ball three yards short, ricocheted off two would-be tacklers and spun past a third for a six-yard gain. New England scored five plays later to seal the win.
And now, the best for last…
All’s Well That Ends Welker: Boy, that Wes Welker sure knows how to procure the ol’ pigskin, don’t he? The hyper homunculus snatched 15 passes for 192 yards Sunday. For reference, consider that this lone performance would make Welker the Pats’ sixth-leading receiver in 2009 behind himself, Randy Moss, Edelman, Kevin Faulk and Ben Watson.
Email Chris Warner at email@example.com
Like you, Chris, I was less than impressed with the way we played yesterday. On offense, I’m convinced we need some semblance of a running game and more play action. The shotgun is starting to wear thin. If we can’t shred the Jets defensive secondary then how can we possibly hope for playoff success.
One curious question is why we didn’t take that running into the kicker penalty? They got the ball on the 16. Ideally you want them inside the 10. Even if he re-punts it into the end zone we only lose 4 yards. And yet the difference between the 16 and, let’s say, the 5 is huge. It sets up your defense perfectly. I think we need to take more chances when it comes to the defensive side of the ball. Let’s see if they can make some game changing plays.
Hey bobd, I’d also like to see some risk-taking by the D, especially next week. We’ll see what kind of pressure they can get on Brees. Should be fun.
A few thoughts…
1) I don’t think it’s too disappointing that the Pats “only” managed 310 passing yards against the Jets secondary. Give them credit, with Revis and Rhodes, they have one of the best corner/safety combos in the NFL. Either of those players would start for the Pats, and it was good to see NE exploit the weaker aspects of the Jets defense yesterday. The best news for Moss is that he isn’t likely to see the physical corners that have given him trouble in the playoffs. We know he can play against Indy, he’s done it against Pitt the last two years, and Cincy is a bit of an unknown. Jets, Ravens, and Denver were his worst games this year and as of right now none of those teams look playoff-bound.
2) The running game should only get better with time. At the beginning of the season, when the Pats had 5 healthy starting linemen and 5 healthy backs, they were pretty good running the ball. The last few weeks, with Taylor and Morris out, and linemen getting banged up, the running game has looked pretty mediocre. If they still look like that with Morris and (hopefully) Taylor running, and Light/Vollmer, Neal, Koppen blocking, I’ll be concerned. But they’re good enough to get by for now.
3) The most concerning trend through 10 games, to me, is that the Pats seem to be a “first half team.” In all three of the Pats losses this year, they’ve held halftime leads. I don’t know what the numbers are, but I feel like the Pats NEVER used to lose after leading at the half. This year, the Pats have scored 196 points in the first half and 94 in the second. Their defense has allowed 79 points in the first half, 85 in the second (that’s total points allowed, which counts things like blocked punts for TD’s). Take out the Tennessee game, which could go in the dictionary under the definition of “outlier,” and the Pats scoring numbers by half are 151/80 for the offense, and the same 79/85 allowed by the defense. Even though NE is second in the league with a 126 point (12.6/g) differential, they’re only +9 in the second half and have actually been outscored by the opposition if the Tennessee game is removed. That’s what concerns me the most. The Pats inability to “finish” first reared it’s ugly head in the 2006 AFC Championship. And it’s still an issue today.
4) Does anyone know where you can get splits of team stats online? I wanted to look at the Pats first/second half splits, and couldn’t find that option on any of the typical sites (NFL.com, espn, pro-football-reference, etc.). They only provide splits for player stats. So apologies if any of the above stats are incorrect, I had to do all the elementary-level math myself!
It’s simple, really. The Patriots can’t hold leads because their running game is ineffective. They attempted to run it up yesterday, but their passing game is not at Juggernaut level like 2007. If they had a RB that defenses respected, this team could score 40 a game easily. That’s the type of team we’ll see at N.O. next week.