Up until this point, Sunday's encounter with the New York Jets was the Patriots' toughest test of the season. Featuring one of the best all-around defenses in the NFL, the Jets were able to stifle the Patriots in key situations to keep this game close up until the end. If it wasn't for a last-minute attempt to tie this game up, the Patriots would have won by 10 points, covering what most thought was an impossible spread of -7.5. Let's take a deeper look at, up until this point, the Game of the Week in Week 7.
If you watch a lot of Patriot games, which, if you're reading this article I'm assuming you do, then you know the Patriots philosophy on defense: take away the opposing team's #1 threat. Today, the latest victim of this was none other than the leading rusher in the NFL, Chris Ivory. The first play of the game, which was a sweep to the right, was immediately swallowed up by the defense, lead by Patrick Chung and Jamie Collins. Ivory looked to hurt his hamstring on the play, and wasn't the same for the rest of the game. He finished the day carrying for 41 yards on 17 attempts, an average of 2.4 yards per carry. Yuck.
The Patriots did a terrific job of setting the edge, meaning they would swarm the sidelines in order to push Ivory back into the middle field. Similar to the Patriots fashion of "next man up," the Jets tried to funnel the ball into the big mitts of wide receiver Brandon Marshall. However, Logan Ryan, who is slowly turning into the Patriots best corner (Thats scary to think), was on the big man all day with help over the top from Devin McCourty. For the day, Marshall was targeted 7 times, hauling in 4 receptions for 67 yards, which were his lowest numbers since Week 1. With Marshall neutralized, Eric Decker had himself quite a game, while he was being covered by Patriots #1 corner, Malcolm Butler. Butler struggled mightily, allowing Decker to haul in six catches for 94 yards, including three third-down conversions.
The Jets Field General, one Ryan Fitzpatrick, played one of the best games of his career, finishing the day 22-for-39 with 295 yards and two touchdowns. To his credit, he did not throw an interception, but if the Patriots hadn't snuck into their halloween candy early this year and ate all the butterfingers, there is a chance one of his 4+ batted/tipped balls could have led to an interception.
On the other side of the football, it is pretty simple. Tom Brady + Any Receiver In The NFL = Wins. Truthfully, what more needs to be said? I have never seen a quarterback quite like Tom Brady. His numbers aren't eye-popping (34-of-54, 355 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs), but the Patriots gameplan sure as hell was. Against arguably the best defense in the NFL, Brady dropped back for 54 passing attempts, while only rushing the ball 9 times. 9 TIMES. My point here is that the Jets knew what the Patriots were going to do, and they did it anyways. As long as Touchdown Tommy is the Patriots quarterback, you have to like their chances every year.
It sounds cliche, but at the end of the day it comes down to your quarterback being better and smarter than everyone else on the football field.
Next up, a Thursday Night game against the suddenly-hot Miami Dolphins.
By Pete Packowski