Pats Squeak Past Jets, Take Sole Possession Of Top Spot In AFC East
In a game that seemed to fit the mold of their season, so far, the New England Patriots were able to battle back from an early, 14-point deficit to hold off the New York Jets, 24-17 in New Jersey Sunday.
Here are some key rapid reactions from the game:
A Questionable Call- What will undoubtedly grab all the headlines from this game will be a game-changing fumble call against the Jets in the fourth quarter. After driving the ball 74 yards down the field on their first series of the fourth quarter, New York quarterback completed a pass to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins at the 4-yard line. Seferian-Jenkins proceeded to allude a couple of would-be tacklers and dive for the pylon for what was, at the time, ruled a touchdown to bring the Jets to within three points of New England. Immediately, after the play, Pats cornerback Malcolm Butler bounced up and got right in the face of the referee, while he seemed to be gesturing that the receiver was out of bounds. All scoring plays are reviewed by the league automatically, so the refs took a look. Upon review, it was announced that Seferian-Jenkins had lost control of the ball as he went to the ground and the replay officials back in New York determined that he was out of bounds in the end zone by the time he fully regained possession of the ball, leading to a call of a fumble out of the end zone and a touchback. While the call is highly controversial and a bit questionable, multiple replay looks seem to confirm that the Seferian-Jenkins did have the ball knocked loose by Butler and there was really no definitive look to say that he regained full possession of the ball before his body landed out of play. All in all, the call was made correctly through replay. People mad at the call should focus their anger on the fact that the league has a rule that a fumble in the end zone is ruled a touchback. They shouldn't be mad at the call that was made, however, because, by rule, it was the correct call.
A New Record- The win set a new record for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, as he passed both Brett Favre and Peyton Manning on the regular season wins list Sunday. Brady now has 187 career, regular season wins. Heading into the game, he was already the leader for most postseason wins and most overall wins. Now the question becomes, will anyone ever catch him?
Lewis Takes The Lead- After being used sparingly in the first five weeks of the season, Patriots running back Dion Lewis was given the chance to play a lot on Sunday and he made the most of his opportunity. On the game, Lewis carried the ball a team-high 11 times for 52 yards and a score. His 4.7 yards per carry in the game are a direct reflection of his ability to continually make the first and second men to hit him miss. Lewis was the catalyst of New England's 118 yard rushing performance. Look for his touches to continue to increase, as the season continues.
Gronk Spike Is Back- The Gronk Spike was back in full force, Sunday, as Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski was back on the field. Gronkowski caught six passes for 83 yards and two scores, on the day. Having the big tight end back on the field seemed to be the difference for New England on a couple of drives.
Struggling To Find Flow- The New England offense has been struggling to find a constant flow throughout the first part of the season. That was evident again on Sunday, when they bounced back and forth between solid and unsuccessful drives. The Pats did have three drives that ended in the end zone, but also had five drives of five or less plays that either resulted in a punt or turnover. Most telling of all is that the team went three and out on their final two drives of the game, which helped contribute to the Jets having a chance to tie the game at the end. New England will need far more offensive consistency when they play more competent teams, down the stretch.
Up & Down- It was an up and down performance from the New England defense, as they had great success in certain areas, like third and short situations, but also failed to minimize the big plays and still allowed a rather incompetent offense to score 17 points. The team did have a couple of big sacks late, thanks to nice individual plays by linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. Another player, who stepped up Sunday, was starting corner Malcolm Butler. With two relatively unproven corners playing opposite him, Butler rose to the occasion and played the role of a true shutdown corner throughout the game. While limiting completions on balls thrown his way, Butler managed to record three passes defensed, an interception that seemed to turn the tides a bit and led to the team's game-tying score late in the second quarter and forced the fumble which led to the controversial touchback call in the fourth.
All in all, a win is a win and the Pats have to be happy to go into a divisional opponents home and come out with a victory. Though they now stand alone, atop the AFC East, the Pats did little today to prove that they are much closer to being back to the juggernaut they have been for almost 20 years. They'll have another chance to prove what kind of team they are next week, when the host the Atlanta Falcons in a Super Bowl LI rematch next Sunday night.