New England extended their record to 6-0 with a tight win over the hated rival New York Jets, a team that has given the Patriots fits in the past and came into Sunday with a 4-1 record and a threat to challenge for the AFC East crown. There were times when it appeared the Jets were going to pull away in the second half, but the Patriots defense made enough plays to hold the Jets to 23 and the offense made the plays when they needed to, regardless of the 12 drops the wide receivers had on Sunday. Let's take a look at the studs and duds for Week Seven.
Rob Gronkowski- The Jets knew they were going to have trouble defending Gronk, and so did the Patriots, hence the 16 targets on Sunday. Of those 16 targets, Gronkowski caught 11 for 108 yards and one touchdown. The Jets have a strong secondary to deal with wide receivers, but they still have trouble slowing down tight ends (Scott Chandler made two big catches too) so New England took full advantage. The Patriots were struggling on offense until they started to get Gronk involved on offense; that just shows how crucial he is to the Patriots success on offense, both in the passing and running game.
Dont'a Hightower- The return of Hightower was a Godsend to a defense that needed to stop the run in order to win, and his leadership on the field was also huge for the New England defense. Hightower finished the day with 10 tackles, all solo, as he dominated a Jets team that prides itself on being the more physical opponent. There was one specific play that stood out; Hightower was setting the edge and he violently slammed the Jets tight end pack into the trash and crushed Chris Ivory. It showed that Hightower was healthy and ready to go, and his presence ignites the defense.
Jamie Collins- Collins is quickly becoming one of the best linebackers in football, and this past Sunday, he was an absolute menace. Hightower finished the day with 12 tackles (six solo), one sack, and one tackle for loss. When teams put together their offensive gameplans, they have to worry about how they're going to deal with Collins, and regardless of their ideas of how to slow him down, he keeps making more and more plays. The heart of this defense is Collins and Hightower, and with both of them being under the age of 25, the Patriots defense, specifically the linebacking core, has a great future (and present).
Tom Brady- If you didn't watch the game Sunday and you base Brady's day off his completions-to-attempts percentage, you would think that I'm crazy for naming him one of the studs of the day. Brady was 34-54, but the Patriots receivers had 12 drops on the day. Even if they catch say seven of those 12, Brady has 41 completions and the Patriots win walking away. Unfortunately, the drops are the reality and Brady had to overcome his frustrations and make plays for the Patriots to win, and once again, he did just that. Brady threw for 355 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions, and he also had a HUGE 11 yard run on third-and-ten from the 13 yard line. Brady also added a touchdown sneak to cap off his excellent day versus the best defense in the NFL.
Danny Amendola- With Julian Edelman being trailed by Darrelle Revis most of the day, it made sense for Brady to look to other targets and avoid the future Hall-of-Famer in Revis. Although Edelman and Amendola each had nine targets, Amendola caught eight of them, the biggest one coming with 7:16 to go in the fourth quarter when he snagged an eight yard bullet out of mid-air for the go-ahead touchdown. Amendola has clearly developed a strong rapport with Tom Brady and that makes the Patriots offense that much better.
Brandon LaFell- Drop after drop after drop; just not a good return for the big, physical wide receiver out of LSU. It's not easy to return against a secondary like the Jets, but his drops had nothing to do with who was covering, and if New England happened to lose this game, LaFell would be the goat. If he wants to keep Tom Brady's trust, he better fix his issues quickly or he'll start seeing his targets decrease rapidly.
Logan Ryan- Time after time we see Ryan getting beat for a catch, but with the depth issues New England currently has at cornerback, they are forced to start him when the truth is he should be used in nickel or dime. Ryan did have five tackles, but he had zero passes broken up and he is clearly overmatched when he covers other teams top two wide receivers. Ryan is still young and has had good moments, but it appears that he is just not good enough to be a starting NFL cornerback.
Julian Edelman- Another receiver with a case of the dropsies on Sunday; LaFell isn't the only one that is getting called out. Edelman didn't have as many drops, but he dropped a ball in the end zone and cost the Patriots four crucial points in a tight game. Edelman did draw the attention of Revis, which always makes for a tough day, but he was getting open and he still couldn't make the plays he typically makes. Edelman has been battling a finger injury for two weeks and it appears that it's having an affect on his excellent hands.
There were others who struggled, but not enough to earn the same "dud" title as the three aforementioned Patriots. Next week hopefully the studs list is longer and the duds list is nonexistent, but we all know that probably won't be the case.
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