Patriots Report Card: New York Jets

The Patriots find a running game against the Jets. That's great news as they get set to enter the playoffs.

The Patriots show flashes of brilliance at times, like when they go deep for a 35-yard touchdown on their first offensive snap and when they open the second half with a touchdown drive that looked like there was no defense on the field. But then they go through stretches where they can't get out of their own way, commit penalties and drop passes. Kevin Faulk dropped a fourth down pass on a poorly thrown ball from quarterback Tom Brady; Daniel Graham dropped a pass down the middle that would have been a huge gain and maybe even a 50-yard touchdown, and Deion Branch also had a drop. But Brady played a mistake-free game with a 101.8 passer rating while completing 15-of-25 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns, both to the emerging David Givens. Givens threw an interception on an ill-advised trick play call late in the game. The passing attack has some explosion but needs consistency.

This would be an A-plus if not for a couple of short-yardage failures. But Antowain Smith ran through gaping holes and into the secondary on several occasions. He finished with 18 carries for 121 yards and 6.7 yards per attempt. The Jets, who have one of the worst run defenses in football, could not even slow the Patriots plodding runner. Smith became the first Patriot to rush for 100 yards in 22 games and he did so easily, with runs of 30 yards and 23 yards included.

The Patriots intercepted Chad Pennington five times and limited him to a 31.2 passer rating. Pennington completed only 24-of-43 passes for 229 yards with no TDs and the five picks while also being sacked four times. Tedy Bruschi had the first interception, which set up a 35-yard Brady-to-Givens touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead one play later. Willie McGinest returned an interception 15 yards for a touchdown to give New England a 14-7 lead it would never relinquish. Ty Law intercepted Pennington in the end zone on a terrific individual play as Pennington tried to go over the top of Law to Santana Moss. Rodney Harrison and rookie Eugene Wilson picked up late interceptions and Richard Seymour and Tyrone Poole each dropped one or it could have been seven interceptions on 12 possessions. Mike Vrabel had two sacks and McGinest and Seymour added one. Pennington had no success whenever he tried to throw the ball more than 5 yards down the field.

If it weren't for Pennington's five interceptions cutting into Curtis Martin's carries, the former Patriot would likely have gone over the 100-yard mark. He ran 22 times for 89 yards and averaged 4 yards per carry with no big run to boost his numbers. His longest run of the day was 8 yards as the Patriots safeties and linebackers kept him in check when he broke through the front line. No defensive lineman finished with more than three tackles while the starting linebackers and secondary accounted for 57 total tackles. The Patriots run defense was decent, but not as dominant as in other games.

There wasn't much to go on here since neither team made any sort of big play in the game. Bethel Johnson averaged 29.5 yards on his two kickoff returns and Troy Brown 6.5 yards on his two punt returns. Punter Ken Walter didn't hit it real well, but was fortunate that Santana Moss made a couple of bad decisions not to fair catch punts that he let drop and roll deeper into Jets territory. Walter punted six times and five were downed inside the 20, but he averaged just 31.2 yards per kick, although four of his punts came from the Jets side of the field. The coverage teams were OK.

The Patriots had a solid game plan and made needed adjustments to it during the game. After Chad Pennington guided a 9:20, 83-yard drive to get the Jets on the board, things became much tougher for New York. The Patriots used an excellent mix of coverage and blitzes to unnerve the Jets passer who had trouble when he tried to throw down field. Most of his success came on the short routes underneath the coverage, which New England also adjusted to while failing to give up anything deep in the process. Offensively, New England had success running the football and maintained balance with 24 runs and 25 passes.

Offensive coordinator Charlie Weis had a brain cramp calling for an option pass by wide receiver David Givens that was intercepted. The Patriots were running the ball too successfully and were at the Jets 45 when the play was called. It just seemed like the Patriots could have continued to grind away and use the clock and while it's OK to go for the kill, they allowed a wide receiver to throw into double coverage, and gave the Jets hope in the process. He should have been better prepared to react to the coverage and run with the ball in that situation. Bill Belichick admitted he'd like to have the call back, but given the way they ran the ball, the coaches thought the Jets safeties would bite on the end around action. But overall, a solid day for the coaches who had a plan that made Pennington look terrible.

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