Defense Carries New England to 16-3 Victory Over Jets
By Darren Kelly
The Patriots went to the office, quietly and effectively did their jobs, and went home. It wasn't always pretty, but it added up to a 16-3 victory over the downtrodden New York Jets.
Rebounding from a tough loss to the Chiefs last week, the defense led the charge on this snowy afternoon, holding the Jets to just 164 total yards. They sacked quarterback Brooks Bollinger twice (Roosevelt Colvin and Jarvis Green), pressured him all day, and held him to 135 yards passing, as he completed just 15 of his 37 attempts. The run defense was stout once again, holding Curtis Martin to just 29 yards on 15 carries (Bollinger picked up 12 on one run).
With the defense coming up big, the offense didn't need to be spectacular to secure the win. Tom Brady rebounded from his poor showing last week to have an effective day. He finished with 271 yards passing (27-for-37) and controlled the offensive flow from the end of the 2nd quarter on. Corey Dillon -- who played for the first time in four games -- had a nice afternoon with 65 yards rushing on 16 carries. For just the 3rd time this season the Patriots gained more than 100 yards on the ground. Kevin Faulk (35 yards), Michael Cloud (27 yards on the final drive), and Brady (19 yards) combined with Dillon to total 146 yards rushing, their best effort of the season.
The defining sequence of the game came right after halftime. Leading 6-3, the Patriots kicked off to the Jets to open the 2nd half. The New England defense came out of the locker room and put even more pressure on Bollinger every time he dropped back to pass. On back-to-back plays, the pressure almost forced interceptions. Instead, the Jets punted for the fourth time in the game.
The Patriots drove 85 yards in 14 plays, mixing the running of Dillon (24 yards on the drive) and the accurate passing of Brady (7-for-7 for 64 yards) to effectively put this game on ice. Dillon's 1-yard touchdown run put the Patriots up 13-3. Even though it was early in the second half, this was all the offense the Patriots needed. The defense forced three more New York punts, stopped the Jets once on 4th down, and Ellis Hobbs intercepted Bollinger's final pass to complete the dominating effort.
Points were hard to come by in the first half, as both offenses had trouble sustaining drives, and the Patriots and Jets played a scoreless 1st quarter. New England held the Jets to just 71 total yards in the half, while the Patriots amassed 192 yards and led in time of possession by more than 8 minutes.
Both teams went 3-and-out on their opening possessions. Brady completed the first pass he threw on the Patriots' next possession, a 25-yarder to Ben Watson. An inside handoff to Faulk didn't cross up the Jets, leaving the Patriots with a 4th down on the 27-yard line. Adam Vinatieri missed from 45 yards; his fifth missed field goal of the season.
The Jets picked up two first downs on their next drive -- both on Bollinger passes -- and moved into Patriots territory. New England got good pressure on Bollinger during the series, and after back-to-back incompletions, the Jets were forced to punt, and Ben Graham buried it on the 1-yard line.
The Patriots picked up a first down to gain a little breathing room, thanks to Brady's 3rd down pass to Troy Brown (5 catches for 64 yards). After Brady and Dillon nearly collided on a play fake (with Brady still completing the pass to Brown), Stephen Neal was penalized for clipping and Brady was sacked for the second time in the game, this time by John Abraham. Facing a 3rd-and-36, Brady handed the ball to Faulk for 13 yards, and the Patriots had to punt.
The Jets' next drive ended when Colvin came untouched on a delayed blitz and crushed Bollinger, forcing the Jets' 3rd punt of the first half. The Patriots finally took advantage on their next possession, driving 77 yards in 14 plays. Brady completed five straight passes on the drive, and was aided by a pass interference penalty. The offensive line gave Brady plenty of time during this drive, and the one time he was chased out of the pocket, he found Deion Branch (5 catches for 44 yards) with a huge 3rd down throw. His final pass of the drive was incomplete, but Vinatieri gave New England a 3-0 lead with a 21-yard field goal.
The Jets put together a nice drive, moving 46 yards in 10 plays. But it looked as if the Patriots forced the first turnover of the game, as Colvin chased down Bollinger and knocked the ball free. Mike Vrabel recovered it on the sideline and tossed it to Willie McGinest. But a facemask penalty on Richard Seymour nullified the play, and Mike Nugent nailed a 38-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3.
With 1:02 remaining in the half, Brady drove the Patriots 44 yards in 8 plays, setting up Vinatieri's second field goal of the game, a 34-yarder that gave New England a 6-3 lead at the half. The Patriots' defensive domination continued in the 2nd half, leading to an important win over the Jets.
With this win New England improves to 7-5 and leads Miami (who beat Buffalo today) by two games in the AFC East. The Patriots travel to Buffalo next Sunday to take on the Bills (4-8) in one of three remaining division games on the schedule.
Darren is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider. You can find him in the forums under the name: DestinationSuperBowl. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Darren Kelly"