New England Patriots @ New York Jets
Fitzpatrick: 26/41, 296 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT, 2 rushes for 13 yards, 1 fumble
Fitzmagic is alive and well! For a minute there, it seemed that Fitzpatrick’s fumble (and subsequent return for a touchdown) might be the deciding factor against the Jets, and it’s tough to overlook both that and a couple of overthrows (that’s right, overthrows not underthrows) that left touchdowns off the board. Nonetheless, Fitz finished +2 in TD to turnover ratio and netted over 300 yards of offense against a defense that, although banged up, has been very formidable this year. He’s gone without an interception in 4 of the last 5 games, and led late game-winning drives in 3 of his last 4 games (Giants, Cowboys and now Patriots). So let’s bring a pinch of that magic dust up to Buffalo and close this thing out.
Running Backs: C+
Powell: 7/56/0, 5 receptions for 34 yards
Ivory was banged up early. Ridley had his best game of the season, which isn’t saying much. Powell has come on in late weeks and impressed again today with some excellent vision in the running game and elusiveness in the passing game.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A-
The “minus” grade goes to Enunwa for a dropped pass in the 4th quarter that should have been a touchdown. Enunwa found ways to contribute still, putting up 69 yards receiving. Other than that, it’s tough to find much fault with this group! For awhile there, you might have expected Decker to go without a touchdown, but of course he comes up big with the overtime TD. Marshall was a force again today, and has now come down with over 100 receptions on the season, a personal best. Add 2 TD catches to his stat sheet. This dynamic duo is truly a pleasure to watch.
Offensive Line: B
Fitzpatrick was sacked just once and the blocking in the run game was the best that it’s been in several weeks now. The Jets won in the trenches here against a front 7 that provides stiff competition for most opposing teams.
Defensive Line: A-
The Jets only posted 2 sacks (1 to Richardson, 1 to Mauldin), but don’t be deceived: the pressure was there and it was heavy. It was defensive line pressure that, for example, forced the Revis interception and Brady was also forced to throw it away often under pressure from the big men up front.
The Patriots netted 63 yards on the ground, a vast improvement from the 16 yards they put up against the Jets last time around. But they also made a much more substantial effort to establish the run, splitting 21 rushes between 6 players (excluding Brady). As usual, the unit struggled in pass coverage, but the effort against the run was tremendous today.
Tom Brady was held to 231 yards and just a single TD through the air, despite an abundance of opportunities in the 2nd half. The Patriots struggled to sustain drives on 3rd down, though two consecutive 4th downs were converted through the air by Gronkowski, leading to a critical score for the Pats late in the game. Earlier, Revis had an interception that shifted momentum.
Special Teams: C+
Bullock converted all of his attempts, including a 49 yard field goal. The return game and coverage game were solid. Quigley had a few fine punts but he also sailed the ball into the New England endzone once when the Patriots didn’t have a deep man to field it. There’s no reason that punt should have gone for a touchback.
The coaches got the job done today. While I’m reluctant to approach the matter in such a simplistic way, the bottom line is that the Jets won a late December game against their bitter archrivals in a game that did actually matter to the Patriots (not as much, but enough). As opposed to Belichick, Bowles didn’t make a mistake on the overtime coin flip. As opposed to Belichick, Bowles didn’t throw up the white flag before halftime, running the clock out when there was more than enough time to score. The offensive gameplan could have used some more variety and it would be nice to have better things to say than “he didn’t mess up much,” but Bowles still managed to out-coach Belichick, and that’s no small feat.