Tom Brady walked onto the field with a slim 17-14 lead over the Jets late in the third quarter. He had only seen seven plays on the last two Patriots’ possessions, completing only one pass between the drives. He dropped back on a 2nd-and-6 from the Patriots’ 23-yard line, only to see Jets defensive end Jamaal Westerman sack him for a loss of seven yards.
It looked like another quick defensive stop for the Gang Green defense, but Brady hit his stride at just the right time. He went into the shotgun, finding tight end Rob Gronkowski over the middle for 17 yards and a first down. He sped up the pace, going into a no-huddle offense out of the shotgun.
Brady hit Aaron Hernandez for 21 yards the next play, Wes Welker for another four yards after that, followed by a BenJarvus Green-Ellis four yard run that left the Patriots in a third-and-short situation on the Jets’ 34-yard line.
In a play that represents just how talented Brady is mentally, he hurried to the line, switched to shotgun formation, called out the Jets defense to his unit, and executed. Rob Gronkowski was open for three yards, just what he needed for the first down conversion, and Brady hit him on the right sideline to convert. Five plays later Green-Ellis took it into the end zone to put the Pats up 24-14.
The Jets defense struggled immensely to stop any facets of the Patriots offense. They held Brady to just one touchdown score and Antonio Cromartie picked him off for his first career red zone interception at Gilette Stadium, yet his 321 yards came at the most opportune of times.
A glaring problem that continued for the Jets this week was their ability to stop the run. The defensive line admitted that they have trouble with quick running backs that can cut outside the tackles, but this time it was a power back that abused one of the league’s worst run defenses at this point in the season.
Green-Ellis carried the ball 27 times for 136 yards and two touchdown runs, his first 100+ yard performance of the season and the fourth of his career. The Patriots’ ability to compete with the Jets in a “ground-and-pound” style game was something the Jets did not expect, as their run game was lacking the last time the teams met.
Mark Sanchez completed 16 of 26 pass attempts in the game, wracking up 166 yards and two touchdown passes, but fell short on several three-and-out’s in which the offense looked dismal. Shonn Greene’s 21 carries were good for 83 yards and a touchdown score, but the team simply did not produce enough. The Jets only managed 255 total yards in a game where their offense needed to click.
The Patriots’ league-worst ranked defense finally had a solid outing, making stops when they most needed to and limiting a Jets offense that has not yet decided exactly what they are going to be. After straying from their typical run-first approach to offense, the Jets finally evened out the numbers tonight, but the success they expected to come with the return to the ground-and-pound simply never came.
Despite flashes of the 2010 New York offense, which made quite a few fourth quarter comebacks, the Jets were unable to pull it together at the end of this one. Sanchez found Santonio Holmes for a 21-yard touchdown pass with just 7:14 remaining in the game to cut the lead to 27-21.
Brady then took over and did what he does best to guarantee a win: run the clock. He took his time getting into Jets’ territory before the drive stalled within the ten-yard line. A field goal gave the Patriots a two-score lead and Brady had run over six minutes off the clock, leaving the Jets with the improbable task of scoring twice in a minute and sealing a win against their division rival.
The Patriots advance to 4-1 after the win, putting them in second place in the AFC East behind the 4-1 Buffalo Bills, who managed to beat New England earlier this season. The Jets are off to a disappointing 2-3 start after losing all three games on a road trip that began with a bad performance in Oakland followed by an absolutely dominating win by the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday night.
The Jets get to go home next weekend, hosting the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football at 8:30 p.m. in what they hope to be a bounceback win against a winless team. The Patriots will see the Cowboys come to Gilette Stadium next Sunday at 4:15 p.m., and if they are as lucky as the Jets were, Tony Romo will do his best to help them win another game.
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