The New England Patriots improved to two wins, giving the New York Jets their first loss of the season, and proving why they are the defending division champions.
Never taking advantage of the Patriots’ inexperience at quarterback, the Jets’ allowed Matt Cassel to secure his first win as a starter through short screen passes and a diverse rush attack. Cassel found Wes Welker seven times for 76 yards, and allowed the committee of running backs to carry the ball a total of 30 times for 98 yards, and one touchdown.
Thomas Jones gashed the New England defense for 70 tough yards, but failed to find the end zone on three attempts from the one-yard line. For the entire game, the Jets’ offense only hit two strides.
The first was on the opening drive, which ended on a missed field goal by newly acquired kicker Jay Feely. And the other was in the fourth quarter, ending with a touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey.
The Brett Favre-led offense had difficulty setting the tone after the first drive, as possessions stalled out with incompletions, an interception, and penalties.
A strong gallop by Thomas Jones was called back with a holding penalty on Damien Woody, and a 41-yard reception by Jerricho Cotchery was negated on an offensive pass interference call.
In between those plays, the Patriots blanketed the receivers, and reached Favre to record three sacks, one of which was a 20-yard loss from Adalius Thomas. The Jets may want to reconsider asking 5-foot-8, 202 pound Leon Washington to block speed rushing outside linebackers.
While all of the attention was on Matt Cassel in his first start, and Brett Favre in the Jets’ home opener, it was really the special teams play that dictated the pace of this game. Without Sammy Morris’ touchdown and the PAT, the Patriots would have still managed a victory off field goals alone.
Stephen Gostkowski sent kickoff after kickoff sailing out of the back of the end zone. And when Leon Washington was finally able to field a kick and make an attempt at a return, the Patriots coverage stuffed him at the 23-yard line.
When Gostkowski wasn’t pinning the Jets on their 20-yard line, Ben Graham was making the Patriots’ lives easier with a weak punting game. With so many of the Jets’ drives stalling out, Graham kicked returnable balls to New England, giving Matt Cassel and his offense a shorter field to work with.
Needing only a handful of screen passes, and clock-control running up the middle, the Patriots rarely ran more than 10 offensive plays to end a drive with points. Personal fouls on Calvin Pace and Shaun Ellis for roughing the passer and a face-mask tackle, respectively, cut 15 yards off New England’s distance to the end zone, as well.
There are few certainties with the Jets at this point. One of the things that’s certain is the lack of chemistry with Favre and his receivers. New England effectively disrupted the passing game with pressure and excellent coverage. Ellis Hobbs attacked the ball, breaking up pass after pass.
Defensively, the pass rush is improved, but coverage remains inconsistent and spotty. If the entire world knew that New England would look to move the ball with screen passes, slants, and quick routes, how could the Jets allow so much yardage to be gained?
The defensive game-plan looked to attack the ball, and rush the passer. But the team still played on their heels, as if afraid of the big play.
The offensive play calling wasn’t much better. All of the dump-off routes to the flats, and stalled drives were reminiscent of the New York Jets of old—a New York Jets team this coaching staff promised never to show again when they went out and made splashes throughout the offseason.
The days of failing in the fourth quarter were supposed to be over for the Jets. Securing Brett Favre to lead this team and still being unable to move the chains when necessary wasn’t what fans hoped for when the trade became a reality. And now fans need to wonder just how much Brett Favre wants to be here.
Favre looked confused, lost, and unsure about himself for most of the game. And fans have ignored that appearance since his arrival.
As the excitement of him wearing a Jets’ jersey fades, fans have to be realistic about that sad look in his eyes. A look that shows pain as he knows that there’s no turning back. That competitive, good-ol’-boy-that-loves-football spirit that everyone loved in Green Bay seems forced in New York.
Brett Favre is not happy as a New York Jet. As much as his heart was with football, it hasn’t been with the Jets. Look no further than his Packer-colored shoulder pads contrasting against the Jets’ green and white for evidence.
The grudge match continues when the Jets head to New England on Nov. 13. Hopefully, at mid-season both offenses should be able to click more efficiently and hit strides more often, making for a more exciting game. Clock management needs to improve by then, as well.