Saturday, November 24, 2012

Patriots Bring Down the Jets

by Hal Bent, BostonSportPage.com

Can you fly this plane, and land it? 
Surely you can't be serious. 
I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

Like in Airplane, it was funny because main character did not seem to get the joke. With Jets coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez spending the post-game patting themselves on the back (look at the yards we gained in garbage time!), they didn't get the joke either. Jets fans no doubt consoled themselves by looking at the game stats and saw each team had 25 first downs, the Jets gained 405 yards on offense, Mark Sanchez threw for 301 yards, Shonn Greene had a 5.1 yard average per rush, and held a slight advantage in time of possession.  Of course, they trailed 35-3 at half time, had 5 fumbles (and lost 4), gave up 475 yards of offense, and allowed the Patriots to convert 11 consecutive first downs at one point.  The fact that Rex Ryan was making excuses for his team and wasn't kicking ass and taking names after the game shows how far the Jets have fallen this season.

After a frustrating start to the game on Thanksgiving night for the Patriots offense (Intentional grounding on the first play, a three and out for their first drive, and then following that with yet another missed field goal under 40 yards) the Patriots turned a tight game after one quarter (tied 0-0) into a catastrophe for the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets on their home turf in New Jersey.  As usual, the offense put pressure on the opposition, and allowed the Patriots defense to capitalize and do what they do best (especially since Bill Belichick jumped back into the role of hand-on defensive coordinator after the defensive debacle in Buffalo): create turnovers.

When a 35 point second quarter features two defensive touchdowns and a play so horrible that kids will be pointing and laughing at its replay in 50 years ("Ha-ha, Sanchez went face into rear-end of his offensive lineman and fell down and fumbled!"), something is working.  My arm was sore from so many fist pumps that I had to spend halftime icing it.  The sequence of events was so horrible, that even uber-annoying super-fan Fireman Ed (purportedly) bailed on the Jets at halftime. A late arriving crowd (stadium looked half empty still at kick-off) was early leaving as the fourth quarter featured a continuance of the Tebow chants and the Patriots fans who drove down Route 95 into enemy territory to celebrate the game in style.

Back to the first quarter, though, while the game was still a game. After the Jets defense got the Patriots offense off the field in three plays, the Jets had the Patriots right where they wanted them.  Starting at the 35, the Jets began the game with Sanchez being sacked by blitzing Patriots rookie linebacker out of Alabama, Dont'a Hightower. Most impressive, on third and five, the Patriots defense forced the Jets into an incomplete pass and forced them to punt on their first drive. The Patriots jumped right into the no-huddle on the next drive (highlighted by a great 28 yard "I'm back, Baby!" catch-and-run by Aaron Hernandez); however, the drive ended with tow incomplete passes leading to Patriots kicker Steven Gostkowksi missing a 39 yard field goal.  

At this point, the Jets had held down the mighty Patriots offense twice in the first quarter, were winning the field position battle, and started riding running back Shonn Greene down the field mixing in a few short passes and finding themselves with second-and-six at the Patriots 23 yard line.  Then, the Jets implosion/Patriots explosion began: After the defense baited Sanchez into a rookie mistake (these are rookie mistakes by a five-year veteran) baiting him into throwing the ball into a safety sliding over into coverage and embattled safety Steve Gregory picking off the pass, the Patriots drove down the field methodically and deliberately from the 16 yard line in small chunks, with the big play being a 13 yard run by running back Shane Vereen (with a face-mask penalty added on).  Brady hit wide receiver Wes Welker in the end zone (no one missed Gronk on that red zone play) and the pressure was on New York.

After the Jets drove down into long field goal range, the Patriots defense made a great short-yardage stand, stopping Bilal Powell on third and two, then stuffing Shonn Greene on fourth-and-one, with linebacker Brandon Spikes forcing a fumble by knocking the ball straight up in the air and back to the defense to recover, negating any bad spot by a referee giving the Jets a first down. On the first play, the Patriots highlighted a match-up of decrepit, old Jets linebacker Bart Scott on Patriots running back Shane Vereen on a short crossing route. Eight-seven yards later, it was 14-0 Patriots on top. 

Sanchez followed that by getting a face full of his offensive lineman's rear-end after missing a hand-off (he's venturing into "high school freshman mistake" zone here) to end the next drive on a great effort by Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork to force Jets guard Brandon Moore back into Sanchez and forcing him to fumble, which was returned for a touchdown by safety Steve Gregory. Then, special teams got into the act, with Devin McCourty forcing a fumble on the kick-off and Julian Edelman scooping it up and scampering in to make in 28-0.  Not to be outdone, Sanchez followed with weak drive ended by a nice sack by blitzing Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo to force a Jets punt.  On third and five, Brady found wide receiver Julian Edelman behind the Jets defense (beating big mouth safety LeRon Landry) for 56 yards and it was 35-0 and the game was over with 3:08 to play in the first half.

Before the final first half drive to a field goal, Sanchez had 48 yards passing. That means he piled up over 250 yards in pure garbage time.  When the game mattered, he was showing why he struggles to break into the top 30 quarterbacks in the league, despite having a throwing arm and mobility that puts him in the top ten quarterbacks as rated by physical tools.   The second half was a victory celebration for the Patriots fans staying up late (which I did, even though I had to get up early and haul my butt to the office on Black Friday).

The Patriots get an extended break after the short week to recover and ready for the final push to the playoffs with again no real competition in the AFC East. Two big games loom against Houston and San Francisco; as usual, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has his squad getting better and improving as the calendar turns to December and readying again for a run deep into January. 

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