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When a game gets out of whack so quickly, the way the Patriots’ 49-19 victory over the Jets did in an 11-minute stretch of the second quarter Thanksgiving night, it’s tough to get a gauge on anything.
Because of equal parts skill from the Patriots and ineptitude from the Jets, New England exploded for 35 points while holding the ball for just 2:46.
Impressive and unbelievable.
Does it mean anything that the Jets held a 16-14 advantage in the other three quarters? Doesn’t seem right, so let’s look at a few of the more interesting aspects of the Patriots’ victory and whether they’ll carry over starting Sunday in Miami.
Life without Gronk: So much for going with three receivers after tight end Rob Gronkowski was lost for at least a month after forearm surgery. The Patriots doubled down on their tight ends by having two of them on the field 75 percent of the time (51 out of 68 plays). The Patriots simply plugged Daniel Fells into Gronkowski's “Y” role — a blocking-heavy position depending on how talented the receiver is — and put Aaron Hernandez back in his “F” or flex spot, where he is basically a third receiver. The continuity very well might have been a byproduct of the short week of preparation, and the Patriots always will be a game-plan-specific offense.
Adding more layers in the secondary: With the return of safety Patrick Chung (shoulder) into the lineup, the Patriots used three sub packages against the Jets. There was the normal nickel package (41.5 percent before the final two Jet drives), with cornerback Kyle Arrington taking the place of a linebacker, either Dont'a Hightower or Brandon Spikes, and playing the “star” slot corner position. Chung was inserted as the fifth defensive back in a “big nickel” used to combat tight end Dustin Keller (16.9 percent). That’s the first time the Patriots have showed that this season. The dime package featuring Arrington and safety Tavon Wilson in place of Hightower and Spikes was used for just one snap against the Jets, although it had been featured before the injuries at safety. Add in that the Patriots continued to mix in more 3-4 alignment — their best run defense — along with their 4-3 base, and you have a defense that is becoming more multiple by the week. This is something Bill Belichick does as the season moves along, and it puts more on the plate for opposing quarterbacks and coordinators to prepare for.
The offensive line: Seems like years ago when people were in near hysteria about the state of the offensive line right before the season. Doubt many are complaining or wondering the whereabouts of Brian Waters right now as the offense continues to roll, Tom Brady has gotten good protection, and the running backs gain huge chunks of yardage, usually without having to do much because the blocking has been so good. The Jets certainly helped. Of the 68 plays the Patriots ran, not including two kneeldowns, the Jets played their base defense with three linemen and four linebackers just nine times (13.2 percent). What’s even more amazing is the first snap of base defense didn’t come until there was 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, when the Patriots promptly burned the Jets on a 28-yard strike from Brady to Wes Welker. As we saw with the first Bills game, one of the big differences in this offense and the previous versions is that the Patriots will cram it down your throat if you go small. Seemed like the Jets overrated the ability of their defensive line to clog running lanes. The Patriots had little trouble turning the Jets, with the lone exception of standout end Muhammad Wilkerson, and getting to the second level. They made it look easy.
On to the positional ratings against the Jets:
Quarterback (Rating: 4.5 out of 5)
He wasn’t quite as good as he was against the Colts, but Brady continues to play at an extremely high level. The short week and lopsided score seemed to curtail the normal creativity for the Jets against Brady. They sent an extra pass rusher on 17.2 percent of Brady’s 29 dropbacks. And the Jets used only two zone exchanges — subbing a linebacker or defensive back for a normal pass rusher — which of late had been Rex Ryan’s preferred method of pressure against Brady. He had little trouble deciphering nickel and dime packages, which the Jets used on 86 percent of the snaps. Brady missed a few throws, but he had 11 standout throws/decisions.
Running backs (4 out of 5)
Most of the work was done by the offensive line as it pummeled the much smaller Jets sub packages. You don’t get much better blocking than what you saw on Shane Vereen’s 13-yard run. Hernandez whammed the tackle, and Ryan Wendell and Marcus Cannon easily got to the second level to pick off dime “linebackers” David Harris and safety Eric Smith to open a huge hole. We finally saw the speed and explosion that led the Patriots to take Vereen in the second round of the 2011 draft on his 83-yard catch and run. Nobody was catching him. Vereen also showed more toughness running the ball than he has previously. If he continues both, there will be more of a platoon between he and Stevan Ridley. Both running backs ran themselves into poor runs on a couple of occasions. Continued...