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Sunday, October 20, 2013
Patriots: Sharing some halftime thoughts

By Mike Reiss

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Sharing thoughts at halftime, with the Patriots leading the Jets 21-10:

Gronkowski snap tracker. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has played 23 of 36 snaps (including penalties) and has been a difference-maker with four catches for 54 yards and a drawn holding penalty. The Patriots entered the day having scored just nine touchdowns in 22 red zone trips. Today, they are 2-of-2 and Gronkowski has been on the field on both scoring plays.

Edelman’s dazzling punt return. Julian Edelman showed why he is one of the NFL’s best punt returners with a sensational 38-yard zigzagging return. When Edelman makes plays like that, one thought comes to mind: He was a free agent this past offseason and any team could have signed him before he returned to the Patriots on a minimum-level one-year deal.

Heavy Bolden game. With the Patriots opening the game in their three-receiver package with an up-tempo approach, this has been a game that has trended in favor of running back Brandon Bolden in terms of snaps played. Bolden has been on for 23 snaps, with Stevan Ridley on for 13.

Spikes type of game. Patriots-Jets games are often physical, so it’s no surprise that one of the Patriots’ most physical defenders, Brandon Spikes, has been one of their top players when playing downhill. Spikes had a big third-down stop in the second quarter. While he still struggles at times in coverage, Spikes has become a more important player for New England in recent weeks, especially with Jerod Mayo on season-ending injured reserve.

Getting bigger on defense. One other thought on replacing Mayo: The Patriots have used more heavy defensive packages in this game against the run-first Jets, with defensive linemen Marcus Forston, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano often playing at the same time, along with ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. The idea has been to get as big as possible.

Third-down defense tightens up. The Patriots struggled early defensively on third down, with little pressure and receiver Jeremy Kerley hurting them (the Jets were 6-of-6 at one point). Marquice Cole came on to replace cornerback Kyle Arrington, which assuming there was no injury, looked like one coaching adjustment. The Patriots tightened things up a bit on third down in the second quarter.

Jets penalties showing up. The Jets entered the game with a league-high 55 accepted penalties, and their lack of discipline showed with neutral zone and offside penalties that helped the Patriots’ cause. The Patriots have looked like the more disciplined team.

Patriots get the ball. After winning the opening toss and deferring the choice, the Patriots will get the ball to open the second half.