Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday game against the Jets and offers some of his third-quarter observations:
1. Playing on all four of the team’s top special teams units, Patriots LB Tracy White had an impact on the kickoff coverage unit against the Jets. On the opening kickoff of the second half, White collided with Jets FB John Conner but held his ground, eventually shoving Conner aside to make the stop on CB Kyle Wilson, the returner. This followed a similar play by White on a kickoff in the second quarter, where he also played a block well to make the tackle.
2. The Patriots opened up the second half doing what they didn’t do on the final drive of the first half (a Jets field goal): pressuring the quarterback. As had been the case on his first sack of the game, DE Gerard Warren’s second sack came on a play-action by the Jets. This time, Warren benefited from OLB Jermaine Cunningham, who used good hand work on LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson to pressure Jets QB Mark Sanchez. Meanwhile, Warren had turned LG Matt Slauson around the corner, and was in position to record the sack of Sanchez when he stepped outside to avoid Cunningham.
3. After beginning their first drive of the third quarter with a spread-based attack, the Patriots returned to the running game after crossing midfield. On the first run of the half for RB Fred Taylor, the Jets had their nickel package on the field against a 2 WR, 2 TE package for the Patriots. Even without their base defense on the field, the Jets were able to stop Taylor for a loss, with DE Mike DeVito beating center Dan Koppen, who had a tough outside block to execute. The Patriots dug themselves a deeper hole on the next play, with TE Aaron Hernandez, lined up in the slot, missing a block on CB Drew Coleman to stop a screen pass to WR Wes Welker for a loss.
4. Despite a solid play against a single blocker early in the game, Patriots DE Ron Brace struggled against double teams in the second and third quarters. On the first Jets run following CB Antonio Cromartie’s interception, Brace faced a double-team from TE Ben Hartsock and RT Damien Woody and was pushed two yards back at the snap. Brace fared similarly against Woody on a separate run in the second quarter.
5. One of the most disappointing plays of the game came on a third-and-1 situation, when the Jets lined up in a power running formation, but instead rolled Sanchez out and got behind the Patriots defense on a 39-yard catch by TE Dustin Keller. The play was made possible by the down prior, a second-and-8 where the Patriots rushed only three despite the Jets being backed up against their own end zone. Sanchez was given a clean pocket and the necessary time to move away from the end zone on a check-down pass to Keller. This is one example, where, playing with the lead, the Patriots could have afforded to have been more aggressive with their defensive scheme.
6. As noted by NT Vince Wilfork, the Jets made some of their biggest gains in the running game when rushing against the Patriots’ sub defense. On a second-and-10 during the Jets’ third quarter field goal drive, RB LaDainian Tomlinson gained 14 yards on a straight run (not a draw) against the Patriots’ “big” nickel defense, which saw Wilfork lined up at left end. For the second time in the game, rushing off the edge, Wilfork made an aggressive move to the outside, opening a large hole for Tomlinson. LB Jerod Mayo could not then disengage from a block by RG Brandon Moore, setting up the first down run for Tomlinson. Given the success of that play, the Jets simply reversed their offensive formation for the next down, running off the defensive right side. This time it was DE Mike Wright and Mayo who found themselves blocked out, with Tomlinson keeping his footing despite contact from LB Gary Guyton and safety Patrick Chung to pick up another first down.
7. Following the two Tomlinson first downs, the Patriots defense started to clamp down on the Jets’ offense as it entered the red zone. The secondary swarmed to contain a screen pass to WR Jerricho Cotchery, then a catch over the middle by WR Braylon Edwards. A subsequent incompletion set up a Jets field goal and kept the Patriots in the lead late in the third quarter.
8. As the Patriots took the ball late in the third quarter following the Jets field goal, the running game was given another chance to be established. Even with two tight ends on the field, the Jets continued to use their nickel package, and it paid off, with Kyle Wilson “hiding” about 10 yards deep off the edge of the line before breaking to the line at the snap and taking out the knees of pulling RT Sebastian Vollmer in the hole. DeVito, who had been giving the Patriots problems at various points in the game, had already made headway into the backfield against LG Dan Connolly and was able to break off and tackle RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
9. On a critical third-and-9 late in the quarter, the Patriots offense was unable to convert and their three-and-out handed the Jets the ball for what would become their go-ahead touchdown drive. On the play, Wilson blitzed off the right edge, occupying Vollmer, who handed RE Shaun Ellis to RG Stephen Neal. The veteran Neal was about a half-second late to come out of his stance on the snap, giving Ellis the outside edge to hurry Brady into an incomplete dump-off pass.
10. Two of the defining plays of the game came on the Jets’ go-ahead touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter. The first, a 21-yard reception over the middle by Keller, was made possible by the Patriots failing to even cover Keller, who was lined up off the left edge of the line. LB Brandon Spikes keyed the fullback on the play, only dropping to cover Keller once the fullback had committed to pass protection. By then, Spikes was forced to chase Keller, trailing by five yards. Both safeties were in deep zones on the play and only in position to make the tackle, but not disrupt the catch. The very next play, the Jets gained another 31 yards when OLB Rob Ninkovich, lined up in the slot over Cotchery, whiffed on an open-field tackle on a run off right tackle by Tomlinson. The interior defense was sealed off on the play, as without an OLB over him, play-side TE Keller was able to block down and seal the inside of the running lane.
11. Once the Jets got within the 10-yard line on their third-quarter touchdown drive, they motioned Tomlinson outside to create a bunch set off the left side of the offensive formation. Continuing a trend seen in the preseason and regular-season opener, the Patriots had trouble adjusting to this bunch set, with Mayo clipping CB Devin McCourty as routes crossed close to the goal line. McCourty had close coverage on Cotchery on the play, but the slight contact might have been enough for Cotchery to get the extra step and be open for the go-ahead touchdown catch.