Quick-hit thoughts after 3rd quarter

October, 9, 2011
10/09/11
6:39
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts after the third quarter of the Patriots’ game against the Jets (New England leads 24-14):

1. Strong response by the Patriots after the second quarter ended on a down note. First play from scrimmage -- 73 yards to Wes Welker down the seam. Cornerback Darrelle Revis initially was lined up on Welker and it looked like there was some type of breakdown by the Jets secondary.

2. With the 73-yard reception, Welker has more receiving yardage through the first five games of a season than any player in NFL history.

3. One of the biggest plays of the game was Deion Branch’s 4-yard reception on the third offensive play of the third quarter. Branch was ruled to have fumbled, but Bill Belichick challenged and the call was reversed. The Patriots scored on the next play, with Tom Brady showing great patience in the pocket and finding Branch for a 2-yard touchdown.

4. The Jets responded to the Branch touchdown with an 88-yard kickoff return by Joe McKnight. On the Patriots’ coverage, linebacker Tracy White had a missed tackle and it looked like Jeff Tarpinian got blocked out of play in the lane that McKnight exploded through.

5. The Jets are a mentally tough team. That’s a credit to head coach Rex Ryan.

6. Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Branch was the 275th regular-season touchdown pass of his career, which ties him with Vinny Testaverde for eighth place on the NFL’s all-time list. It also marks the 21st consecutive regular-season game with a touchdown pass for Brady, which extends his franchise record.

7. From an overall strategy standpoint, the Patriots’ offense is being dared to run the football at times, with the Jets loading the field with defensive backs. The running game has had uneven results in answering that challenge. One of the downers came on the Patriots’ second drive of the third quarter when they couldn’t run despite having numbers on their side.

8. Overall, it hasn’t been a crisp effort from the Patriots’ offense, whether it’s been misfires by Brady, drops from receivers, protection (e.g. Thomas Welch giving up a sack) or slow route adjustments. Credit goes to Jets defensive backs for some solid pass-breakups.

9. The Patriots picked up the pace a bit at the end of the quarter and that seemed to give them a spark. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had been quiet as a pass-catcher up to that point, was a big factor with two catches while drawing a pass interference penalty.

10. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been one of the best players on the field for the Patriots. Green-Ellis has 18 rushing touchdowns since the start of the 2010 season, the most of any player in the NFL over that span.

11. Linebacker Dane Fletcher, who was expected to see more time in sub packages with Jerod Mayo out, hasn't played on defense. Brandon Spikes is staying on the field on third down.

12. Sergio Brown, after a tough performance in Oakland, also hasn't played on defense. It's been Patrick Chung and James Ihedigbo going wire to wire at safety.

13. Good challenge by Belichick on Plaxico Burress' third-down catch, which was overturned. Belichick has won two challenges today. Because of that, he gets a third.

14. Big spark by Welker on punt returns as well. You almost forget how good he is in that area.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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