- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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1. Patriots top draft choice Jamie Collins only played 15 defensive snaps, which included the first three of the game. Here was what we saw: 1) A blitz off the defensive right side in which he had a pretty solid outside speed rush on left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson; 2) Playing on the line of scrimmage in a two-point stance and setting a fairly solid right edge against Ferguson to keep running back Bilal Powell hemmed inside on a 0-yard gain; 3) A stunt with Chandler Jones in which he lost his footing while looping inside but stayed with it to contribute to forcing an incomplete pass. What stood out with Collins on those plays was that he was playing on the end of the line, which was a bit different from the off-the-line role we had mostly seen in his 52 defensive snaps in the first six games of the season. He blitzed again later in the drive, this time from the defensive left side, and again he was close to disrupting the play.
2. The third-down struggles on defense were across the board in the secondary on the opening drive -- poor angles/tackling on Jeremy Kerley's 11-yard catch on third-and-10 (Kyle Arrington/Steve Gregory), overpursuit on Kerley's 13-yard catch-and-run on third-and-6 (Alfonzo Dennard) and poor coverage technique on Kerley's 12-yard touchdown catch on third-and-7 (Arrington). It didn't help that the pass rush couldn't create much disruption to make Geno Smith uncomfortable and make life easier on the secondary. Also, credit to Kerley for running solid routes and getting open; like players often say, the other guys get paid too.
3. On the Jets' second drive, it wasn't the secondary that was the primary culprit on David Nelson's 16-yard catch on third-and-3. The Patriots blitzed with six rushers out of their 4-2-5 nickel and Smith had way too much time. Commit six to the rush and you'd at least expect to make the quarterback move off the spot. Not on that play as Collins, the Patriots' top pick, was easily handled one-on-one by right guard Willie Colon. The other five rushers also were mostly stifled as the Jets won the battle at the line of scrimmage.
4. Rob Gronkowski's 30-yard catch on the Patriots' opening drive was impressive work when considering what he fought through as he released from the line of scrimmage. The Jets used a “butch” technique, with outside linebacker Quinton Coples jamming him before continuing with his rush, then linebacker Demario Davis briefly got his hands on him before Gronkowski shifted quickly into a higher gear down the middle. It's part of what makes Gronkowski such a tough matchup – physical at the line before morphing into a big receiver who can run. Coples possibly could have gotten a better jam, but that's the type of threat from the tight end position that the Patriots were obviously missing with Gronkowski. Then, on Brandon Bolden's 1-yard touchdown run, the Patriots ran to the right side where tight ends Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui were aligned for a relatively easy score. That's immediate impact.
5. Although he won't get style points for a few of his kickoffs, Stephen Gostkowski had another strong day -- six kickoffs, six into the end zone, five touchbacks. That helped negate the presence of the dangerous Josh Cribbs. Two of Gostkowski's touchbacks in the first quarter dribbled into the side of the end zone. Meant to ask a follow-up question Monday on if that was by design, but forgot to do.
6. The Patriots simply aren't as big at defensive tackle without Vince Wilfork (6-foot-2, 325 pounds) and Tommy Kelly (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and that showed up on the Jets' second drive when New York ran the Wildcat with Cribbs on successive plays for 7 and 5 yards. The Patriots had their “big” 5-2 base defense on the field with defensive tackles Chris Jones (6-foot-1, 309 pounds), Joe Vellano (6-f0ot-2, 300 pounds) and Marcus Forston (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) aligned in three-point stances with Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones standing up in an outside linebacker type look and big linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower off the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field. The Jets had good push both times, right up the gut. This isn't a knock on Chris Jones, Vellano and Forston -- they're giving the Patriots all they have and making some plays -- but they're just being asked to do more than is ideal when it comes to holding the point of attack.
7. On rookie Logan Ryan's 79-yard interception return for a touchdown, credit a strong rush by left end Ninkovich for putting some pressure on Smith and perhaps speeding up his decision-making process. Good move by Ninkovich, who lined up wide of right tackle Austin Howard and initially powered into him, used his hands to jar Howard off balance, before darting inside toward Smith. Chandler Jones also had a solid interior rush from the opposite side to further press the pocket. At the end of the play, we're all for a good celebration but we could do without Ryan's crotch-grabbing leap over the goal-line. Ryan is better.
8. Communication on defense without Jerod Mayo was a hot topic entering the game and Bill Belichick said on sports radio WEEI that he thought it generally went OK. One play stood out where perhaps communication was a bit of an issue, and it was Stephen Hill's 17-yard catch late in the first quarter. The Patriots were in their "big" 5-2 base defense and the Jets had a tight bunch to the right side with receivers Hill and Jeremy Kerley and tight end Jeff Cumberland. You can see Ninkovich, Spikes and Hightower all looking at each other, hands raised, before the snap in an attempt to get on the same page. What ultimately resulted was Spikes covering Hill on a crossing route. It's always tough to determine how exactly a defensive call is supposed to be executed without knowing the call itself, but a Spikes-on-Hill matchup probably wasn't what the Patriots had in mind.
9. On the ensuing play, Smith had a keeper around right end, as Chandler Jones took a slight step inside and thus compromised the edge. We're nitpicking a bit here, because Jones seemed to have an overall fine day (he had a sack two plays later while rushing out of a two-point stance), but the play is noted as an example of how one false step is all it takes for things to open up in a situation like that.