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Monday, October 21, 2013
Picked-up pieces from 3rd quarter review

By Mike Reiss

Picked-up pieces from third-quarter review of the Patriots' 30-27 overtime loss to the Jets:

1. This was the quarter when things fell apart for the Patriots and the tone was set on the opening kickoff when LeGarrette Blount couldn't catch the football and settled for a touchback. Then left tackle Nate Solder was beaten by Quinton Coples on the first offensive play for a strip sack (recovered by the Patriots). Our view of the play was that Solder was slow with his punch, failing to impede Coples on his initial move, which gave Coples the opportunity to push him aside and jar the ball free from quarterback Tom Brady's blindside. A play like that to open the second half can have an impact on a signal-caller, and could have contributed to the next play ...

2. ... Brady's pick-6 intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski, which was undercut by safety Antonio Allen, came against the Jets' standard four-man rush. Brady wasn't particularly rushed on the throw -- Coples was bearing down on Solder again to pinch the pocket a bit -- but one wonders if the strip sack that came before it was a factor in his decision-making. Brady said after the game, and repeated again on Monday, that it was a decision he shouldn't have made. As for the route, while Gronkowski's initial cut was sharp, he then seemed to fade slightly upfield, giving Allen the chance to undercut him.

3. Center Ryan Wendell's struggles continued. In the second quarter, he had his hands full with Muhammad Wilkerson and in the third quarter, we saw him give up a pressure to Damon Harrison and later a sack to Harrison. There were multiple reasons for the Patriots' shaky play in the third quarter and we'd put protection breakdowns atop the list. Solder later was beaten by Wilkerson for another sack, with 4:33 remaining in the quarter. Coach Dante Scarnecchia is probably going to be breathing fire this week.

4. In terms of penalties, it was the worst game of the season for the Patriots on special teams. Linebackers Chris White (holding in third quarter) and Jamie Collins (illegal block above the waist in second quarter) were flagged on plays that cost the team field position. Then, of course, there was the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chris Jones in overtime.

5. On Stevan Ridley's failed third-and-1 run, it came to the right side as the Patriots had Michael Hoomanawanui aligned to the right of tackle Nate Solder, who had moved over from the left side for more of a power formation to that side. It looked like a busted blocking assignment, perhaps by Hoomanawanui who was the last player on the line and blocked down but left Demario Davis unaccounted for to make the tackle. The Patriots didn't appear to be outnumbered, which makes us think it was an assignment breakdown.

6. On back-to-back sacks by Chandler Jones and Chris Jones: they were both plays that came as a result of each rusher not giving up. On each of them, they didn't win with their initial moves as much as sticking with the play. Both had a coverage element, as Geno Smith had to go to his secondary reads. Chandler Jones shook free from D'Brickashaw Ferguson on a rush that he might not have been able to execute as well last year because he might not have had the same level of power to disengage after being locked up. For Chris Jones, he was initially hindered by rookie left guard Brian Winters but kept his feet moving and either Winters ripped him down or he went low and rolled into Smith. Either way, it got the job done.

7. Devin McCourty's pass breakup in the end zone, when tight end Jeff Cumberland had a step on linebacker Dont'a Hightower and the ball was delivered accurately before being jarred free, is the type of play that could put McCourty in the Pro Bowl conversation. Nice combination of instincts, recovery and timing to make a good, clean hit and save a touchdown.

8. For the second time in three weeks, rookie defensive end Michael Buchanan hurt the Patriots by losing discipline in his rush. This time it came on a third-and-14 play with 5:51 remaining in the quarter in which Geno Smith scrambled for 14 yards. Buchanan just shot up the field way too wide off the defensive right side, opening up a wide swath of real estate for the athletic Smith to tuck and run. It appeared the Patriots were in man coverage (maybe a switch to zone there would have been smarter), which contributed to Smith's ability to pick up the necessary yardage at the New England 10-yard line. A stop there forces a field goal. Instead, the Jets went on to score a touchdown. Buchanan's prior breakdown came on a third-and-5 play against the Bengals when Andy Dalton scrambled for 6 yards.

9. Two plays later, Smith scrambled 8 yards for a touchdown as left end Rob Ninkovich rushed past him. Ninkovich took responsibility for the play, although both linebacker Dont'a Hightower and cornerback Marquice Cole had a chance to bring Smith down.