Picked-up pieces from 2nd-half review

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
4:25
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Picked-up pieces from reviewing the second half of the Patriots' 13-10 win over the Jets:

1. All four of the Patriots’ sacks could be classified as those generated by good coverage. Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly’s first sack as a Patriot, which came with 10:05 remaining in the third quarter as he was aligned as a five-technique (over the tackle instead of an interior position), was an example of this. Kelly was initially pushed past the pocket by right tackle Austin Howard before angling back to bring down quarterback Geno Smith. It is often said that a successful defense marries together the pass rush and coverage and the Patriots had their moments in that area Thursday night.

[+] EnlargeKenbrell Thompkins
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsAaron Dobson, No. 17, and Kenbrell Thompkins are giving the Patriots a positive vibe about the passing game's future.
2. The terms “setting the edge” and “rush-lane integrity” are often relayed by Bill Belichick when it comes to defensive ends (4-3) and outside linebackers (3-4) in the team’s system. Those were preached heading into Thursday’s game because of Geno Smith’s scrambling ability and we saw a breakdown in that area on Smith’s 16-yard run with 9:32 remaining in the third quarter. Right end Chandler Jones got pushed out wide by left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, opening a wide lane for Smith to take. By the time Jones tried to recover, it was too late. It is easy to think about pass-rushing as a “pin-your-ears-back-and-get-after-the-quarterback” skill, but there is plenty of discipline that comes with it, too. That’s one play Jones would probably like to have back, and there was another in the fourth quarter – Bilal Powell’s 12-yard run around left end when Jones was blocked by left tackle Ferguson as the edge wasn’t set.

3. Some of the struggles for the young receivers are easily correctable and NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock pointed one of them out on an incompletion to Aaron Dobson with 4:32 remaining in the third quarter. The issue was that Dobson didn’t turn his head around at the top of the route, so he didn’t make himself available to quarterback Tom Brady. The rookies obviously have physical talent and upside, but it’s these finer points of the game that are still a work in progress.

4. Here’s another thing we noticed, specific to rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins: There were two third-down routes in the second half when it seemed he should have been at the first-down marker but instead didn’t have enough depth on the route. Again, these are correctable mistakes, as we’re seeing the rookies learning on the job. ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi has made the point that it’s a good thing when there can be a learning experience and a team still gets a victory, and that certainly applies with the young receivers.

5. For those who would like to see the Patriots blitz more often, one play highlighted how bringing extra rushers doesn’t always produce the desired result – it was Santonio Holmes’ 10-yard catch on third-and-7 with 13:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Patriots brought six rushers and the Jets stonewalled them all, with linebacker Jerod Mayo coming in late on a “hug” (he was responsible for the running back, but when the back stays in to pass-protect, he then adds himself to the rush). That left cornerback Kyle Arrington alone with Holmes in a man coverage situation and Geno Smith calmly stepped into the throw, delivering an accurate strike toward the left sideline.

6. Two special-teams points: It shouldn’t be overlooked that six of Ryan Allen’s 11 punts came in the second half when it was raining heavily. That’s a big challenge for a rookie punting in his second career NFL game and the ball-handling and snap-to-punt operation was generally clean. But overall, Allen’s situational punting remains a work in progress – his final attempt, a plus-50 punt from the Patriots’ 45, could have been hit better (26 yards). Those are hidden yards that the Patriots generally capitalized on with Zoltan Mesko. Meanwhile, Matthew Slater’s fourth-quarter tackle of punt returner Kyle Wilson was a good snapshot of why he’s a Pro Bowl special-teamer and also why Jets coach Rex Ryan said after the game, “That Slater kid is a heck of a football player.”

7. First-down rushing plays (non kneel-downs) in the second half for the Patriots: Minus-1 yard, 1 yard, 7 yards, 2 yards, minus-1 yard, 5 yards, 0 yards. There was just not enough positive momentum on first down in the running game, which set up undesirable long yardage situations on second and third down. Some of the credit goes to a tough Jets defense. But I also trace it back to the first quarter when the Patriots had some good things going in the running game and seemed to get away from the chance to build momentum and more balance there. Hard to turn it on and off like that (24 passes vs. 12 rushes at the half).

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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