New England Patriots: 2013 Week 7 NWE at NYJ

Picked-up pieces from 4th quarter review

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
11:45
PM ET
Picked-up pieces from fourth-quarter and overtime review of the Mew England Patriots' 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets:

1. The Patriots didn’t lose the game solely because of the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Chris Jones in overtime. First and foremost, credit should go to the Jets for making the plays when it counts. But specific to the penalty, if umpire Tony Michalek is going to make that call on Jones, it’s hard to imagine why he wouldn’t have flagged the Jets for the same thing on Stephen Gostkowski's game-tying 44-yard field goal with 19 seconds left. Quinton Coples lined up in the same spot as Jones, looped to his right like Jones, and jammed his right arm into the back of a teammate, hurling him into the formation (the teammate flips over snapper Danny Aiken). While Coples’ action was a bit more subtle, the enforcement of the never-called-before rule was too inconsistent from this view, especially at such a critical time in the game.

2. Overall, the Jets didn’t have a blitz-heavy approach in this game. They did pressure at times, but if we had to sum up thoughts on their overall plan, it was more coverage-based and relied on the standard four rushers (not always the same players) to generate enough heat. Several times on the Patriots’ final drive in the fourth quarter, it was just three rushers. It was a nice mix and it generally worked well.

3. On the uninspiring incomplete pass/incomplete pass/incomplete pass sequence that ended the Patriots’ only overtime drive, the Jets rushed four and dropped seven into coverage on each play. The Jets won one-on-matchups on the first two plays that forced throws into tight windows (back-shoulder delivery to Aaron Dobson, short pass to Rob Gronkowski) before Brady overthrew Julian Edelman on an out-breaking route to the right sideline. Just a bad throw, which might have been impacted by defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, whose strong rush on center Ryan Wendell continued a game-long theme of the Jets controlling the play up front. Wendell had a tough game.

4. Chandler Jones was credited with two sacks but his best rush might have come with 9:22 remaining in regulation, on an incomplete pass on third-and-20. Jones lined up over rookie left guard Brian Winters, made an initial move inside with a left-handed strike before clubbing with his right arm to rock Winters and surge past him for a decisive pressure on Geno Smith. That forced Smith to get rid of the ball quickly on an incomplete pass. It was a decisive victory for Jones, who easily could have drawn a holding penalty as well.

5. For the second week in a row, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard showed top-of-the-line ball skills in a critical situation to help get the ball back to the offense. Last week, it was batting the ball away as he was in man coverage down the left sideline against the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Marques Colston. On Sunday, it was a similar play down the right sideline against the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Stephen Hill. In both instances, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Dennard was giving up plenty in the tale of the tape, but his combination of sound technique, instincts, leaping ability and ball skills helped him make both plays. He’s been a solid performer since elevating from a No. 3 to No. 2 role in Week 4.

6. On the drive in which the Patriots ultimately kicked a game-tying field goal, an incomplete pass to Gronkowski with 36 seconds left -- in which Gronkowski nearly made a leaping one-handed grab -- could have been a touchdown if he completed the catch because there was no one behind him. Gronkowski was crunched at the line of scrimmage by defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who sacrificed his rush to “hammer” Gronkowski, which was something the Jets did often in the second half. But Gronkowski, who had aligned close to the line of scrimmage, got started again and snuck behind safety Antonio Allen. The Jets’ physical play on Gronkowski stood out, as they often used a defensive lineman to chip him at the line.

Picked-up pieces from 1st quarter review

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
5:10
PM ET
Picked-up pieces from reviewing the first quarter of the New England Patriots' 30-27 loss to the New York Jets:

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.

Misinterpretation costly for Belichick, Pats

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
10:31
PM ET
Bill BelichickJoe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsBill Belichick tries to make his case after a critical call went against the Patriots in overtime.
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let’s start with this: The New England Patriots did not lose to the New York Jets on Sunday solely because of Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3. Their issues run deeper than a new special-teams rule for 2013.

But the never-before-called penalty on the rule is the place to start when dissecting the 30-27 overtime loss at MetLife Stadium that had Patriots coach Bill Belichick fuming and Jets coach Rex Ryan cracking that it was about time his team got a break.

The penalty gave the Jets new life in overtime after kicker Nick Folk’s 56-yard field goal attempt fell short. He hit a 42-yarder four plays later to seal the Jets’ surprising victory.

The rule was implemented this year as a player-safety consideration to protect defenseless players, and what became clear after the game was that umpire Tony Michalek had one interpretation in throwing his penalty flag while Belichick, who prides himself on knowing every nuance of the rulebook, had an entirely different one.

Who is correct? And how could something like that get lost in translation?

As is often the case, there are multiple layers to the answers, so let's detail the play in question.

On the 56-yard field goal attempt, Patriots rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones lined up over Vladimir Ducasse, the right tackle on the field goal protection unit. At the snap, he looped to his right and pushed from the behind of teammate Will Svitek, with the force of Svitek knocking the Jets’ Damon Harrison out of his stance while Svitek reached up with his right arm.

Michalek threw his flag almost immediately, with referee Jerome Boger later explaining that Jones’ act was illegal because he “pushed his teammate into the formation.”

Belichick saw it differently, sharing his opinion that it would be a penalty only if the push came from a player who was initially lined up behind the line of scrimmage so he could get a running start.

“You can’t push from the second level, and I didn’t think we did that,” Belichick said. “They eliminated the pushing on the second level.”

But any pushing, at any level, is not allowed. So from a bottom-line perspective, Belichick didn’t fully understand the rule to coach his players appropriately, which is surprising.

At the same time, it takes only a Google search to understand why there might be some misunderstanding about the rule. The league’s own website, NFL.com, had explained the rule this way for the past six weeks: “Team B players not on the line of scrimmage at the snap cannot push players on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”

An accompanying video had NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino saying, “They cannot push from the second level, the down linemen into the offensive formation. … These techniques are dangerous, pushing into the offensive formation, and that’s why we want to get them out of the game.”

But within two hours of the conclusion of the Patriots-Jets game, the NFL.com article explaining the rule had been altered, the league perhaps sensing that there would be a lot more discussion about Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 following Sunday’s controversial call.

The following sentence in the explainer was eliminated: “Team B players not on the line of scrimmage at the snap cannot push players on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”

The sentence now reads: “Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”

Why the change eliminating the reference to players “not on the line of scrimmage at the snap”?

[+] EnlargeNick Folk
Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SportsGiven a second chance, Nick Folk and the Jets could celebrate a game-winning field goal.
One could understand Belichick’s belief that Jones was doing nothing wrong based on the way Blandino himself had explained the rule in the NFL.com video. But somewhere along the line, Blandino’s explanation and what is written in the official rulebook were no longer consistent because Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 plainly reads: “Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”

Second level, it seems, is inconsequential.

Furthermore, Boger explained after Sunday’s game that any pushing is prohibited.

“It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It’s any type of pushing action,” he said.

The Patriots learned this the hard way Sunday.

Make no mistake, the call wasn’t solely what cost them the game. It’s hard to win when the offense is 1-of-12 on third down, Tom Brady throws a pick-six early in the third quarter to help the Jets get back into the game and the defense struggles for long stretches.

Those are the deeper issues at play. But in the end, the Patriots still had a chance to win until Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 was enforced -- Belichick and the officials with differing views on the interpretation of the ruling.

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Tom Brady: I have to do a better job

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
10:30
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – On a day in which the New England Patriots needed a vintage Tom Brady type performance to overcome a suddenly vulnerable defense, they didn’t get it.

In fact, it was a Brady interception returned for a touchdown early in the third quarter that changed the complexion of the game. The Patriots led 21-10 at the time, and in Brady’s words “had a great opportunity to take control of the game” when his pass to tight end Rob Gronkowski was intercepted by safety Antonio Allen and returned 23 yards for a score.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Allen
AP Photo/Seth WenigThe pick-six Antonio Allen had off Tom Brady changed the complexion of the game.
“That’s a ball I shouldn’t throw,” Brady admitted after the team’s 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets. “You can’t do that, throw interceptions for touchdowns. That’s one way to get you beat.”

Brady finished 22-of-46 for 228 yards with one interception, and was sacked four times. The Patriots converted just one of 12 on third downs.

“We just haven’t been good on third down all year. Obviously, that’s a big problem,” Brady said. “We certainly need to be better on third downs and in the red area. ... You’re not going to win many football games going 1 of 12. ... No excuses. We just didn’t play well. I [have] to do a better job out there. That’s what I need to do.”

Still, the Patriots had a chance late in the fourth quarter for a potential game-winning touchdown. Trailing 27-24, they took over at their own 8-yard line with 2:10 remaining and advanced deep into Jets territory.

With 36 seconds left, Brady lofted a pass over the middle to Gronkowski, who nearly came down with a one-handed grab and possibly could have raced in for a touchdown.

“He ran a great route and we gave him an opportunity. He makes that 99 out of 100 [times], but it was just one of those days where it doesn’t happen for us,” Brady said. “We still had plenty of other opportunities after that. It really shouldn’t have come down to that play if we had been executing better over the course of the day.

“They put pressure on you. Coverage is going to be tight. There are going to be tight throws and we have to [make them]. We have to make the plays when they are there.”

A few other soundbites from Brady:

On Gronkowski: “He played hit butt off. ... He’s one of the best players in the NFL. You saw what he does and it was his first game back.”

On the Jets: “This defense is a good defense. They’re well-coached. There are no easy plays out there. You have to earn them. We just didn’t do enough to earn them today.”

On the Patriots' offense: “We need to do a better job helping the defense out. We’re plenty capable. It’s not that we don’t do it, we just don’t do it on a consistent basis. It’s a team sport and as a team, we’re just not there yet. There’s still a lot of football to play. Hopefully we can correct it.”

Referee Jerome Boger explains call

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
6:15
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- In a pool report with ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss disseminated to all reporters, referee Jerome Boger explained the penalty on Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones, which gave the Jets a second chance to kick the game-winning field goal in Sunday's 30-27 overtime victory over New England:

Please explain the penalty that was called on No. 94 [Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones] on the field goal.

Boger: The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation. That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation.

Is it any type of push? Is it a two-handed push?

Boger: Any push. It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It’s any type of pushing action.

Is there anything else to go over with this penalty?

Boger: No, the umpire’s flag went up almost instantaneously as he observed the action. We just enforced it as he called it.

And that’s a 15-yard penalty ...

Boger: For unsportsmanlike conduct.

Patriots' DT Chris Jones: 'Mistake was mine'

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
5:40
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty on a missed field goal by the Jets in overtime, said after the game that the rule he violated was one he was aware of but slipped his mind at the time.

"Yeah, it was something we talked about probably during camp and stuff, and it just slipped out of my mind," he said. "So I just, it was just my mistake, nobody else's. I've just got to man up and fix it next time."

Jones was flagged because he appeared to push teammate Will Svitek, a violation on a field goal block attempt that gave the Jets 15 yards and a first down. They kicked the winning field goal four plays for a 30-27 overtime win.

Jones indicated that he knew what he was going to do before the play.

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "Just try to get that extra little oomph in there."

When a flag was thrown on the play, Jones admitted that he was confused by the call.

"I was confused at first and didn't know what was going on, and I figured out what it was and I was like 'that was my fault,' " he said. "I just had to get -- we still had more football to play after that -- so I just had to, you know, get rid of it real quick."

Losing the game after committing the penalty was difficult for Jones.

"Yeah, it's tough," he added. "Any time you lose, it's hard on the team. You never want to lose, being a competitor, you never want to lose a game."

The rookie, who also had two sacks during the game, shouldered sole responsibility for the mistake.

"The mistake was mine," he said. "I take it, I put it on my shoulders, it was all my fault and it was nobody else's."

Ups and downs for the Patriots

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
5:00
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- At an initial glance, a look at the New England Patriots players whose performance was "up" in Sunday's game against the New York Jets, and those at the opposite end of the spectrum:

Up
Stephen Gostkowski -- Kicker hits from 44 yards with 16 seconds remaining to tie the game at 27.

Chandler Jones -- Right defensive end creates pressure while working against D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

Devin McCourty -- Safety breaks up a pass in the end zone and draws an offensive pass interference penalty in the end zone.

Down
Kyle Arrington -- Cornerback struggles early against receiver Jeremy Kerley and is replaced by Marquice Cole.

Tom Brady -- Quarterback throws a pick-six early in the third quarter that helps the Jets, trailing 21-10 at the time, get back into the game.

Dont'a Hightower -- Linebacker appears to struggle in coverage.

Nate Solder/offensive line -- Breakdowns in protection, highlighted at left tackle, contribute to the Jets taking control of the game in the third quarter.

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
4:33
PM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rapid reaction from the New England Patriots' 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets:

What it means: The Patriots had their streak of 12 straight victories over AFC East opponents snapped. They had control of the game early, but the Jets’ defense took control of the game in the third quarter. The Patriots had been in a favorable spot with a 21-10 halftime lead when quarterback Tom Brady had an interception returned for a touchdown by Jets safety Antonio Allen. The complexion of the game changed at that point, but the Patriots recovered in the fourth quarter in the critical situations to force overtime. But the Jets ultimately outlasted them to drop the Patriots to 5-2.

Critical penalty on Jones: Rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Jets’ 56-yard field goal attempt in overtime as he was rushing up the middle. The kick was no good, but the penalty gave the Jets new life and they ultimately won it. This will be a big storyline after the game, and we would expect further explanation from referee Jerome Boger in a pool report.

Gronkowski snap tracker: Tight end Rob Gronkowski made his 2013 debut and was charted on the field for 51 of 79 snaps (including penalties). He was a difference-maker in his return, drawing a big holding penalty in the second quarter, although he couldn’t hang on to what would have been a tough one-handed catch on the Patriots' game-tying drive. Brady also forced the issue to him at times.

Stock Watch: Brady -- down. One week after he drove the Patriots down the field in dramatic fashion, Brady turned in an uneven performance. While protection breakdowns didn’t help the cause (credit also the Jets’ defense), his interception returned for a touchdown early in the third quarter was uncharacteristic.

Ups and downs for depleted defense: The short-handed Patriots defense struggled for long stretches as the Jets owned third down, but when a stop was needed late in the fourth quarter, the unit delivered with big pass breakups by cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and safety Steve Gregory. Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan had a pick-six in the first quarter. So it was a day of ups and downs for the unit. Overall, it was more the offense that hurt the Patriots.

Key stat: The Patriots offense was 1-for-12 on third down.

Injuries of note: There were no major injuries for the Patriots.

What’s next: The Patriots return home to entertain the Dolphins next Sunday in a second straight AFC East clash. The Patriots are 2-1 in AFC East play, with wins over the Bills and the Jets and today’s loss to the Jets.

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