Some observations after reviewing the Jets' loss to the Patriots:
Geno's hat trick: Rough night for Geno Smith, obviously. Let's take the interceptions one by one:
1. This was the costliest interception because it came at the Patriots' 27; the Jets already were in range for a potential game-tying field goal. A few things went wrong. DE Chandler Jones beat LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson with an outside rush. Jones was behind Smith, still not close enough to sack him, but his presence influenced Smith, who escaped the pocket. This was a case of happy feet, as Smith still had time. Once flushed, he should've kept the ball; he could've beat DT Vince Wilfork to the corner. Smith spotted Santonio Holmes, who was open for a split-second. Smith tried to thread it through a few defenders, but the ball was behind Holmes and picked off by Aqib Talib. Bad decision, bad throw.
2. Smith stared down Clyde Gates the entire play -- a rookie mistake. Gates had a step on his man, CB Alfonzo Dennard. Against a single-high safety, there was a window for Smith, but he telegraphed it and threw a split-second too late. Dennard made a nice play, jumping the route.
3. This ended the game and precipitated the melee along the Patriots' sideline. Smith called this a "terrible" play on his part, but there may have been a miscommunication with WR Stephen Hill. Hill ran a 20-yard route and Smith threw it at 18 yards. This was a good play to run against a double-high safety look, but Smith and Hill didn't seem to be on the same page. Game over.
New York Jets
Four sacks allowed: Offensive linemen always get the blame for sacks, but sometimes it's not their fault. (Man, I sound like our old friend, Coach "Guge.") You could make a case that all four sacks allowed by the Jets fall into that category. Smith continued his tendency to hold the ball too long. The receivers also had trouble getting open against the Patriots' press coverage. Consider:
1. Ferguson was beat on a wide rush by DE Michael Buchanan, but the play took 5.1 seconds, according to my stopwatch -- too long for a quarterback to hold the ball.
2. LG Vladimir Ducasse was beat by Jones on a play that took 3.5 seconds. Hill beat his man on a slant, but the quarterback failed to pull the trigger.
3. Jones was chipped by Holmes and beat Ferguson for the sack, but a lack of pocket presence was a contributing factor. Smith was all over the pocket and didn't see an open Holmes in the left flat. He held the ball for 4.1 seconds.
4. RT Austin Howard got beat by an outside rush from DT Tommy Kelly (it's never good when a tackle lets a 310-pounder out-quick him), but Howard didn't get much help from Smith. RB Chris Ivory was open to the right, waving his arm, but Smith never saw him.
A freebie for Brady: The Patriots' only touchdown came on a blown coverage. The Jets appeared confused by the Patriots' personnel package. On a third-and-2, they used three wide receivers and one tight end -- and the tight end was LT Nate Solder, who was identified as an eligible receiver. Tom Brady, perhaps sensing the Jets weren't lined up properly, took a quick snap and ran a hard play-action fake that sucked the defense to the line of scrimmage. WR Aaron Dobson, lined up in a tight wing, was uncovered for a 39-yard touchdown reception.
It's possible that rookie CB Dee Milliner, who was lined up on the weak side, was supposed to be on the strong side, covering Dobson. Milliner didn't cover anyone and reacted quickly as soon as he saw Dobson with the ball, one of those "uh-oh, that's my man" reactions. If it was Milliner's mistake, it was one of several in the first half, resulting in his benching in the second half.
Heating up Brady: Aside from the busted coverage, it's hard to quibble with the Jets' defensive performance. They frustrated Brady like we've never seen him. At one point, he was screaming at teammates on the sideline. Brady and his patchwork receiving corps were completely out of sync, but they managed to avoid interceptions. I'm surprised Rex Ryan didn't blitz more often, trying to pressure Brady into bad decisions. By my count, he sent more than four rushers on only 12 of 40 dropbacks.
Ryan has shown in the past he can contain Brady with an emphasis on coverage, not pressure, but I thought he'd change it up because of the Patriots' lack of weapons. Again, the defense was fantastic, but it didn't create any game-changing plays. Considering the state of the offense, the Jets need their defense to create turnovers, shortening the field.
The melee: Since I mentioned it, let's review the ugliness.
Clearly, it was a late hit by C Nick Mangold, who could get fined, but it looked worse than it should've been because Talib was showboating and made like a ballet dancer, trying a spin as he went out of bounds. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was one of the instigators, as he got into Mangold's face. Ferguson received a mini-push from behind by Wilfork, and that set him off. Two officials tried to pull Ferguson away, and one -- head linesman Kent Payne -- lost his balance and fell on his rear end. Ferguson took a swing at Dennard, who was on the ground in the scrum. Ferguson was ejected for throwing a punch.
LG Willie Colon, arriving on the scene, shoved referee Carl Cheffers, who lost his balance and nearly went down. You can't make contact with an official; that's a big no-no. He immediately threw his flag, resulting in Colon's ejection. A few seconds later, Colon did it again. He was being pushed away from the scene by back judge Todd Prukop and side judge Laird Hayes. Colon threw his arms up, making additional contact.
Naturally, the league is reviewing the matter. Colon and Ferguson figure to be fined, and there could be suspensions as well. Colon would appear to be in the most danger of being suspended; it would be crushing for the Jets if Colon and Ferguson are suspended. An ejection doesn't automatically mean a suspension.