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Fourteen consecutive wins for the New England Patriots. And, yes, fourteen consecutive losses for the New York Jets.
That’s the headline of the Patriots and Jets rivalry now with Bill Belichick’s team beating the Jets 10-3 on Sunday for their 14th consecutive success over Gotham’s team.
But if that is the headline, here’s the full story: These two teams have major issues on offense.
Jets Dominate On Defense
I say this with respect to the great athletes and coaching and fans on both teams, this game was a awful. And not because it was low-scoring.
But because it was low energy and substandard output by both offenses.
Combine that with both teams boasting talented defenses and you had, well, what we saw.
“It was a crappy way to lose,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “Felt like we were exchanging blows from a defensive standpoint on both teams. If somebody can make a play and get it to overtime, they made a play.”
The difference this game was one special teams thunderbolt in the form of an 84-yard punt return touchdown by Marcus Jones with 5 seconds to play.
Jones, by the way, injured his ankle earlier in the game. And the Patriots actually seemed to have gotten away with a block in the back on the game-winning touchdown.
But the play was the difference.
“My main thing is I thought they were going to try to go ahead and kick it out of bounds due to time on the clock,” Jones said. “But the first thing was I was trying to follow my teammates’ blocks. And then I saw the punter and that was like, ‘If I make him miss, I should be able to go the distance.’ “
Jones made the punter miss. And he went the distance for the first punt return touchdown in the NFL this season.
Patriots Defense Swamps The Jets
And I’m trying to be really excited about what I just saw. Because the Patriots are excited.
“It felt good to get a win in your division,” said Patriots defensive lineman Davon Godchaux on Patriots radio.
But I can’t do it. I cannot be excited for either of these two teams.
This game reminds me of last year’s game between the Bills and Patriots in which New England ran the ball maybe three times in 30 MPH winds en route to a victory. That was a great win by the Patriots. but it was a mirage.
If made the good people of New England think they had a complete team that could play with the Bills. Eventually we saw they couldn’t.
This domination of the Jets proves the Patriots are still a force on defense and can win some games on that side of the ball when another phase — special teams this day — also contributes.
But the fact is the Patriots’ offense seems flawed. There’s little playmaking on the outside from primarily No. 2 and No. 3 type receivers posing as No. 1 or No. 2 receivers. The running game is solid when the blocking up front is good but the Patriots have injuries on the offensive line and losing Dave Andrews (again), this time to a hip injury isn’t going to help.
The hip injury is feared to be serious, according to a source.
The Patriots offensive scheme also isn’t very dynamic. Even when the Patriots try something different — they attempted a tight end jet sweep with tight end Jonnu Smith — it backfires. Smith simply dropped the ball as he ran in the open field for a costly fumble.
Patriots Offense Has Own Troubles
It is encouraging quarterback Mac Jones didn’t hurt his team. He completed 23 of 27 passes.
But he was sacked six times and couldn’t get the football downfield because two things were true: The receivers are just guys and the blocking up front wasn’t consistent.
That is not a playoff offense.
That, of course, is not the view from Jets coach Robert Saleh. Because he probably believes the New England struggle on offense was mostly a result of his defense.
“I thought our defense was outstanding,” Saleh said. “I thought our d-line got after it.”
But here’s the mirage: The terrible execution and inefficiency and dropped passes by offensive players on both sides made good two defenses seem great.
And, yes, both these clubs have had good days this season. The Jets, for example, are doing well making football in New York relevant again. But this game was no more than two solid defenses taking advantage of two bad offenses.
That’s what we saw.
And so, despite the fine play by both defenses, this game shows both these teams have serious offensive issues that legitimate playoff teams typically don’t suffer.
The Jets have a quarterback problem right now. Second-year quarterback Zach Wilson threw three interceptions in the first meeting between these rivals.
He avoided the big turnover this game. But he completed only 9 of 22 passes for 77 yards.
The Jets punted 10 times. They managed only 6 first downs.
Let that sink in.
The Jets had more punts than first downs.
Reporters asked Wilson afterward if he felt he let the rest of the team down.
“No,” Wilson said. “No.”
Well, yes he did. That Jets offense was not nearly good enough to win because the quarterback’s most consistent move is to scramble out of the pocket. New York gained all of 2 yards in the second half.
Saleh was asked if there was a point in the second half he felt the offense could mount a rally.
“No,” he said.
The Patriots seemed better. But only by comparison.
And here’s the comparison that will matter: Both these teams are 6-4 and trailing both the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills in the AFC East.
The Dolphins and Bulls, based on what we’ve seen this season, have offenses capable of great feats. Right now that’s the difference between teams that are atop the division and the Patriots and Jets.