The curse of the Thursday night game is now officially broken as we had a close game for the second week in a row, and it was a good one as well. The Jets lost a game that they could have won, their game plan was sound, and they made enough plays to win, but sadly they also made the mistakes that cost them the win. My watch list for this game was Darelle Revis and Tom Brady for the Patriots, whilst for the Jets I wanted to look at their defence and the development of Geno Smith.
I wanted to look at the defence of the Jets as I think that Rex Ryan is an excellent defensive coach, one of the best in the game. Unfortunately, my claim that he could coach a group of people off the street into a serviceable defence is being somewhat undermined by the performance of his secondary, which has been a talking point throughout the season. After week six the Jets were ranked nineteenth by DVOA, and I can see why. Their front seven were excellent, limiting the Patriots to sixty-three yards, although this was on only from fifteen carries and so this does yield a 4.2 yard per carry average. However, they were causing problems for most of the game and limited the Patriots to 323 yards of total offence.
The problems were in coverage, and against a team with better receivers they could be in trouble. Why Antonio Allen stepped up in coverage, letting Shane Vereen getting behind him in a three deep coverage, I do not know. The sight of Tom Brady rolling right shouldn’t be that worrying for a defence and it was a very easy touchdown to give up. They also lost Rob Gronkowski in zone coverage several times as he slipped between the linebackers and safeties. The Patriots could have made more use of Brandon LaFell as the Jets’ corners seemed to be giving themselves a big cushion when covering him, leading to two receptions in the opening drive, but he only got two more for the rest of the game. However, the Patriots did manage two more passing touchdowns with a nice move by Shane Vereen getting him between Demario Davis and Calvin Pryor, and Danny Amendola getting open with a double move on Antonio Allen. This seems like a second mistake for a touchdown by Allen as the Patriots were on third and goal from the 19 yard line, so I question why he bit on the double move, giving up the touchdown, rather than playing safer and possibly saving his team four points that could have won them the game.
But it wasn’t just the coverage issues that cost the Jets the game. They won the time of possession battle by over twenty minutes and in the first half they had four scoring drives to the Patriots three. The problem is that the Patriots managed two touchdown drives, where as the Jets came away with four field goals. This is the problem the Jets seem to be having, they are finding ways to lose the game rather than win. They had a touchdown called back for a holding penalty, leading to a field goal, again losing four points that could have won them the game. They were even in a position to kick a winning field goal on the last play of the game, admittedly a fifty-eight yard one, but had it blocked.
So let’s take a look at the respective quarterbacks. If you just look at the pass completions and yardage, there wasn’t that much difference between Geno Smith and Tom Brady. However, Brady threw for two more touchdowns and won his team the game. That said, whilst the competitiveness and understanding of the game is still there, I can see why there have been questions about Brady’s play this season. The line gave him time in this game, but the ball doesn’t seem to be coming out of his hand quite like it did in the past, and there were also balls that were off target. There were a couple of drops, but this is not the most talented group of skill players he’s had to work with. I understand that the Patriots success has been built on long term planning and their draft strategy, but when you have one of the great quarterbacks to have ever played the game, it would have made more sense to take make sure that you maximised your return by surrounding him with talent.
On the evidence of this game there has been improvement in Geno Smith’s game, and he gave his team a chance to win. He didn’t turn the ball over, and repeatedly got first downs with his legs when required. However, he doesn’t have great receivers to work with, in fact only seven of his twenty completions went to wide receivers, and it was mainly the running game that kept the Jets in this game, with a combined 218 yards. As well as Geno’s thirty-seven yards, Chris Ivory ran for 107 yards and a touchdown, whilst Chris Johnson chipped in with sixty-one yards. The touchdown pass that stood was a nice throw to Jeff Cumberland, who was covered pretty well by Patrick Chung. The problem is that Geno Smith had the ball with just under a minute left, and he could only get his team into position for a fifty-eight yard field goal. The greats drive their team into a position to win in that situation. I am not sure he will ever get to that level, but it’s too early to give up on him yet.
The final player left to look at is Darelle Revis, who looked to have a very solid game. He only shows up with two tackles and one pass defence, but he was very good in man coverage. He was basically covering Eric Decker whenever the Patriots played man, and Decker only managed four catches for sixty-five yards. One of these was over Revis when he was going for an interception, knowing he had safety help and another one was against zone coverage where Revis wasn’t on the coverage. Decker did beat Revis on one in route, getting enough separation in his break to make the catch, but Revis did well and generally the Patriots held up well in pass coverage.
The problem was that they struggled in run defence. There was talk of this before the game with them having lost Jerod Mayo for the season last week, and it did seem to come to pass in this game. They can’t keep giving up five yards a carry and expect to win games.
The Jets are having a long season, and I’m not sure how they are going to turn it round. They could have won this game, but the problems are more to do with talent and you can’t fix that during the season. For the Patriots, I’m not as sure that all the problems are fixed, and whilst I can see them winning their division, they are going to have to play better if they want to make an impact in the playoffs.