by Scott Benson
After a sometimes-shaky effort debut last week, the Patriots came out today clicking on virtually all cylinders, taking a 17-0 halftime lead over the Jets at the Meadowlands.
Tom Brady and the Patriots ball-control offense have been sensational, twice driving for more than 80 yards and using nearly ten minutes of clock time, and adding an opportune late first-half touchdown.
Their only misstep has been settling for a field goal on their second drive, depite having first and goal from the Jets seven.
The much-maligned passing game has been solid, and at times spectacular. Brady is 9 for 17 for 125 yards, completing passes to six different receivers, many who were open by a substantial margin.
On the first ball thrown to him as a pro, rookie Chad Jackson reached behind a defender while in mid-air to make a spectacular snare of a 29 yard throw from Brady. The play that helped set up the Pats first score, a 1 yard Corey Dillon punge.
Later, after a terrible Jets punt handed the ball to the Pats at the 50 with a minute left on the clock, Jackson scored his first NFL touchdown with a neat 13 yard grab of a Brady throw along the back line of the end zone.
David Thomas also had his first catch as a pro, working underneath Jet coverage for a wide open pitch and catch that also went for 29 yards. Proving all things come in threes, Dan Graham also grabbed a pretty 29 yard lob from Brady; both plays keyed a 12 play, 87 yard drive for a Stephen Gostkowski….wait for it…… three.
Doug Gabriel has had a few chances – including a close one in the end zone – but has yet to connect with the Patriots quarterback.
The Patriots suddenly fearsome ground game is barreling along with more 80 first half yards. Both Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney have 14 yard runs.
Chad Pennington and the Jets offense hae strung together a few first downs here and there, but have not seriously threatened the Patriots, thanks to New England’s surprise 4-3 alingment (Jarvis Green in for a middle linebacker) that has shut down the running game (about 30 yards) and put consistent pressure on Pennington. The Jets deepest penetration has been to the New England 46. With the return of Tedy Bruschi (who has split time in the middle with Seau), Mike Vrabel has returned to the outside.
Richard Seymour has simply been a dominating beast through the first half.
There’s always room for improvement (two 2nd quater possessions never took flight) but it woiuld have been hard to ask for a better first half by the Patriots. It’s doubly impressive that this performance has come on the road.