by Jeremy Gottlieb, Patriots Daily Staff
September 21, 2009
No escapes this week, folks. No late-game heroics, comebacks or theatrics to report. Just a whole lot of academic probation for the local football team coming from the deans here at Patriots Daily University. Not quite one week after the drama of opening night in Foxboro came yesterday’s 16-9 mess against the Jets in the Pats final trip to the swamplands of New Jersey in which the offense looked a lot more like 1997 than 2007. There was no rhythm, no balance and no consistency in the performance of the guys paid to score the points and even though the defense, so thoroughly mediocre last week against Buffalo, played better, the incompetence of the offense, whether due to the Jets excellent showing on D or not, was the big story. So without further ado, here’s this week’s report card. Just so you know, there may have to be some parent-teacher conferences in the aftermath of this one.
OFFENSE: Overall Grade: C-
The Pats didn’t score an offensive touchdown for the first time in nearly three years. They committed one unsightly penalty after another. They were 0-for-3 in the red zone and converted just five out of 15 third downs. They were in Jets territory on five of six first half drives but managed just three field goals. Other than that, they were great.
This may well have been the worst game Tom Brady has played since the last time he faced a Rex Ryan-coached defense in December, ’07, which was also the last time he completed less than 50 percent of his passes. Brady wasn’t sacked but he was under constant duress and it showed in his performance, as he couldn’t adjust to being forced to throw a split second or two earlier than he’d have liked all day long. He committed more overthrows, made a few lousy reads, looked somewhat skittish at times and, worst of all, was responsible for three delay of game calls, including two in a row in the third quarter that bounced the Pats out of field goal range. The Jets played him about as well as is humanly possible and he didn’t step up, finishing with a jaw-dropping 216 yards on 47 pass attempts, a putrid 4.6 YPA, and a dismal passer rating of 53.1. It’s safe to say that there is still some rust that No. 12 needs to shake off.
Running Backs: C
The backs are the toughest position group to grade in that as a unit, they produced pretty good numbers, posting 4.2 yards per attempt. But they only got 20 carries overall, with the Pats throwing, throwing and throwing some more, especially in the second half. And even though both Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney made a couple of nice runs each, all of them seeming to be on draw plays out of spread sets, no one made anything remotely resembling a big play. The biggest disappointment of all in this category sparkplug Kevin Faulk, who was a total non-factor, finishing up with just one catch for three yards and eight yards rushing.
Wide Receivers: C-
Tough stuff from the wideouts. Not having Wes Welker, whose troublesome knee caused him to be a last minute scratch, was a terrible break for the Pats, as Brady did not have his favorite security blanket at his disposal. And while it was very nice to see rookie Julain Edelman slide into Welker’s role and register eight catches for 98 yards, he was no No. 83, dropping a sure touchdown pass in the first half with no one anywhere near him on a quick out pattern and failing to adjust to a jumped route on a screen pass in the fourth quarter that wound up a five-yard loss. Randy Moss was invisible, catching just four balls for 24 yards and failing to get open deep all day, though he was foiled in large part by the Jets stud corner, Darelle Revis, who shut down his second big-time receiver in a row (last week it was Houston’s Andre Johnson). Joey Galloway posted his first receptions in a Pats uniform but still looked out of sync with both Brady and the scheme, dropping a couple passes and cutting off a few routes too early. It says a lot that Edelman, a college quarterback playing his first NFL game at a new position, looked miles and miles better than Galloway, a 15-year veteran with 687 career catches.
Tight Ends: C
An average grade for an average performance from last week’s hero, Ben Watson, and former Jet, Chris Baker. Watson was targeted four times by Brady and caught three passes for 23 yards. Baker, who has primarily been utilized as an extra blocker through the Pats first two games, made one catch for one yard. With the Pats suiting up just four receivers thanks to Welker’s injury, it would have been nice for Watson and Baker to have played a larger role in the passing game, but given the Jets frequent blitzing and relentless pressure on Brady, both tight ends were forced to do more in pass protection.
Offensive Line: C+
It was amazing that Brady didn’t get sacked considering the amount of harassment he faced all day and that’s a testament to the line, which bounced back at least somewhat from its weak showing against Buffalo. With a pass rush coming from all angles, these guys played OK, keeping Brady mostly clean but not quite allowing him enough time to do what he wanted to do. Nick Kaczur gets a hearty scolding for his weak attempt at a cut block against Shaun Ellis on a third and short in the fourth quarter that kept Taylor from converting a huge third and short. And Stephen Neal got caught holding on a big gainer in the first quarter that ultimately stalled a drive. All in all, a fair performance for the guys up front, and nothing more.
DEFENSE: Overall Grade: B-
It was a tale of two halves for the D yesterday. In the first half, the Jets looked like a high school team, logging just 57 total yards and failing to make a first down until the 11-minute mark of the second quarter. In the second half, the Pats allowed the Jets to go right down the field and score the game’s only touchdown right out of the chute and then couldn’t get off the field when they needed to on the next two Jet drives. Whatever adjustments the Jets made offensively at halftime, the Pats didn’t do a very good job matching them.
Defensive Line: B-
With guys like Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren still around, it’s kind of strange to see Mike Wright of all people have the most productive game of any down lineman. Wright played great, forcing a first quarter fumble by Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, tipping a third quarter pass that very nearly resulted in an interception deep in Jets territory and being the only guy up front who got any pressure on Sanchez all day. Wilfork had a decent day against the run and Warren, double teamed almost all day again, came up with a big sack of Sanchez late in the fourth quarter that gave the offense one last chance. Once again, rookies Myron Pryor and Ron Brace were nowhere to be seen.
Gary Guyton played pretty well. There, I said it – I wasn’t quite sure what the aftermath of uttering that statement would be but so far, everything’s cool. It was an up-and-down performance by this group, with Guyton taking over for Jerod Mayo with mixed results. He made a couple of plays, didn’t look too lost and clearly benefited from a full week of practice learning Mayo’s role. Adalius Thomas had an active afternoon but could have had a great one if could only have held on to the third quarter duck that barely slipped through his clutches. Tully Banta-Cain got close to Sanchez a couple times and Pierre Woods, while mostly going missing, did come up with the strip of Leon Washington in the second quarter that led to one of the Pats field goals. As for Derrick Burgess, if i hadn’t seen him in the background of some random camera shot in the second half, I wouldn’t have even known he was active.
If nothing else, this game put second-year man Jonathan Wilhite on display as a player. Wilhite had a good game, active in coverage with a couple of nifty pass break-ups and showing an all-around aggressiveness that he’s never shown before. It was a shame that he was the one beaten on Jerricho Cotchery’s 43-yard catch to open the third quarter given how well he’d played to that point. Leigh Bodden recovered Washington’s fumble. Brandon Meriweather left the game in the first half with an ankle problem and while he returned, he had nowhere near the impact that he had last week. The only other noteworthy item from the defensive backfield other than the fact that they allowed Sanchez to complete about 75 percent of his second half pass attempts was that Maine’s own Brandon McGowan saw the bulk of the time at the linebacker/safety hybrid slot that Rodney Harrison used to play. McGowan was OK, but his presence was more notable for the fact that second-rounder Patrick Chung couldn’t get on the field. It will be nice when Chung and fellow rookie/high draft pick Darius Butler start to figure it out.
Special Teams: D
Seems odd to grade this bunch so low considering they were responsible for all the Pats points. But consider a couple of things. First, Sam Aiken, this year’s Kelley Washington (who caught a TD pass for Baltimore yesterday, by the way), torpedoed two big plays in the kicking game, once with a block in the back and once with a face mask. Then remember the second half kickoff, which Leon Washington returned 43 yards and set up the Jets TD drive. All three of those plays were enormous factors in the final outcome, and all of them victimized the Pats.
Yep. Bill Belichick was outcoached by Rex Ryan. Last week he was damn near outcoached by Dick Jauron. It’s a bit unreal. Now I’m not suggesting that Belichick is slowly morphing into some sort of horrific Herm Edwards/Dennis Green/Brad Childress-esque monster. But he did not have a very good day today, starting with the fact that he and his band of underlings could not figure out how to counter the Jets pressure. It would have seemed a perfect chance to unleash Faulk through one draw or screen or trap after another given all of the space in the middle of the field left open by the constant blitzing. It also seemed like defensively, as poorly as Sanchez was in the first half trying to decipher all of the Pats different zones and coverages, pressuring him a little more may have been a decent idea (though it must be said that with Jarvis Green now playing Seymour’s old role and Burgess clearly not in tune with the scheme that Banta-Cain is the only natural pass rusher out there). The bottom line is that the Pats made one adjustment offensively all day (going no-huddle earlier in the game than it may have been expected) and it didn’t work. That adjustment was one more than they were able to make on defense, where the Jets figured them out at halftime and subsequently won the game.