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Game Observations: Battered Pats blow out Jets

20190922-GameObservations-PDC

The Patriots jumped out to an early 20-0 lead and road it to a 30-14 win over the Jets. Despite the final score, there were some potentially negative developments from the win, headlined by injuries to Julian Edelman and Dont’a Hightower, and the first two touchdowns allowed of the season that came off a muffed punt by Gunner Olszewski and a pick six off Jarrett Stidham.

But the good news is that the Patriots defense continued their dominant stretch, allowing no points, just 105 yards of Jets offense, getting five sacks and forcing the Jets to go just 0-for-12 on third down. They’ve crushed the first three offenses they’ve faced but the tests should only get harder from here, especially with a Patriots offense that still hasn’t hit their stride and now could have more to overcome.

Still, 3-0 is 3-0 and there’s still a long time to get guys healthy and figure it all out.

Here are the game observations!

- After the defense forced an opening-drive punt, the offense returned the favor with 9-play, 88-yard touchdown drive that was sparked by a 41-yard catch by Ryan Izzo on third-and-1 near midfield. Sony Michel finished things off as Tom Brady incorporated all his weaponry. After some red zone struggles the first two weeks, the offense came out with a near-textbook drive that gave New England the early lead. Things wouldn’t look so perfect again in this one.

- The offense sputtered for most of the game from there, continuing a trend for the 2019 team. Three touchdown drives followed by just two more scores - one set up by an interception and other by a special sideline downfield grab by Josh Gordon - is the kind of inconsistency that doesn’t matter much against a hapless offense like the Jets, but can get you beat by a competent one. Now it’s only Week 3, offenses being inconsistent in September is nothing new, but it bears monitoring going forward as the schedule becomes more difficult and the injuries start to pile up.

- Stephen Gostkowski missed his first extra point after missing three kicks last weekend for the first time in his career. It will be hard to sweep the misses under the rug as they continue to happen. Gostkowski was then perfect with three extra points and one field goal from there, but it still appears the kicker isn’t quite on track yet.

- The 25-yard touchdown to Phillip Dorsett had the building bumping, putting the Pats up early when it looked like everything was clicking for the offense. Dorsett knows how to find the holes in the coverage, but if Edelman is out for any significant amount of time, Dorsett will have a huge spotlight on him. He continues to struggle getting yards after contact and is often diving to the ground to make his catches. They’ll need more than that if he’s to elevate into a top-two receiver in the offense.

- The defense continued their dominant run, allowing just 14 yards on 11 plays in the first quarter, getting early sacks from Jamie Collins and Michael Bennett. They kept rotating front seven players and mixing coverages in getting an early lead that allowed them to play even more of their depth as Terrence Brooks and J.C. Jackson got involved in the second quarter. They continue to cultivate their depth and it will pay dividends in the long term. They were disruptive all game long and are now the first NFL defense to go their first three games without allowing a touchdown.

- For an offense that experienced a lot of turnover this season and is currently dealing with injuries, the constant remains Tom Brady and Julian Edelman. There are plenty of questions about the offense as they continue to find their identity, but the inarguable part is the special connection between them and how much the offense needs Edelman. That’s why when Edelman left the game in the second quarter with a chest injury and did not return it was perhaps the biggest news of the otherwise uninteresting thrashing. Without Edelman, all the other offensive concerns are magnified and it’s unclear if any of the receivers on the roster can step up and be a reliable chains-mover.

- Maybe the most interesting player on the offense is Ryan Izzo, the only active tight end, as he continues to play a significant role, almost by default. He was wide open on his 41-yard catch in the first quarter, his only catch of the game, and it would be encouraging to see him even more involved in the offense, but so far he’s played a ton after spending his rookie year on IR.

- Once again the ground game sputtered, averaging just 2.8 yards-per-carry. There’s obviously a lot going on, from not having James Develin, to a new left tackle and replacement center and just one active tight end, then losing Edelman. Still, at some point they’re going to have to run the ball as defenses will begin to focus more and more heavily on the passing game. Rex Burkhead was effective in spots, but there were no big plays and Sony Michel finished with just 11 yards on nine carries, including getting stopped on 3rd-and-1. The ground game continues to search for answers.

- Jamie Collins was all over the field, finishing with three tackles-for-loss, two sacks, two QB hits and a pass defended. A linebacker who can play anywhere in the front, Collins embodies just how good this Patriots defense is and is leading the charge, making big plays in every game. A free agent at the end of the season, it will be interesting to see if the team wants to keep Collins around because he’s sure fun to watch and a game-changing player.

- Josh Gordon was up and down in this one. A toe-tap 28-yard catch in the third quarter was one highlight as was a 22-yard catch in traffic, but otherwise it was an uneven game for the big receiver. He finished with six catches for 83 yards. His touchdown on opening night was impressive, but Gordon has been surprisingly inconsistent the last two weeks. Gordon left the game and returned twice with injuries, the second appearing to be a hand injury that affected him the rest of the game. The Patriots will need more out of Gordon as he has yet to live up to even the expectations he set last season, and now he might be fighting an injury going forward.

- Gunner Olszewski’s muffed punt that was returned for a touchdown was one big negative from the game, magnified by the fact it was the first touchdown the team allowed this season. It’s an unfortunate development for the punt returner, who has been a fan favorite since making the team out of camp. With Edelman injured there isn’t another obvious punt return option unless they want to throw Patrick Chung out there. We’ll see how the team handles him and if Gunner gets a chance to bounce back.

- Jarrett Stidham saw the first action of his career but was promptly pulled after throwing a pick-six that made it 30-14 late in the fourth quarter. Not the start Stidham was looking for, as the same thing happened to Matt Cassel in 2007 vs. Miami.

- Last, let’s just take a moment to appreciate Matthew Slater.

Despite their great start on offense, things went downhill after the first three possessions. Injuries to Edelman and Gordon left the receiving corps shorthanded and, with an ineffective ground game, the Patriots now have more questions than answers on offense. The only saving grace is the defense that continued to play shutdown football at the highest level. It’s easy to overlook the inconsistency based only on the scoreboard, but this is not yet a juggernaut Patriots football team, and one that might actually face a real challenge in Buffalo against the 3-0 Bills next weekend.

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