Curran's Patriots - Jets Week 7 Preview Review

Curran's Patriots - Jets Week 7 Preview Review
October 20, 2013, 11:45 pm
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FOXBORO – Gronk’s back. And you can celebrate it with t-shirts and sports drinks, you know. His return will be the main storyline but the Patriots defense without Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo and – likely – Aqib Talib and how they fare is what will determine whether New England gets to 6-1.
 
Gronk got driven from the headlines by a picayune penalty call in overtime that paved the way for a Jets win that won’t soon be forgotten. And it may have been a harbinger of games to come.
 
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
 
You can’t say scratch the running game, but against the Jets you almost have to anticipate a very tough road because they are so tough to run against (3.0 yards per carry all season). The Patriots are pretty much healthy on the offensive line and in the running back group – Brandon Bolden is questionable with knee soreness; Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly are all questionable as well with assorted ailments but they should be good to go. The big add, of course, is Gronkowski. His presence in the middle of the field has been desperately missed. Hopefully, he comes back with no trepidation about the arm after all he’s been through. Look for this to be a bigger game for the perimeter receivers, Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins. The Jets are usually able to stymie the slot for the Patriots and Julian Edelman is nursing a bad thigh.
 
The Patriots gave only a passing nod to running the football – 20 attempts for 90 yards. What looked like a very smooth transition from the stagnant offense we’ve seen to one buoyed by Gronkowski’s return inexplicably melted down in the second half. It was protection. It was a lack of accuracy by Brady. It was mystifying.
 
 
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
 
The first time around, the Patriots didn’t pressure Geno Smith very much instead opting to make him read the defense and get the ball out accurately. Our guy Phil Perry wrote about why it’s important to keep Smith throwing and not running can be found here. (http://www.csnne.com/blog/patriots-talk/patriots-focused-keeping-smith-p...) The Jets ran the ball really well in the first meeting with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. With Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Jerod Mayo out, you figure that will be something they will go back to heavily. Aqib Talib is doubtful so the Patriots best cover corner may not be playing but the Jets don’t have an elite receiver to exploit the absence with. Still, Smith is a good downfield thrower and Stephen Hill can fly at the wide receiver spot so look for that to be a place New York will look to exploit. With Mayo down, the onus for running the front-seven falls to Don’t’a Hightower. Jets defensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg would be smart to challenge the linebackers with tight ends and backs in the passing game and see when or if the mental breakdown comes.
 
The Patriots didn’t blitz Smith and he hurt them, especially on third down where the Jets were 6 for 6 early. The Jets ran the hell out of it with 52 attempts. Just a complete lack of respect for the Pats ability to stop the run. As we mentioned, the intermediate areas were ripe for the picking and Jeremy Kerley drove Kyle Arrington to the bench and finished with an eight catch, 97-yard day. David Nelson, an underrated player the Patriots probably should have taken a run at, had four catches for 80 yards and the tight end Jeff Cumberland beat Hightower like a drum.
 
THE KICKING GAME
 
For the Jets, a new punter Ryan Quigley is doing the chores. He’s a switch from the last meeting. Nick Folk hasn’t missed a field goal this season. In the return game, Clyde Gates is the main kickoff returner and he’s averaging 23.2. Jeremy Kerley and Kyle Wilson split the punt return duties. In the first meeting with the Patriots, the Jets went without a return man and went for the block. It was weird. Julian Edelman continues to be a threat on punt returns. Ryan Allen punts a lot and he punts well – 41.4 net – and Stephen Gostkowski is having one of his best seasons with field goals and kickoffs.  
 
Well, the kicking game entered into things. The fateful call on Chris Jones that gave the Jets new life and prevented the Patriots from getting the ball back at their own 45, about 18 yards from field goal range. Pretty big play. And the Patriots didn’t do a good enough job knowing the rule or – if they had questions about it – getting it clarified. Or, maybe Jones really did go rogue as an undrafted rookie and come up with that move. Which seems dubious. The punt return game for both teams was good as Julian Edelman had an electrifying 38-yard return that set up a touchdown and Josh Cribbs had a 17-yarder. Say what you want, I love watching LeGarrette Blount return kickoffs for the inevitable moment when he’s going to break into the clear and carry eight tacklers for 15 yards like a wounded wildebeest. Clutch kick by Gostkowski to force the overtime. He’s been outstanding. And Folk still hasn’t missed a field goal this season.
 
PATRIOTS INJURY REPORT
 
OUT: Danny Amendola, WR, Tommy Kelly, DT, Leon Washington, RB; DOUNTFUL: Aqib Talib, CB; QUESTIONABLE: Brandon Bolden, RB, Marcus Cannon, OL; Dan Connolly, G, Julian Edelman, WR; Rob Gronkowski, TE; Michael Hoomanawanui, TE; Matt Slater, WR, Tavon Wilson, DB; PROBABLE: Kyle Arrington, CB; Devin Mccourty, CB; Rob Ninkovich, DL, Nate Solder, OT.
 
No Talib. Slater played and was sharp on special teams. Arrington had his worst game of the season. Nothing significant to report, it seems, from the Patriots sideline.
 
JETS INJURY REPORT
 
OUT: Santonio Holmes, WR; Greg Salas, WR. PROBABLE: Quinton Coples, LB, Antonio Cromartie, CB, Kenrick Ellis, DL, Chris Ivory, RB, Jaiquawn Jarrett, DB; Jeremy Kerley, WR; Dee Milliner, DB, David Nelson, WR; Bilal Powell, RB, Darrin Walls, DB, Kyle Wilson, CB.


GAME WITHIN THE GAME
 
How stubborn the Jets will be with their running game. Coming into New England, the strength of the team would be on the ground. But if this one starts to get away from New York, will they go away from what their strength would be – power running against an injury-marred Patriots defense – in favor of letting Geno Smith throw. Even if Aqib Talib isn’t out there, the Patriots are still going to get the checkmark defensively against Talib.
 
Verrrrry stubborn. The Jets ran the ball 52 times for 177 yards. Even though they weren’t making great gains, they kept pounding it because they knew they’d make some gains.

PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP …
 
Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets big defensive lineman in his third year out of Temple is making a case as one of the league’s best young defensive linemen. He can ruin a running game.
 
Wilkerson was a big part of the Jets defensive line surge in the second half that put Tom Brady on his heels and caused the lug nuts to come loose. He had five tackles and 6-yard sack.
 
JETS GOTTA STOP …
 
Julian Edelman. The Jets make it their mission to not let the Patriots beat them from the slot. After Wes Welker caught 15 passes for 192 yards against the Jets in 2009, Ryan said “no more.” The slot numbers since? 6 for 38, 7 for 80, 7 for 57, 5 for 124, 6 for 46, 6 for 66 and 7 for 71. Edelman had 13 catches for 78 yards in the first meeting this year. The Jets will take that.

Par for the course against the Rex Ryan Jets. Edelman got targeted seven times, caught five and gained 44 yards. Pedestrian.

DON'T BE SURPRISED IF …
 
Gronkowski comes out and plays like he’s good as new. He took all the time he and his people believed was necessary in coming back. Brady’s been missing him and making it clear everyone knows it. I expect Gronk – who is listed as questionable but has been cleared to play – to get the ball pounded to him if he is in there.
 
Yeah, pretty much. Targeted 17 times, caught eight for 114. He was pretty much good to go except for the cardio.

THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
 
“Not so much as a heavier presence as me making sure to try to fill Mayo’s shoes, because that’s something I’m not going to be able to do. I can’t be Mayo. I’m Hightower. I can only do my job in ways that I feel that I should. I’m not going to have to go out on the boat and do something I’ve never done before. I’ve just got to keep the front-seven guys together, and hopefully those guys get my back in the back end.” – Dont’a Hightower on taking over as the lead communicator for the defense in place of Jerod Mayo.
 
That wasn’t the best possible day for Hightower. He got lit up in coverage by tight ends, the coverage on crossing routes was a mess all day, he did a credible job against the run but the communication was not good.


THAT SUMS IT UP JETS STYLE
 
“I’ve said it before from day one (Tom Brady and Peyton Manning) are the best two I’ve ever gone against. They were when I came in the league many years ago as a defensive coordinator, and they’ve remained that way. Certainly we throw everything at them and see what happens, but we’re not just going to stand and play one or two coverages and let them pick us apart like he does a lot of people.” – Rex Ryan on defending Tom Brady
 
Yeah, well, 11 for 28 in the second half for Thomas Edward Patrick Aloysius Brady. Seems like they pulled the right lever there in the last 30 minutes.

THE WINNER IS...

Patriots 17, Jets 16
 
Jets 30, Patriots 27