Gresh's Grades: A Tale of Two Halves
GRESH'S GRADES: A TALE OF TWO HALVES
A tale of two halves. The first half was a very nice performance in which the Pats built a comfortable lead. While they weren’t great on third down in the first and second quarters, they executed in other phases of the game and got a big play for points on defense while re-establishing Rob Gronkowski on offense. The second half began with mistakes that led to Jets points, compounded by more mistakes in all three phases of the game leading to their ultimate demise. The head coach's arrogance in trying to manipulate the grey area of a new rule also led to the game being continued in favor of the Jets, and did not aid in helping the Pats win this game. Systematic breakdowns everywhere and, quite honestly, they deserved the result.
While they finished with 27 points on the scoreboard, this unit only scored 20. The coaching failed them by not running the ball more frequently, which left them exposed to longer down-and-distance situations. The pressure on the quarterback was way too consistent, and the third-down conversion rate was an embarrassment. They didn’t convert on third-and-short (three yards or less) five times in this game. And they found themselves trying to convert too many third-and-longs (seven yards or more), six times to be exact. Gronk is back and that’s a good thing as he played well. But they need more balance to compete with the personnel they have.
Tom Brady was under siege in the second half. . . and the fact they only ran the ball 10 times in the third and fourth quarters and the overtime hurt his ability to keep the pass rush off balance. He tried to do it himself with snap count and cadence, but it wasn’t enough. TB12 found himself trying to convert too many third-and-longs and he didn’t have his best day throwing. He also seemed to be constantly checking his throwing hand for some kind of ding. All of this added up to a very mediocre performance.
RUNNING BACKS: B
Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden ran hard and were effective when they did run. The problem is, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels doesn’t give them the ball enough. They were respectable in protection and took care of the football. They need more carries.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C
Separation wasn’t good enough as Kenbrell Thompkins was gobbled up by Antonio Cromartie and was limited in what he could contribute. Aaron Dobson did a nice job, though he did have a drop or two and he needs to come up with that big, back-shoulder catch late in games. They’ve tried getting it to him and it just isn’t happening, but it’s on him more than the QB. Julian Edelman had a nice day and responded to blitzes well, with multiple sight adjustments for completions. Still waiting for one of the rookies to emerge with some big plays.
TIGHT END: B
Gronk is back and it showed, as he recorded more than 100 yards and almost multiple scores. His presence is palpable, but you can tell he's TB12’s binky right now; Brady forced the ball to him in situations he shouldn’t have. Gronk is partly to blame for the pick-6 at the beginning of the third quarter because he rounded off the route, allowing the defender to cut in and make the play. I also didn’t see him really engage in tough blocking in the run game, as it looked like he didn’t want to get that injured arm inside on the defender. But he’s back and he’s needed.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D-
The run blocking was excellent and it’s a shame they didn’t run more. That said, there was too much pressure on TB12. Nate Solder had his hands full with Muhammad Wilkerson and got handed his lunch a few times. They also had some issues with some loops and twists, but they just lost too many one-on-one battles at the line of scrimmage, leading to the offense's demise. You can’t give up sacks or have negative plays on first down. This is three straight weeks where they’ve been average to bad. Time to fix it.
Up front, they didn’t do well enough in the running game. Numerous blitzes didn’t get home and, in fact, didn’t even get pressure on Geno Smith. There were lots of missed tackles and they sucked on third down. On 11 third-down conversions allowed, they gave up 10 or more yards eight times. This grade isn’t an F because of injuries and the fact they put 7 on the board with Logan Ryan’s interceptions. Hello, Aqib . . . they need you.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C
Chandler Jones is the one guy who saved this unit, along with Rob Ninkovich. The Pats came out in a 3-4 look with Ninko standing up. It worked for about three plays and then the third-down defense caved in. Joe Vellano tries hard but isn’t a down-in, down-out player. Chris Jones played well, chipping in with two sacks. Chandler Jones is elite and is developing into a monster. They need to be more stout in short yardage and the rush was inconsistent, but overall not a bad showing.
I’m not as down on Dont'a Hightower as some are. Yes, the Jets attacked him on the first play with the tight end, but he had the green dot and this group was never once out of position or out of alignment with no wasted timeouts. Brandon Spikes can’t be left alone in coverage anymore. It’s just not his game. He is Mr. Run Blitz, though, and I love him in that role. Replacing Jerod Mayo can be done, but there will be an adjustment period.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: D-
Thank Logan Ryan for the bump up in grade. Alfonzo Dennard was beaten consistently with numerous routes. Steve Gregory played his worst game with a P.I. penalty and missed tackles. Marquise Cole can’t tackle Gary Tanguay. And Kyle Arrington was repeatedly picked on by different receivers. The only guy worth anything who played regular snaps was Devin McCourty, who patrolled the back end nicely. Pass rush would help. So would Talib.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C
Way too many punt-return yards given up, even though they did their best to balance it out with good returns by Edelman. I still don’t know why LeGarrette Blount is returning kicks. It baffles me. Stephen Gostkowski was good. But the big play in question was the penalty on the FG miss in OT. Bad coaching by Blll Belichick. He knew what he was doing all along, in my opinion, as he did the same thing with the same personnel the week before vs. New Orleans. In fact, I raised the grade because of the head coach's arrogance. It’s not the players' fault they were put in that position.
'IT AIN'T BROKE...'
1) Gronk. Not anymore at least. 2) Gostkowski. Tied the game with that last-second field goal with ease. Hammering the ball on kickoffs. 3) The run game. If someone would let them run, we’d all know this.
'...BUT IT NEEDS FIXING'
1) Third downs. All over the field. 2) Sacks. Too many especially on early downs. 3) Clean up the penalties. Killed em’ all night. ---- Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for nine years has worked pre- and postgame analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the recently released book “The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists.”