BOSTON (CBS) – Well, that was really something, now wasn’t it?
Without Rob Gronkowski, without Chandler Jones, without Logan Mankins and without Sebastian Vollmer, the Patriots flew to New York and demolished the Jets in every single way imaginable on Thanksgiving night.
As with any games, there were ups and downs, though the ups certainly came far more frequently than the downs.
This week’s review reflects that.
Before suffering an apparent concussion (more on that later), Edelman was on a real two-week roll for New England. After returning a punt and catching a touchdown last week, he stayed hot against the Jets. First, he was in the right place at the right time when Joe McKnight fumbled a kickoff return after Devin McCourty delivered a hard hit. The ball popped in the air and right into Edelman’s hands, and he did the rest by returning it 22 yards for a rare kickoff team touchdown.
A few minutes later, Edelman broke free past safety LaRon Landry, and Tom Brady lobbed a deep pass perfectly into Edelman’s arms. Edelman then shook free of Landry and broke to the end zone for his fourth touchdown in the past two games.
Every blowout victory has to start somewhere, and this one started with Steve Gregory. The Patriots’ safety who’s missed half the season due to injury made up for lost time late in the first quarter when he broke in front of a Mark Sanchez pass to Jeremy Kerley and intercepted it, killing what looked to be a Jets scoring drive in the making. The Patriots then drove 84 yards on 15 plays to open up a 7-0 lead, and they’d never look back.
That was in part due to Gregory, who pounced on a fourth-down fumble by Shonn Greene and then picked up a Sanchez fumble and brought it to the house for six points. That’s two fumble recoveries, an interception and a touchdown for the safety, which is never in a game plan but provided the turning point the Patriots needed.
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers (Turnovers, Turnovers)
The Patriots’ defense is overall not a great unit, and it’s struggled all year to stop opposing offenses. One thing that hasn’t been a problem team-wide though has been the ability to force turnovers. This game was no exception, as the Patriots forced five Jets turnovers and turned all five of them into touchdowns.
Gregory had the aforementioned interception and two fumble recoveries, Edelman had his touchdown, and Rob Ninkovich’s fumble recovery early in the fourth led immediately to a two-play touchdown drive for the Patriots.
The Pats entered the game with an NFL-best plus-20 turnover differential, and they leave this one with an NFL-best plus-24 turnover differential. It may just be the single biggest reason the Patriots have eight wins, and it’s as big a reason as any why the Patriots remain a Super Bowl contender despite that spotty defense.
Making A Statement
All week, the big story surrounding the Patriots was the injury to Rob Gronkowski. Not only were the Patriots without their most lethal receiving option, but Bill Belichick came under fire by many in the media for running up the score, keeping his starters in too long in a blowout, or both. As we saw in 2007, Belichick’s players don’t like when their coach is called out, and they liked to take the field and do something about it.
Consider this statement made.
“I’m telling you, man. This team is a tough, tough football team — mentally and physically,” said Vince Wilfork, who helped force the Sanchez fumble by pushing Brandon Moore into the backfield. “We have a motto: play 60 minutes. We wanted to do that, no matter what the score said at halftime or the first or third quarter, we wanted to be able to finish the game. We wanted to go out and play 60 minutes and I think we put it together tonight.”
The 49-19 final score says they did indeed.
Extra Point: Dante Scarnecchia and the Offensive Line
It cannot go unmentioned that the Patriots were without Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer, with Donald Thomas and Marcus Cannon taking their spots, and still rushed for 152 yards and held the Jets without a sack. The players deserve credit for performing, but O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia deserves some sort of medal at this point for his work with the makeshift line all season long.
Edelman leaving the game was by far the lowest point of the night for the Patriots. Edelman suffered the injury early in the second half after LaRon Landry made helmet-to-helmet contact with Edelman as he ran around the right end on a reverse (because Edelman was the ball carrier, the hit was not illegal).
Edelman remained down on the turf for several moments but was able to return to the sideline under his own power. Still, the head injury he suffered was serious enough to keep him off the field for the rest of the night, and the Patriots have to hope it’s not too serious. With Gronkowski already out, the team can ill afford to lose another receiving option.
Admittedly, to find four downs in a 49-19 win is the ultimate exercise in picking nits. So this one’s not exactly a huge problem, but the Patriots were flagged for eight penalties for 36 yards. One penalty, a chop block called on Stevan Ridley in the end zone, resulted in a safety, which in a closer game against an opponent that’s still trying could prove to be a costly mistake.
Aaron Hernandez also had a touchdown taken away for offensive pass interference, though that appeared to be a bad call.
Despite the impression given by the final score, this game didn’t start out too well for the Patriots, thanks to yet another missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
The kicker flat-out missed a 39-yarder in the first quarter, keeping the game scored at 0-0. It was Gostkowski’s fifth miss of the season, bringing his percentage to 80.8 percent. That’s a noticeable drop from his career mark of 84.4 percent.
Just like the penalties, it’s a miscue that doesn’t matter in a 49-19 win. But everything matters on this team, and Gostkowski’s now missed 30-39-yard kicks in consecutive weeks. That’s something that can come back as a killer in the playoffs.
Not … Scoring … 50?
Seriously, if you want to sit around and really dig to find reasons to complain about the team that’s now won its fifth straight game by a combined score of 219-107, you can. But it’s just not a good use of time.