By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — Scoreboards can be deceiving.
The Jets may have only lost by 16 points on Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, but in real life, the visitors from New Jersey never once came that close to competing with the Patriots in this one.
If not for a pick-six thrown by a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut, and if not for a muffed punt by an undrafted rookie punt returner, the Patriots would have had themselves a second consecutive shutout against divisional opponents.
Alas, everything counts, and to be fair, the Patriots were not a perfect football team on Sunday, despite the comfortable margin of victory.
With that in mind, let’s roll through the Ups and the Downs from the Patriots’ 30-14 win over the Jets.
When the Patriots brought back Jamie Collins this offseason, the potential was there for the veteran linebacker to really fulfill all the promise he showed in his first go-round with the team. Through three games this season, Collins has fully seized that opportunity.
The 29-year-old was an absolute menace for 60 minutes against the Jets on Sunday, finishing with five solo tackles and seven tackles overall — leading the Patriots in both categories. He sacked Luke Falk twice, recorded another tackle for a loss, and broke up a pass.
It would be difficult for Collins to be doing much more for this Patriots defense, which has not allowed a touchdown since the AFC Championship Game in Kansas City.
He may not have had an eye-popping, jaw-dropping stat line, but for as long as Tom Brady continues to sling bullets at 42 years old against NFL defenses, the man is going to continue to land on the list of Ups.
Brady started the game going 14-for-17 for 182 yards with two touchdowns. One of those incompletions was a throwaway, and the other two were drops.
That is, certainly, one way to demoralize an opponent early in a football game.
Brady finished with 306 yards, two touchdowns and no picks on 66.7 percent passing. The fella? He’s good.
Simply put, Josh Gordon made a catch that had about as much of a degree of difficulty as any catch could ever carry. It came on a third-and-22 in the third quarter, at a time when the Patriots’ offense had stalled out for almost two full quarters. A failure to convert the long third down would have only extended that stretch.
And certainly, when Brady let a pass fly up the left sideline to Gordon, it didn’t appear to have the highest chance of success. With a defender trailing him and another defensive back flying over toward the boundary, the pass looked downright reckless.
But Gordon has all-world talent, so he went up, made the catch, spun around, tapped both feet, and hung on to secure possession while hitting the turf for a gain of 28 yards.
Rex Burkhead was in the end zone three plays later, and the rout was back on.
Gordon made that play with two fingers on his left hand taped together, after he suffered some sort of finger injury earlier in the third quarter. He also required medical attention in the second quarter, but worked through both issues to finish with six receptions for 83 yards.
Antonio Brown’s no longer on the team (perhaps you had heard?), but if Gordon can stay on the field and play like that, the Patriots will be more than all right.
The Entire Defense
It may seem like a copout, but once again, the Patriots’ smothering defensive efforts came from the entirety of the defensive roster. Six different players got on the stat sheet with either a sack or a partial sack: Jamie Collins had two, Michael Bennett had one, and Dont’a Hightower, Chase Winovich, Kyle Van Noy and Adam Butler each had a half-sack to his name. John Simon and Duron Harmon each had a tackle for a loss, while Collins, Harmon, Van Noy and Elandon Roberts each had a pass breakup. Devin McCourty had an interception — his third in three games.
Le’Veon Bell was held to 35 yards on 18 carries, for a miserable 1.9-yard average, with a long run of eight yards. Falk was held to 12 completions for 98 yards, gains that were largely negated by the 29 yards he lost while getting sacked five times.
The Jets went 0-for-12 on third down, and 0-for-1 on fourth down. They had 105 total offensive yards.
Belichick took the podium after the game and said there are still things his defense needs to do better. It’s not clear exactly where that room for improvement might be.
Matthew Slater made an utterly ridiculous play to help down a punt at the 1-yard line. … Stephon Gilmore, after a week when Robby Anderson stated that the cornerback gets away with a lot of holding, ended the game with a punishing tackle of Anderson. … Duron Harmon pulled off the rare hard, clean hit over the middle to break up a pass. … Brady was willing and eager to throw his body in front of Jamal Adams to help block on a reverse, when the Patriots led 30-7. … Phillip Dorsett’s streak of catching every pass thrown his way ended, technically. A replay review confirmed an incompletion, though it looked like he may have actually made the catch. In any event, he caught six passes on seven targets for 53 yards and a touchdown. … Rex Burkhead rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and also caught six passes for 22 yards.
It was known going into the game that Gregg Williams’ defense plays a violent, aggressive style. That showed itself in this game when Henry Anderson delivered a hit to Edelman’s ribcage while the receiver was in the process of being tackled.
Patriots say Julian Edelman is questionable to return. Chest. Video (if you missed it) pic.twitter.com/F3ivzxBxAf
— Michael Giardi (@MikeGiardi) September 22, 2019
Edelman trotted to the sideline and headed to the locker room before halftime. He didn’t return.
There’s no real way for the Patriots to replace Edelman if he does need to miss any time, so it’s a situation that warrants close attention in the coming days.
On the plus side, X-rays were reportedly negative.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2019
You have to respect the way Gunner Olszewski plays the game, and you have to admire the rookie’s fearlessness while returning the 500 punts that the Jets had to kick on Sunday.
Alas, with the Patriots leading 30-0 in the final minute of the third quarter, Olszewski took his eyes off the ball, muffed a punt, helped knock that loose ball back into the end zone, and in doing so kicked away the shutout that the Patriots had going.
That touchdown on special teams was the first touchdown by a Patriots opponent all year long. Even though the Patriots won the game easily, that’s going to be a tough one for the rookie to wear.
The defensive captain left the game with a shoulder injury, and he didn’t return. His lack of return may have had more to do with the score and not the severity of the injury, but as is the case with any injury to significant players, it goes down as a negative.
The kicker wasn’t a down, but he did miss his first PAT of the afternoon. He ended up drilling his only field-goal attempt, and making his final three PATs. But the Patriots are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 106-17. There’s not a whole lot of negativity to be found.
So on a day when the Patriots led 30-0 at one point, we’ll say, bah, they should have been up 31-0.
It would be difficult to get on Josh McDaniels and the Patriots’ offense on a 30-point day. But nevertheless: After scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions, the Patriots punted on four straight possessions and then failed to find the end zone after an interception set them up at the Jets’ 17-yard line. The Patriots went almost half the game without finding the end zone. They likely expect better. … Jarrett Stidham got his first taste of NFL game action, and he promptly threw a pick-six to Jamal Adams. … Sony Michel had a less-than-impactful game, rushing for 11 yards on nine carries, though he did score the first touchdown of the game.