By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are very, very good at football.
The New York Jets? They have got some work to do.
That may be the major takeaway from Monday night’s blowout victory by the Patriots, as the nation seeks to discredit or downplay the current run of the Patriots. But the story should skew much more heavily toward the former fact than the latter.
The Patriots recorded their second shutout of the young season, sending Sam Darnold into a state of confusion from the get-go. Offensively, Tom Brady’s units might not have blown any doors off any buildings, but 322 yards and 33 points was more than enough on this evening
With that, here’s a best effort at listing the Four Ups and the Four Downs from the 33-0 Patriots victory. You might understand if the numbers are slightly off this week.
Generally, getting an interception lands a player on the Ups. But if we listed them each individually here, we’d be all out of room for all of the rest of the Ups.
Devin McCourty got the pick party started when Sam Darnold’s first pass of the night landed in his belly. Pressure from Jamie Collins helped lead to that bad throw.
Duron Harmon had the second New England pick, high-pointing a terrible Darnold pass at the goal line to take points off the board for the Jets.
The third pick came on the Jets’ opening drive of the second half, when a pressured Darnold lobbed a prayer into open space, only for Stephon Gilmore to pick it off.
Darnold’s fourth and final interception once again cost the Jets points, as Darnold lobbed a pass on third-and-10 from the New England 11-yard line into the end zone for Demaryius Thomas. Darnold instead connected with Terrence Brooks.
Add it all up, and the Patriots had four picks on this night and they now have 18 on the season. That leads the NFL and is twice as many as the next-best team in the NFL.
The Pressure Providers
Those picks don’t happen by themselves, as the Patriots’ defensive front had Darnold in a panic all night long. Jamie Collins forced the first pick. Devin McCourty blitzed untouched off the left side of the offense to force the Gilmore pick. Chase Winovich was a step away from Darnold when he uncorked his fourth pick.
Underrated defensive end John Simon also benefited from the Jets’ being overly concerned with Collins, as he broke into the backfield untouched for a strip-sack early in the game. Kyle Van Noy was of course playing heads-up football when he found the free football and jumped on top of it.
That was the only sack of the game, but the stats don’t always tell the whole story. The pressure on Darnold came from all angles, and the second-year QB never could quite figure out what was coming next.
Jakobi and Ben
Again, it was not necessarily a historic night for the offense. But there were some positive developments.
One was the added reliance on Jakobi Meyers, the undrafted rookie receiver out of NC State. The most important stat for Meyers is that he was targeted five times, and he caught all five.
That included a nine-yard pickup on a third-and-7 to keep the Patriots’ opening drive alive. (That was a 16-play, 78-yard drive that took 8:47.) He had a 23-yard pickup, and he drew penalties on two separate third downs to give the offense a fresh set of downs.
The game also saw the reintegration of Ben Watson into the New England offense. Though the veteran got off to a rough start with a pass bouncing off his facemask, he rebounded nicely, coming up with a 10-yard catch on a third-and-5 on the aforementioned opening drive. Later in the first quarter, he made a difficult catch for a gain of seven yards on a fourth-and-6, showing that Brady was ready and willing to feed his old friend in a big moment.
Watson caught three passes for 18 yards, which may not do much for fantasy teams but will help the Patriots’ offense quite a bit.
Dante Scarnecchia’s unit has come under fire quite a bit this season, but Monday night (against a formidable front seven and an aggressive Gregg Williams-coached defense) was a solid performance for the group.
Brady threw 45 passes yet was never sacked once. While the quarterback’s pocket mobility helped in that area, Brady was able to feel comfortable in a road environment to command the offense all night.
The team’s rushing average of 2.2 yards per carry was obviously not good, but logically, that was impacted by the early lead and the predictability of so many runs. When the Patriots were on the goal line, though, they never had to settle for a field goal, with Sony Michel plunging into the end zone once from 3 yards out and twice from a single yard away.
A hold by tight end Eric Tomlinson was the lone penalty assessed to the folks on the line, too, and it was all-in-all an important showing for the offensive line.
BONUS: The Kickers
Kicker Mike Nugent successfully kicked his lone field-goal attempt, and he was 4-for-4 on PATs.
Punter Jake Bailey had an outstanding night, dropping four of his seven punts inside the 20-yard line and booming a 59-yarder to flip the field. He also had no laces-in miscues on his five holds, while continuing to excel in kickoff duties.
BONUS: Elandon Roberts
The more you can do, the more you can play. For linebacker Elandon Roberts, who entered the night having taken just 23 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, that mantra meant learning a new role as a goal-line fullback.
As a linebacker, Roberts is an absolute thumper, so the role makes sense. Sure enough, he was the lead blocker for Michel’s final touchdown.
Elandon Roberts on playing fullback: “Me on the defensive side, fullbacks are just kind of in my way, so I’m going to go through you. And when I’m at fullback, I’m still going to go through you. However you want to have it.” pic.twitter.com/odrri340lR
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) October 22, 2019
Offensive lineman James Ferentz served in the fullback lead block role for Michel’s second touchdown, while Ben Watson lined up in that role on Michel’s first touchdown.
Lacking James Develin will remain a Patriots problem for 95 yards on the field, but if Roberts can contribute like that on the goal line, the rushing touchdowns should continue to accumulate.
BONUS: Brandon Bolden
When he was re-acquired, he was referred to only as a “special teamer.” We were wrong about that. He’s been a valuable running back all year, and on Monday night he showed that he can do … this.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) October 22, 2019
The offensive night should have been a little better, but some drops appeared to be plaguing the Patriots a bit. Watson took the aforementioned pass off his facemask, Michel dropped a third-down screen pass that looked like it had a real chance to go for a touchdown, and Edelman bobbled and dropped a pass that would have set the Patriots up for points before halftime.
That trio of players did account for 127 yards from scrimmage, and Michel had the three touchdown runs, so those drops don’t define the night. Nevertheless, some stats took a hit.
The running back got banged up late in the fourth quarter, after the 318 pounds of Folorunso Fatukasi fell on top of him. Michel remained a bit shaken up for a few moments, which didn’t look great, but he then jogged to the sideline.
On a short week, and with Rex Burkhead missing this game due to injury, the Patriots would prefer to not suffer any more damage at the running back position.
He’s not on the Patriots, but he stunk, and he ruined the night for football fans across the country. Ergo, he earned a spot on this list.
That list will be short, though, as even the nittiest nitpicker in the history of nitpicking would have trouble finding too many problems with the Patriots as they rolled their way to another shutout and another dominant victory.