By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — This is it, folks. This is rock bottom.
This is the nadir.
If the Patriots had a “good loss” earlier this season in Seattle, then Monday night’s just-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth 30-27 win over the Jets has to go down as a “bad win.”
–The Jets entered the game having been outscored by 143 points this season. Their average margin of defeat was more than 18 points. Their “closest” losses were by eight (Buffalo), nine (Denver) and 10 (at Buffalo) points.
–The Jets — with Joe Flacco under center — had their best offensive performance of the season. New York put up 322 yards of offense and 27 points. They scored on five of their first six possessions.
–Most recently, the Jets had been averaging … 7.25 points per game over their last four weeks. They had been held to 10 points or fewer in five of their eight games. In Flacco’s two previous starts, the Jets sscored 10 points (vs. Arizona) and got shutout in Miami.
–With 262 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception, Flacco posted a 128.7 passer rating. That was tied for the fifth-best mark of his entire career, and it was his best single-game showing since Week 6 of the 2014 season. He posted a passer rating better than 110 for just the third time in the past six years.
It’s been clear for a while now that these Patriots were a far cry from those Patriots, the teams that played in the AFC Championship Game every year. Got it. Understood.
But scrapping and clawing against the 0-8 Jets, a team in full nosedive mode en route to drafting Trevor Lawrence (as their third “SUREFIRE QUARTERBACK OF THE FUTURE” since 2009)? This was never supposed to be a contest.
The Patriots committed some big penalties, gave up long bombs, and barely stayed on their feet long enough to outlast the worst team in the National Football League.
The good news is they got the win, which was desperately needed. The bad news is they barely beat the Jets. Yikes.
Let’s hit the leftover thoughts from the 30-27 Patriots win on Monday Night Football.
–Now that the negative is taken care of, we can touch on some positives. We should start with Nick Folk.
Last year, when the Patriots were playing musical chairs at kicker after Stephen Gostkowski suffered a season-ending injury, Nick Folk (and everyone else the Patriots brought in) was a major question mark. This year, Folk wasn’t even supposed to be here, not after the Patriots drafted Justin Rohrwasser in the fourth round out of Marshall.
But Rohrwasser is not in the picture at all right now, because Folk has been nails. That was never more evident than his 51-yard game-winner at the buzzer. There was never a doubt.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 10, 2020
Folk is now 14-for-16 on field goals this season, and that was his first successful try from 50-plus. He’s also 14-for-15 on PATs.
–That game-winning drive was made possible by the Patriots’ defense forcing a three-and-out for the FIRST time all night. There’s certainly something to be said about timing.
On first down, Flacco threw short over the middle to La’Mical Perine for 8 yards. On second down, Deatrich Wise aggressively worked around backup left tackle Chuma Edoga. Flacco must have heard the footsteps coming, because he stopped looking upfield and instead looked over his shoulder in fear.
With the clock ticking toward a minute left in regulation, neither team called a timeout. And on third down, the Patriots sent Adrian Phillips blitzing through the A gap to force Flacco to essentially throw it away, stopping the clock and forcing a punt.
(For a moment, didn’t it look like that pass was going to be completed? The sun does tend to shine on Joseph Vincent Flacco when he’s playing the Patriots. Alas.)
Again, it was a dreadful night for the Patriots’ defense, but that stop at that moment made the dramatic win possible.
(The Jets’ only other drive in the fourth quarter was the one-play interception drive. The Jets ran four offensive plays for three yards in the fourth quarter. In the end, they were who we thought they were.)
–As for the game-winning drive itself, I thought the best play was an incompletion. It was the first play of the drive: First-and-10 from the New England 22-yard line. Forty-seven seconds remained on the clock. The Patriots had all three timeouts. Cam Newton tried unsuccessfully to evade linebacker Jordan Jenkins, but rather than taking a sack and burning a precious timeout (and losing yardage), Newton fought to switch the ball from his left hand to his right hand before throwing a shotput that was close enough to James White to avoid an intentional grounding penalty.
The timeout that was saved proved to be a huge one, as the Patriots stopped the clock with just 3 seconds left before sending out the field goal unit.
–OK, technically, this 20-yard completion in the waning seconds was a bigger play on that drive.
But if I say that, who gets to admire my late-night observational skills? You know? ERGO, the incompletion was critical. I stand by it.
–Not to diminish that play. It was a big play in a big moment. Good execution. But also … the Jets couldn’t have played that much worse.
They were in a Cover 3, but Gunner Olszewski running a deep post cleared out the intermediate spot in the middle of the defense. Cornerback Bryce Hall probably should have hung with Meyers a bit more, but he stayed in his zone while worrying about … Ryan Izzo.
And that is the anatomy of how a team gets Trevor Lawrence.
–I know football can very complex and confusing, and sometimes the hand signals can really make the average viewer at home wonder what’s going on. Fortunately, I’m here to translate some of that for you.
Like, for instance, this signal from Bill Belichick. It was directed at the field goal unit and special teams coach Cam Achord. The simplest translation would be, “What are you still doing on the sidelines? Get the bleep onto the field.”
If any other fancy football jargon ever confuses you, you can feel free to come here and get the scoop. You’re welcome.
–Did you want to see a great football picture? Well here you go:
That right there is a great football picture. Heck yeah!
–Devin McCourty has GOT to make this pick (and return it for his second pick-six of the season). He has just got to do that.
Powwww! Right in the flapjack.
–Can we talk about a sweet Jets play? Let’s do it.
How about this Jets guy, downing this Jets punt, with the slickness?
That’s a sweet Jets play. Great job, Jets guy!
–Cam Newton was excellent in this game. He was 27 for 35 for 274 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown, continuing an eyebrow-raising trend, but he did rush for two scores. He didn’t throw it downfield much … because the Patriots don’t have any downfield receivers. But he was accurate and smart, and he did THIS, which was insane:
Yeah we’re gonna need to see that one again, Bob.
Cam couldn’t help but flash a smile in the huddle after that one:
–The coolest part of that play somehow wasn’t Cam. It was Harvey Langi picking himself up after missing his second sack and busting his hump up the field to make the tackle on Jakobi Meyers.
Langi, if you forgot or didn’t know, suffered some major injuries when he was a member of the Patriots. He and his wife were stopped at a red light when a car rammed into their car at more than 50 mph.
Both Langi and his wife recovered — eventually — and Langi has since carved out a career for himself with the Jets. Given that back story, it was nice to see Langi record a career-high nine solo tackles on the big stage of Monday Night Football against his former team.
–Newton’s night can be dismissed in an “it’s just the Jets” sort of way. And to an extent, it should. The Jets stink. But it was more significant in terms of a 31-year-old quarterback on his quest to regain his footing as a top level quarterback in the NFL.
The road has been bumpy this far. He’s had highs, and he’s had lows. At the halfway point of the season, the journey still can go either way. Regardless of anything else, the Newton redemption trail remains as captivating a story line as anything else in the NFL this season.
–Also, I may have to amend that “no downfield threats” comment if Jakobi Meyers continues to get himself open like this:
Meyers had a dandy of a birthday. Twelve catches and 169 yards in his second straight week as the team’s No. 1 receiving option. While his lack of play early in the season now looks mystifying, he seems to have done enough to ensure that he’ll be a key part of the offense for the rest of the year.
Cam talked after the game about how he’s known Meyers since the then-quarterback was in high school, when Meyers was a quarterback in Newton’s foundation’s football tournament.
“For him to be able to throw as far and as hard as he used to throw, and for him to transfer to the receiver position, I knew he would have success because playing the quarterback position makes you intellectually sound, cerebral by default, because you know what a quarterback is looking for,” Newton said of Meyers. “And he’s such an easy target to throw to, as you can kind of tell. And he just finds a way to get open. He’s got a knack for the ball and his decisiveness while running routes, it’s easy to kind of tell where his body language is going to go. But for him to have the performance that he had tonight, ongoing these last couple of weeks, it’s just been a show of hard work paying off.”
–Damien Harris got hurt, but not before making perhaps the best individual effort of the game:
Earlier in the game he did this, too:
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 10, 2020
Damien Harris, people. He is good.
–If you thought Cam might be a little gun shy with the football after last week’s fumble, then you thought wrong.
Whewwwwweee. A fumble there would have kicked away the game-tying touchdown. Cam held on. Cam scored two plays later. But whewwwwwweeeee. There would have been some reaction had Bryce Hall batted that football out of Cam’s big mitt.
–Newton was very effective on the QB sneak. He ran six of them. Five gained yards. Three resulted in first downs or touchdowns. One came on a fourth-and-1. Another came on a third-and-goal from the 1-yard line. One went for 5 yards.
“Dave Andrews. Dirty Dave!” Newton said after the game when asked how the play worked so well. “That play’s always successful when your center or guards — Shaq Diesel or Smokin Joe — can get some type of surge. And for me being as big as I am, it’s just a lunge forward. I just want to be as efficient while running the quarterback sneak as much as possible, and those guys did the hard job and it’s just for me to just get the clean snap and fall forward.”
–This is a good picture.
Sometimes — like when the Patriots barely beat the Jets and there’s nothing profound or insightful to say — you end with a picture. This is one of those times.