By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Well … that one wasn’t supposed to be quite that interesting.
Yes, the 2020 Patriots aren’t great, but they were still supposed to roll right over the miserable Jets. That, as you know, did not happen.
Joe Flacco was lighting it up, Josh McDaniels wasn’t having a great night, and the Patriots had themselves several deficits to deal with throughout the course of the night.
As you’d might expect, there were some highs and lows. So here’s a digest of who shined and who had a rough night, or as it’s more succinctly known, Four Ups and Four Downs.
We usually reserve the Four Downs for the top of the list when the Patriots lose … but when you barely beat the Jets, you start with the Downs. Those are the rules.
The corner stepped up last week in Buffalo as a No. 1 cornerback candidate in Stephon Gilmore’s absence. This week, he fell back to earth. Two plays after committing pass interference, he got burned by Breshad Perriman for a 50-yard touchdown.
Breshad Perriman COOKS JC Jackson deep for the score 🔥pic.twitter.com/5p36ZMLhia
— PFF (@PFF) November 10, 2020
In the second half, he gave up another touchdown to Perriman, this time tripping over his own feet near the line of scrimmage.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 10, 2020
It wasn’t great.
When a defense makes Joe Flacco look like 2010 Flacco, there will be multiple members of the secondary on the Downs. The veteran Jason McCourty lands on the list for committing a 42-yard pass interference penalty against Perriman and then getting beaten for a toe-tapping touchdown by Jamison Crowder.
From NFL Next Gen Stats: With Jason McCourty as nearest defender, Joe Flacco is 4-of-4 for 69 yards with a TD. So combined, Flacco throwing at top 2 CB tonight with Gilmore out: 8-of-11 for 166 yards, 3 TD.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 10, 2020
Tough night for those two corners, on the whole.
Gunner Olszewski Kick Returns
The Patriots keep telling Gunner to take kicks out of the end zone. It keeps … not working.
He had four returns on the night, averaging 25 yards per return. On his three kicks taken out of the end zone, he never made it to the 25-yard line.
It likely wasn’t the main contributor to the Patriots’ struggles, but it’s not helping. He’s now returned 16 kicks on the year, and his longest return is 33 yards. It’s like running into a brick wall, and with the way it’s been looking, it’s either going to lead to a fumble or an injury before it leads to a game-changing return.
The second-year running back lands on the list not for performance — he rushed for 71 yards on just 14 carries, powering through the Jets’ defense for a critical 21-yard gain in the fourth quarter — but for injury. On the next snap after that 21-yard gain, he took a heavy hit from linebacker Tarell Basham. Harris stayed down for a long while and was eventually tended to on the Patriots’ sideline by the medical staff.
FIFTH DOWN: Third-Down Defense
Yeah, we’re going overtime with this one.
As a whole, the Patriots’ defense got worked by the NFL’s worst offense. The Jets entered this game ranked dead last in points per game (11.8) and yards per game (259). They also had the very worst third-down offense, converting just 28.3 percent of their opportunities on the year.
In this game, though, they scored 27 points and gained 322 yards of offense. That was largely made possible by their conversions of six of their 10 third downs.
The Patriots were without Ja’Whaun Bentley, Stephon Gilmore and Lawrence Guy, so it wasn’t completely without reason. Still, it never should have played out like that.
BONUS DOWN: Tashawn Bower
It’s probably mean to include the practice squad promotion on this list, but Bower had a clean shot on Frank Gore on the Jets’ initial third down on their opening drive. Bower completely whiffed on the tackle, turning a 3-yard loss into a 3-yard gain and a fresh set of downs. The Jets would end up driving for a field goal.
There’s no need to single out Bower, but that play did somewhat set the tone for what was a long night for that New England defense.
For the second straight week, Jakobi Meyers was the de facto No. 1 receiver. For the second straight week, he really looked the part.
Meyers caught 12 passes for 169 yards, easily surpassing his previous career highs for single-game receptions (6) and yards (74). He was immense all night as Cam Newton’s most-targeted receiver, but never more than on the Patriots’ final offensive snap. He found space over the middle and secured a 20-yard reception with mere seconds left in regulation, allowing the Patriots to call timeout and send out the field goal unit for the game-winner.
Meyers also hauled in a 33-yard reception to set up the Patriots’ first touchdown and continued to make the most of his opportunities.
The Patriots’ defensive struggles will likely overshadow what was a winning performance from Cam Newton.
The quarterback was extremely accurate as a passer, completing 27 of his 35 passes (77.1 percent) for 274 yards. He didn’t throw any touchdowns (for the fourth straight game), but he did rush for two. He also ran six quarterback sneaks, five of which gained yardage, and four of which either gained first downs or scored touchdowns.
And when he got the ball at his own 22-yard line with just 47 seconds left in a tie game, Newton completed three passes for 36 yards while also converting a third-and-1 QB sneak and rushing to the line for a spike to preserve the team’s final timeout. (His two incompletions on that final drive were a spike and an intentional incompletion to avoid a sack.)
It was just the Jets, so the tape won’t be rushed to Canton. But it was a winning performance from the quarterback, who looked to be unaffected by last week’s blunder in Buffalo.
Nick Folk wasn’t even a certainty to play, as he dealt with a back injury, making him questionable for the game. He ended up winning the thing with an absolute beauty of a 51-yard field goal as time expired.
Folk really has come a long way in his second year with the Patriots. He was 3-for-3 on his field goals (from 45 yards, 29 yards, and 51 yards) and 3-for-3 on his PATs in a game where every point mattered.
Deatrich Wise/Adrian Phillips
The Patriots only had one sack on the night, but it was a big one.
The Jets had the ball with a chance to win the game late, but on a second-and-2 from the Jets’ 34-yard line, Deatrich Wise surged from behind Flacco to take him down for a loss of five yards.
That sack set the Jets’ offense back, and on the resulting third-and-7, Adrian Phillips blitzed up the middle and forced Flacco to essentially throw it away, leading to a Jets punt to set up the Patriots’ winning drive.
BONUS: J.C. Jackson
Yeah, he was on the Downs, but he also made a game-changing interception in the middle of the fourth quarter.
JC JACKSON REDEMPTIONpic.twitter.com/MqChsC8MH3
— PFF (@PFF) November 10, 2020
That over-the-shoulder pass-catching ability is mighty impressive. The Patriots mounted their game-tying touchdown drive immediately after that pick. That pick also gave Jackson the NFL lead for most interceptions this season, with five.
ANOTHER BONUS: Rex Burkhead
His stat lines never seem to pop, but Rex Burkhead is often a valuable contributor. That was the case in this one, as he rushed 12 times for 56 yards and a touchdown while making three catches for 11 yards.