Week 16 Game Recap: New England Patriots 31, New York Jets 21
What you need to know
The New England Patriots dominated this game from start to finish, using a clock draining offensive attack to chip away at the Jets defense. The Patriots held on to the ball for over 43 minutes, and at one point ran 31 consecutive offensive plays without the Jets offense taking the field. Even though they only averaged three yards per rush, the Patriots kept at it, running the ball a whopping 50 times. They attempted a number of fourth down tries instead of kicking it because of strange wind patterns, and this enabled them to run such long drives despite having a low yards per carry.
Tom Brady surpassed 4000 yards passing for the first time in his career. This might be the best season Brady has had, given the injuries around him and the struggles of the running game. Brady was, once again, able to use his mobility and keen sense of the pocket to avoid potential sacks. He was able to get the ball to eight different receivers, keeping the defense from keying on any one player. His favorite target near the goal line was Mike Vrabel, who caught two touchdown passes for the first time in his career.
Vrabel, who also started at linebacker, also recorded a sack in the game, becoming the first player in NFL history to catch two touchdowns and record a sack in the same game. He has become a real threat to score when he is on the field in goal line situations.
Despite the victory, the Patriots experienced a number of injuries that could affect them in the playoffs. Asante Samuel got hurt returning an interception early in the game. He appeared to get hit in the head, and didnít return to the game. Tedy Bruschi experienced tightness in his lower leg and had to be carted off the field. If he misses time, that would be a huge loss for a defense finally getting its act together late in the season after struggling early. And kick returner Bethel Johnson got his leg rolled up on late in the game and had to limp off the field. Receivers Tim Dwight and Andre Davis both have kick returning experience.
The Jets continued their disappointing season with another disappointment, turning in an embarrassing offensive performance against the Patriots. They were unable to get a first down in the entire first half, and werenít able to get any sort of rhythm on offense until the Patriots benched their starters late in the game. Brooks Bollinger was under duress constantly, and the receivers didnít create enough separation. The running game only amassed 40 yards of offense, and was abandoned early because of the large deficit, probably a bit too early in retrospect.
Defensively, the Jets were able to keep the Patriots from getting a big play, but could not stop the Patriots from chipping away slowly. All four Patriotsí touchdowns came from within two yards of the goal line. Jonathan Vilma had a huge night, amassing 13 solo tackles, a career high.
Vinny Testaverde entered the game in the fourth quarter for a drive that might mark the end of his 19 year career. He threw a touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles that set an NFL record for consecutive seasons with at least one touchdown pass, with 19. Most of the fans in the Meadowlands had left by then, but the ones remaining cheered Testaverde, and he got a pat on the back from Herman Edwards as he left the field following the touchdown. It wouldnít be a stretch to see Testaverde on a roster as a backup next season, but the likelihood is that he will retire.
What you ought to know
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 18 - 29 - 185 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 7 - 0|
Brady had a good game and was able to pick apart the Jets defense. His 185 yard performance gave him over 4000 passing yards in a season for the first time in his career. His one blemish on the night was on an ill-advised pass towards the right sideline. Ty Law read the pass and jumped in front of the receiver, and ran 73 yards the other way for the Jetsí first score. Other than that, Brady played well. He received some pressure from John Abraham and the rest of the Jetsí defensive line, but was able to sense it and get out of the way most of the time, only getting sacked twice. He threw two touchdown passes, both to converted linebacker Mike Vrabel in goal line situations. Brady also asserted his rushing ability on fourth and short situations, converting a couple of first downs that way.
|QB Doug Flutie, Pass: 1 - 1 - 2 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -1 - 0|
Flutie came into the game in the fourth quarter once the outcome was already decided. He only attempted one pass, completing it to Patrick Pass for a short gain.
Dillon started the game but began slowly, and averaged just under three yards a carry. He wasnít able to find much room to run and went down easily after first contact. He did prove his mettle, however, carrying the ball 26 times, his largest load of the season so far. He scored the Patriotsí final two touchdowns of the game, the first on an inside run that he broke off-tackle, and the second on a one yard plunge up the middle. Dillon didnít catch a pass, however, snapping a streak of three consecutive games with four catches. Dillon, whose yards per carry sits at a career low 3.6, seems to have lost a step this year and, at 31, may be relegated to backup duties in the coming years.
|RB Kevin Faulk, Rush: 10 - 38 - 0, Rec: 4 - 19 - 0 (8 targets)|
Faulk, in his fourth game back from injury, caught four passes and provided Tom Brady with a reliable target underneath the coverage. He also ran the ball ten times in the monotonous affair, his highest total this season. Faulk missed eight consecutive games in the middle of this season, but seems to be hitting his stride at the perfect time for the Patriots. His versatility gives the Patriots more options when he is on the field.
Evans entered the game in the final two drives, and ran a number of times to drain the clock. He didnít gain many yards with his attempt, as the Jets knew what was coming. He could be deactivated in future weeks.
|RB Patrick Pass, Rush: 3 - 14 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (2 targets)|
Pass came into the game late, when the outcome was already decided. He caught one pass and had three rushing attempts. His role has diminished in recent weeks with Kevin Faulk back in the fold, but he is still a reliable role player for the Patriots.
Branch was the top receiver, working mainly against former Patriot Ty Law. He wasnít able to break any long receptions, but was a consistent threat over the middle on intermediate routes. With his four catch performance, Branch has caught at least four balls in 12 of 15 games this season. He needs 21 more yards to reach 1000 yards in a season for the first time in his career.
Brown caught all three passes thrown his way. He didnít get on the field until the second half. He is 34 yards away from reaching 500 yards on a season for the fifth time in his career.
Givens caught only two passes, and didnít make much of an impact. He didnít need to, however, as the Patriots were able to control the clock by running the ball.
Davis was targeted once, but didnít catch a pass.
Dwight was targeted once, but didnít catch a pass.
Watson caught two passes and was able to stretch the defense down the middle of the field. He also was wide open for a potential touchdown, but Tom Brady led him by too much. This was Watsonís seventh consecutive game with at least two catches, after only doing that once in the first seven games this season (not counting last weekís game where he didnít play). He is passed over in goal line situations for other players, but between the twenties he has become a consistent threat.
Fauria caught one pass but was only used sparingly.
Vinatieri hit his only field goal attempt from 26 yards out, and hit all four of his extra point attempts.
The Patriotsí rush defense played exceptionally well, limiting the Jets to 40 yards on the ground. The Jets only ran the ball eight times with their running backs, mainly due to the Patriots extremely effective ball-control offense. Tedy Bruschi injured himself in the first half, and according to sideline reports has lower leg tightness of some sort. His availability for next week is in question. Richard Seymour led the team with five tackles, and the team has become much stronger against the run since he has returned from injury.
The Jets were able to gain 131 yards passing, but the majority of that yardage came in the fourth quarter after the Patriots were resting their starters. Ellis Hobbs has been a nice surprise on this side of the ball, and he started his seventh consecutive game this week. Unfortunately, his counterpart Asante Samuel injured himself early in the game on an apparent hit to the head and would not return. He injured himself on the same play where he intercepted a pass, his third of the year.
Bollinger started his seventh consecutive game and got off to a rough start, as the Jets werenít able to get a first down in the first half. He was under heavy fire from the Patriots all game, and it was to his credit that he was only sacked three times. The blocking around him was horrid, and as a result he never had much time to find an open receiver downfield. His weak arm strength affected him on routes to the outside, but he was moderately effective down the field and on shorter passes to the middle. He threw a touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles in the fourth quarter on a nice deep pass.
Testaverde came into the game late in the fourth quarter as a gesture from Herm Edwards. Since it was the last home game of the season for the Jets, in what is likely the final season of Testaverdeís long career. He was able to lead the Jets on a touchdown drive that culminated in a deep pass to Laveranues Coles, which Coles was able to out jump the defender to grab. With this touchdown pass, Testaverdeís first of the season despite starting a number of games, Vinny Testaverde passed Johnny Unitas and Fran Tarkenton to become the first player in NFL history to throw at least one touchdown pass in 19 consecutive seasons.
Houston started for the third consecutive game but wasnít nearly as successful this week as he had been in the past two. He didnít block well, and he didnít provide a good target in the passing game.
Blaylock didnít start the game, but in the end he was more successful than Cedric Houston. That isnít saying much, however, as he only gained 24 total yards. His blocking was suspect, and he wasnít able to get open much on pass routes.
Sowell caught a pass and was targeted twice. He was used as a blocking fullback as well.
Coles came on late in the game after the Patriots had removed many of their defensive starters. He caught two touchdown passes, both on deep bombs. One came from Brooks Bollinger, where Coles was able to create separation and catch it in the back of the end zone, and the second came from Vinny Testaverde where Coles out jumped the defender. This season has been a disappointment for Coles, and he will likely have his worst season since his rookie year in 2000. He hasnít been able to create separation and, coupled with the Jetís quarterbacking woes and poor line play, he hasnít gotten the ball enough this year.
McCareins caught four balls, mainly in traffic, and was able to out-muscle defenders for yardage after the catch. He is one of the slowest starting wideouts in the league, but he is able to use his body effectively to shield defenders, and he did that in this game. He didnít do much, however, until the Patriots benched most of their starting players.
Cotchery worked as the third receiver and was targeted a lot, given that the Jets were forced to keep extra blockers in to help their offensive line much of the time. He was able to get down the field and make catches across the middle, and has likely solidified his hold on the third receiver spot with his play the last few weeks.
Jolley was targeted twice, but did not record a catch. He has been a disappointment since the Jets traded for him this past offseason.
Nugent did not attempt a field goal, but hit on all three of his extra point attempts.
While the Jetsí defense did give up 150 yards rushing, it is worth noting that that number came off of 50 rushes by the Patriots. The Patriots wanted to shorten the game from the beginning, and even though they were only able to muster a three yard average per rush, they kept at it all night. As a result, Jonathan Vilma had a huge night, recording 13 solo tackles and four assists on top of that.
The Jets werenít particularly soft against the pass, but they gave up key gains in important situations. As one example, on a fourth and three play in the second half, Tom Brady was able to hit Christian Fauria for a four yard gain. The Jetsí defense was on the field for such an extended amount of time, that many of their breakdowns against the pass could be attributed to fatigue. On one play, however, they read Tom Brady correctly. Ty Law was able to jump in front of a pass and return it for a 73 yard score, exacting revenge on his former ball club.