With a 37-16 win on national TV, the Patriots reminded the rest of the league that even with a no-name defense, they are still an AFC favorite.
Bill Belichick's teams don't lose after a bye — then the Patriots proceeded to lose to the Steelers in Week Eight. Belichick's teams never lose back-to-back games — then the Patriots blew a lead in the final minute in a Week Nine loss to the Giants.
Well, Belichick's team hasn't lost three straight since 2002, and that streak continued on Sunday night, even with everyone having picked the Jets to win.
And that's probably what did it.
The Patriots started nine players who entered the NFL without being drafted; including two undrafted rookies on defense, and still beat their rival in convincing fashion.
The PFW spin
I was sure to cover my bases. After a week of everyone doubting New England and jumping on the Jets' bandwagon, I realized that the intangibles surrounding the game actually supported the Patriots.
Sure, intangibles only mean so much — some people put little emphasis on them, and the Patriots did prove themselves first and foremost with their play on the field — but don't discount what they meant for a Brady-Belichick team to hear doubters for two weeks.
On offense, Brady engineered a passing attack that went after the Jets' weaknesses. No one on the Gang Green could cover Rob Gronkowski, and Brady knew that, targeting him 11 times, which led to eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Brady threw quick out patterns to Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker, while moving the three around as much as possible to confuse the Jets. The no-huddle offense put the Jets' "D" on its heels, and even Chad Ochocinco made a big play.
The defensive performance, though, was much more impressive. DE Andre Carter had a career game, beating All-Pro OLT D'Brickashaw Ferguson a couple of times en route to 4½ sacks. When top CB Devin McCourty left the game with a shoulder injury, it seemed as though Mark Sanchez would have his way against a no-name secondary.
Instead, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, James Ihedigbo, Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams played good enough coverage to keep the Jets grounded. LB Rob Ninkovich made two huge interceptions, and the Patriots' special teams made a play, recovering a muffed punt.
In some ways, it was reminiscent of last season's 45-3 win on Monday night, but this effort may have been more impressive considering how poorly New England had been playing and whom they were missing, especially in the secondary.
Going forward, things look peachy for New England. Their remaining schedule and opposing quarterbacks is as follows:
Chiefs (Tyler Palko), Eagles (possibly Vince Young), Colts (Curtis Painter), Redskins (Rex Grossman), Broncos (Tim Tebow), Dolphins (Matt Moore) and Bills (Ryan Fitzpatrick).
Not a bad draw when you have the worst passing defense in the league.
Brady and company should be able to score at will against each opponent left on their schedule, and that should take some pressure off the secondary. It also gives Belichick a little flexibility, as he needs to find a group that works on the back end so the Patriots can make a playoff run.
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