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Knee Jerk Reactions to Week 11: Patriots vs. Jets

Things to consider while realizing a day that began with tying the knot ended with breaking a tie:

--Before we get to the rest of the game, it's worth taking a deep dive into the Marcus Jones return that did nothing less than save the Patriots playoff hopes, because it was a veteran play from beginning to end. The kick was a low line drive that gave Jones a good 15-20 yard cushion from the nearest defender. And he used it to take a jab step toward a middle return before shifting field, taking an outside route and beating Tyler Conklin around the corner. From there he let his blocking develop. With Brendan Schooler (another standout rookie Core-4 special teamer this year) on the back side, Raleigh Webb and Anfernee Jennings directly in front of him, and a double team by Jabrill Peppers and (I think) Jonathon Jones on gunner Corey Davis up the sideline. From there it was just a matter of engaging his 4.3 Warp Drive:

Bill Belichick said after the game Jones wasn't ready to handle the return duties when the season began, but he's been working with Troy Brown and made vast improvements. It shows. Because put a them in period costumes, and that return could've been some Special Teams Heritage Club's reenactment of a Brown return against the 2001 Jets. Which means 15 years after he retired, Mr. Patriot is still winning us games. 

--But lets shift gears to a coach that's not been getting things done: Matt Patricia. In his dual roles as offensive coordinator and offensive line very much had a Smeagol/Gollum afternoon. I don't want to heap too much praise on OC Matty P, since his scheme produced three points, two trips to the red zone, and every time the Pats crossed midfield, things reached Frustration Level: Buying Taylor Swift Tickets. The Jets defense is good. But it is not Ticketmaster good. Still, OC Matty P had one of his best play calling games of the season. Just shy of 300 yards of total offense. Mac Jones was getting to the top of his drop and, to the pleasant surprise of everyone, found his receivers with their eyes turned looking for the ball instead of 12 yards upfield still getting into their breaks, which was a welcome new wrinkle. As a result, he was 23-for-27 with 246 yards, with a solid 9.1 YPA. And among those incompletions was a drop by Tyquan Thornton (which is not quite a trend yet but is maybe one drop away from being a pattern), and another where he was on a full out sprint out of the pocket on 3rd & 7, kept the pass to Jakobi Meyers low to the ground and he was just unable to pick it off the turf. And eight of those 23 completions went for 1st downs. In addition, OC Matty got production out of both running backs. And apparently spent the bye week coming up with this full backfield look like something out of Chuck Fairbanks' wastebasket with the 1970 Oklahoma Sooners:

--He then used the two H-back tight ends look to pass protect, or chip and release, or simply in dual fullback roles. Watch Jonnu Smith take on Kwon Alexander coming down off the Will LB spot while Hunter Henry shoots the playside A-gap to blow up Quincy Williams as Damien Harris bounces it outside:

--Here's that wishboney full house backfield earlier in the game, but on a play action. Henry sells the run by taking on Williams, while Smith comes across the line like he's hitting Alexander at the second level, but instead releases on a corner route and Jones hits him in stride:

--And these are exactly the sorts of rhythm and timing throws that have been missing. Jones talked afterwards about how the Jets were playing a lot of deep zones so he kept checking down and just taking the profit, Which is exactly what I've been hoping for. I'm not looking for my quarterback to be Sam Bankman-Fried. 

--Because when we see Jones in sync with his receivers and his line giving him even a nanosecond of time to stand in a clean pocket with his feet set, he'll flex a mighty bicep before all the critics of his arm strength:

--So we're finally seeing the type of innovative formations and creativity in playcalling we could always count on from Josh McDaniels beginning about a month into the season, as he'd begin to put things on game film and then come up with constraint plays to counter those tendencies opponents thought they'd identified. I won't quibble with the fact it's taken until I'm already brining my turkey. I'll just appreciate it's finally happened.

--Getting Harris more involved was a plus, not just because 21-yard rushing plays are a benefit every time they're tried, but also because the Pats have been riding Rhamondre Stevenson hard lately. Both the rushing game and the passing game have been running through him over the last month or so. And yesterday the Jets were obviously keying on stopping him on the ground (15 carries, 26 yards, 1.7 YPA). But had no answer for his route running, as he led the Pats in receptions, yards and levels of pure, Grade A, untacklable testosterone:

--All this said, whatever OC Matty is doing at the start of games needs to be scrapped altogether. The last several weeks have started with consecutive 3 & outs. This one started with a sack and two 3 & outs. I would rather have his first 15 plays scripted by the guy who wrote 80 for Brady than start another game like this.

--And maybe throw this play into the shredder. A toss sweep to the short side of the field on 4th & 4. I count eight Jets stationed to defend a line extending from the hashes to the sideline. Then didn't need coils of razor wire, reinforcements or air support:

--Which brings me at last to Gollum. Matt Patricia as offensive line coach. Now there's the experiment that is failing miserably. Of course injuries have been a factor. And in all likelihood we've seen the last of David Andrews this season, which is a bitter pill indeed. But nothing OL Matty P has tried so far has worked and we're 10 games into the season. Trent Brown was benched in favor of switching Isaiah Wynn back to left tackle. Which was called a coaches' decision but is reportedly due to some bug going around the locker room. (Note: Brown is 380 lbs. If he's got something going on with his stomach, give him his own bathroom.) But Wynn left with a foot injury and Brown had to pull emergency duty. On the other end, Yodne Cajuste committed yet another penalty. Cole Strange got ragdolled by Quinnen Williams, who has clearly demonstrated he's a terrible matchup for Strange, to blow up a 3rd & 1 attempt. As a result, they had negative plays on 12 snaps, which was just about 20% of their total. And God forbid Mac Jones had to go through his progressions; by the time he got to his third read the Jets were having a team meeting on his chest. Patricia is smart enough to have been designing submarines before he got back into football and probably solved Fermat's Last Theorem, just for laughs. But it takes a real line coach to sort out this mess and turn this unit into a cohesive group. And Dante Scarnecchia he is not. 

--Now I regret giving the offense so much oxygen after such a dominating performance on the other side of the ball. But I'm not going back and deleting paragraphs, so let's just press on and try to right that wrong. I think so much of what might have looked like offensive play calling that was conservative enough to host a show on Fox Nation was the result of Belichick knowing the Jets were not going to be able to solve his defense. The Occam's Razor explanation is that they've got Zach Wilson completely figured out. And while that's true, it goes well beyond just that. When you force more punts (10) than you allow completed passes (nine), you've displayed the kind of domination strong, confident, sex-positive women get paid good money for. 

--Simply put, there wasn't one aspect of the Jets offensive game where they weren't completely outmanned. They had 103 yards of total offense, or 2.1 yards per play. Only 77 of those through the air. Six 3 & outs, including an incredible five straight after halftime. They didn't pick up their first 1st down of the 2nd half until 25 minutes had come off the game clock. Factor in the yards lost in sacks, and they had negative-21 yards passing in that half. In a close game where establishing the semblance of a run game could make all the difference, they had 20 rushing attempts by non-Zach Wilson personnel. And gained 33 yards. A 1.65 yard average. So less than the height of your average running back tripping over the line of scrimmage. 

--Bear in mind too that this was all achieved without turnovers, which have been the IV tube keeping the Patriots playoff hopes alive. Not for lack of trying by Wilson. Steve Belichick keeps putting Devin McCourty in a box-and-stick trap, and Wilson can't stop trying to take that bait. Only this time the ball hit his chest between the "3" and the "2" and fell to the ground. Jonathan Jones also had a potential Pick-6 go off his hands. Though he had to leave his feet for that one, so the official scorer ruled it a hit, not an error. 

--It's beyond time for us to recognize the true greatness we are seeing with Matthew Judon. We're pretty much at the time of the season where last year his production trailed off and he stopped drawing our or leaving his mark on the box score. But this season he's just a non-stop Impact Play factory, and it's working three shifts. 

--I don't mean to just focus on the sacks, because Judon has been holding up his end of the bargain in the other aspects, like setting the edge, stringing out runs to the outside and dropping into coverage 3-5 times a game as well. But sacks are undeniably sexy. (Settle down back there, you. Unless you'd like to take giggling to the Principal's office.) He's now up to 13.5, which is the kind of number no one not old enough to have had the distinct privilege of seeing Andre Tippett play can relate to. He and Deatrich Wise took turns at LOLB putting Cedric Ogbuehi in a torture chamber. But on this one, he showed the burst to run a game behind Wise, who was inside at 5-technique tackle and Daniel Ekuale. And he was just too fast for Connor McGovern to come off Ekuale to pick him up:

--A few adjustment have contributed to the defense in general and the pressure package especially. One is that Mack Wilson has settled into a role, spying the quarterback as either off-the-ball inside linebacker or up on the line, as he was on that play. Another that we saw yesterday involved the cornerback rotation. According to Pro Football Focus, Myles Bryant was still your primary slot corner, but saw fewer snaps overall than he has been. When he wasn't on the inside, it was a combination of Jonathan Jones sliding back into that role he used to occupy (they moved him out this year and so 329 of his 399 snaps were at wide corner coming into this one), some Jalen Mills and at little Jack Jones. And whether it was gameplan specific aftert Jack Jones gave up two catches on two targets in the last Jets game or the coaches are just trying to manage his playing time in his rookie season, he only took 17 snaps, the fewest since Week 1. Whatever the logic behind how they shuffled the cornerback deck, they dealt a straight flush.

--And no one in the secondary was better than Kyle Dugger. It was just another one of those games where it was like there were two No. 23s flying to the ball from every conceivable angle. 

Making sticks:

Almost making picks, like the one he high pointed to knock out of Ty Johnson's hands up the sidelines. Hopefully seeing a guy who went to Lenoir-Rhyne will be an inspiration to Cole Strange as he keeps adapting to life against better competition than he ever saw in school.

--This Week's Applicable Movie Quote: "Marcus: Genius of the restoration!" - Prof. Henry Jones, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

--I don't normally look ahead, but the team the Pats face Thursday night just lost 40-3. At home. And so a season that has made zero sense from the beginning could be that much closer to being in the pantheon of Belichick's finest work.

--It's a short week so I'm going to end this here. Like the Pats players said after the game, it's already Wednesday. So we've all got to so what we'd do on Wednesday. Which on Thanksgiving week for me means carrying the tradition of halfassing all my work and meeting friends at the bar in the early afternoon. Cheers.