Well, at least it's progress.
Thursday night's win over the Jets wasn't pretty by any means, but it's yet another step in the development of New England's young receiving core. Both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson played in last night's 13-10 victory over New York, and while it wasn't perfect, there were some good moments for both players. Dobson's first NFL reception was a 39 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady on a perfect play-action play that pretty much every Jets defender bit on, and Dobson was all alone to take off for the score that put New England up 7-0 on their opening drive. From there it became a battle, and fortunately it was the Patriots who fought through the adversity and the weather and came away with the win.
Looking back, here are five thoughts from last night's victory:
1) Stevan Ridley rebounded fairly well - It was far from perfect for running back Stevan Ridley, but he made it through the entire night without any issues turning the football over. Overall he finished the night carrying the ball 16 times for 40 yards which wasn't his best performance, but with the Patriots passing game largely held in check, especially when the weather turned ugly, the Jets defense plugged most of the holes as the game went on and prevented Ridley from breaking off any big gains. They stopped him for no gain or a loss on six of his carries, which is unusual for him. Although as much as it's tough to give New York credit, they played pretty good defense last night.
2) Brady needs to find a happy medium with his temper - Brady acknowledged after last night's game that he's probably going to have to get a hold of himself a little better heading into the rest of the season. There were moments last night where you could see him screaming at his receivers, including a brief tirade shortly when they left the field after settling for a field goal late in the second quarter. On that drive they worked their way down to the Jets 12 yard line but couldn't score, and he was clearly pretty angry. Prior to that someone clearly ran a route that Brady wasn't expecting, and as the ball fell incomplete the veins were sticking out of Brady's neck as he screamed at the offending receiver. The veteran quarterback said after the game that he needs to work on that. “I think I have to do a better job with my body language and I definitely can improve that," said Brady when asked about that after the game. "I wouldn’t say it’s a real strong point of mine right now, so we’ll just try to keep doing better. That’s what we’ve got to do.” He has to know that what's going on now is an investment for his future and a lot of the mistakes that are happening will probably not be occurring by the time we start heading into the second half of the season.
Bill Belichick was all smiles before last night's game. (USA TODAY Images)
3) This is definitely one of the most athletic groups Brady has ever played with - There's no denying the potential that this group of receivers have, especially when it comes to deep pass plays. There were a lot of close calls last night and plays that we'll likely start to see connected as the season progresses, but one thing that stood out was the closing speed that both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have when it comes to when Brady throws the deep ball. In past years they would have been balls that were overthrown, but both players have that additional burst that once they start connecting are going to be a dynamic that's tough to deal with. Thompkins finished with 2 catches for 47 yards and nearly had a touchdown after making a tremendous diving catch that the officials ruled he didn't control all the way to the ground, but it was still a great effort. The big thing killing that progress right now are the lack of their normal additional weapons in Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola all being on the field at the same time with them. That's preventing them from getting as many one-on-one match-ups as they might normally see, and as they gain experience that will be something that they'll hopefully be able to exploit.
4) The defense looks terrific so far through two games - After the last few seasons of not having a real cohesive unit, the Patriots are finally getting to the point where they have a fairly solid group of players in each group defensively. Tommy Kelly has really solidified the defensive line and had a sack last night, while Chandler Jones (2 sacks) and Michael Buchanan (1 sack) also were in on quite a few plays. Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo are playing about as well as we've ever seen them play, and the secondary for the most part also played well last night and came up with three critical interceptions. They're making plays and forcing turnovers, and it's been a long time since we've seen them be the difference in the game like they were last night. Hopefully this is just the start of a breakout year for them.
5) If he stays healthy, Julian Edelman is poised for quite a season - Edelman caught a career high 13 passes last night for 78 yards and already has 20 receptions through two games, one shy of his entire total last season. He's also been one of Brady's go to guys on third down, catching all four passes he was targeted on last night, two of which he converted. Last week he caught all three third down targets that were thrown his way, converting two of them - which were touchdowns (the league counts a touchdown as a first down). That makes Brady 7-of-7 targeting him in those situations, so the two clearly are on the same page. With Amendola out, and reports last night said he could be out 2-6 weeks with his current groin injury, the odds are pretty good he'll see a lot of balls thrown his way in the coming weeks.
It's been an interesting start so far, and now they'll have a nice long break to try and work out some of the additional kinks before they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers one week from Sunday.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
Here are a few quick facts from last night that you may not have been aware of:
1) The Patriots defense extended their current streak of forcing a turnover to 29 straight games. Did some digging yesterday and I'm trying to find out what the NFL record is and haven't come up with it yet, so hopefully I'll have that soon. But that's a pretty impressive number to say the least, and it's one that can't be taken for granted considering how well they're playing right now.
2) Brady also extended his streak to 50 straight regular season games in which he's has thrown a TD pass, second only in NFL history to Drew Bees (54). As it stands right now, he's got a shot at tying it against - you guessed it - the Saints in week six.
3) Field Yates of ESPN pointed out last night via Twitter that had the play in which Edelman appeared to fumble the football stood, it would have been his first career fumble in 50 games played. The play was overturned, so his streak now continues.
4) Tom Brady passed quarterback Drew Bledsoe for career completions last night and currently has 3,846 career completions, passing former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe for 7th in NFL history.
KENBRELL THOMPKINS SIGNS ON WITH NIKE
Kenbrell Thompkins Nike endorsement - Nothing official from Nike yet, but this tweet from the Patriots receiver would lead you to believe he's reached an endorsement deal with them. Not bad for an undrafted free agent that had to battle his way onto an NFL roster. Hopefully he and Brady continue to their progress and get better about connecting on the field.
PUNTER RYAN ALLEN HAS QUITE A NIGHT:
Chalk this up to one of those stats that you can appreciate but hope you don't see a repeat of. Rookie punter Ryan Allen punted 11 times last night for a franchise record 514 yards. He did a good job in the field position battle and preventing the Jets from getting good starts on their drives, but there's no question the offense needs to be better about keeping Ryan off the field and putting more points on the board. Still, in those conditions, Ryan did a great job for a rookie and so far seems to be handling his full time role relatively well.
We'll have more in a bit.