Looking at Sunday's loss to the Jets, it's hard not to admit that the Patriots woes at this point in the season are starting to become a little bit concerning.
New England's offense got back what was thought to be one of their biggest assets against the Jets, with Rob Gronkowski active for the first time since re-fracturing his forearm during the team's postseason win over the Texans back in January. Up to this point it seemed that he was the one piece of the puzzle that would potentially have helped get this group back on track. However, despite finishing with eight catches for 114 yards on Sunday, Gronkowski's return didn't end up having much of an effect and New England actually looked worse than they have all season.
Obviously one of the biggest discussions is going to center around the mistake rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones made in overtime, but this game was lost well before it ever reached that point. Despite taking a 21-10 lead at halftime with the chance to put them away to start the third quarter, New England completely fell apart. They started the second half with the football, but it got ugly almost immediately. They dodged a bullet on their first play from scrimmage after Tom Brady was sacked and lost the football but was able to recover it. However, on the second Brady threw to a well covered Gronkowski from his own 14 yard line and was picked off, with the interception being returned 23 yards for the touchdown.
Just like that the tide turned, and the Jets piled up 17 third quarter points to put themselves in control of the football game, and held New England to just two field goals in the second half.
The biggest problem on Sunday was the fact that the Patriots were a dismal 1-of-12 on third down, and that can be attributed to the fact that, once again, they put themselves in long yardage situations. Brady was sacked four times on Sunday, 3 of which were on first down and if he wasn't getting sacked, he failed to muster a completion. Overall he was just 7-of-19 on first down (37%), connecting just once in that situation to Kenbrell Thompkins (1-of-2 overall on first down), but was 0-for-3 to Aaron Dobson, 0-for-2 to Austin Collie, and 0-for-2 to Brandon Bolden. That saw them face 2nd-and-10 or more on 17 of New England's 25 plays on second down, and 3rd-and-10 or more on six of their twelve third down plays.
It makes it difficult to get much going offensively, and Tom Brady admitted that much after the game.
"We haven't been good on third down all year and I think obviously that's a big problem," said Brady. "You can't stay on the field and help our defense out. We have to be better in all areas, certainly we have to be better on third down and in the red area. But there's no excuses. We just didn't play well. I've got to do a better job out there, and that's what I need to do."
Defensively the Patriots did about as much as they could have been asked, but the offense's inability to sustain a drive left them on the field for 46 minutes on Sunday, and the Jets kept pounding the football at them until they more or less ran out of gas. New York rushed the football 52 times on Sunday, and New England's defense actually managed to hold them to three or less yards on 29 of the Jets' carries, including 11 in which they didn't allow a yard.
They even held New York scoreless in the fourth quarter, allowing them to convert just four offensive first downs (2 rushing, 2 passing) while holding Geno Smith to 4-of-8 for 30 yards passing. However, Brady was just 7-of-18 in the final quarter of regulation and 1-of-4 in overtime, which had their offense spinning its wheels and left the defense with little help.
The fact they've been unable to get a good start in the second half has been a problem through the first seven games, with opponents outscoring them 44-9 in the third quarter this season.
"I think it's really poor execution," Brady said when asked why they've struggled in the 3rd quarter this season. "Like I said, we had a great opportunity to take control of the game and we didn't. We fought hard, we just didn't do what it takes to beat a good defense."
Needless to say at this point they're still in tough shape and don't appear to have any answers as they continue trying to get things moving offensively. With Miami coming in on Sunday the Patriots will face a tough divisional opponent who is coming off of a difficult 23-21 loss to the Bills. But they're going to continue to have a difficult time winning football games if they can't score points or move the chains, and it's something Brady says they'll just have to keep working on.
"You know, we're working hard in practice and we're trying to get the job done," said Brady. "It's just for one reason or another, we're not quite there yet. We're not clicking how we need to on third down, in the red area, and we've been inconsistent certainly in the passing game. and we've got to try and figure out how to get better and work hard at it so we can get better."
JONES OWNS UP TO HIS MISTAKE:
Chris Jones' penalty in overtime was one that seemingly caught everyone, including Bill Belichick, off guard and watching the play it was tough to see what the officials were calling. During the play Jones appeared to be caught in the middle with the guys around him and during his rush against the Jets during Nick Folk's 56-yard field goal attempt, he apparently reached over and tried to help Will Svitek get a little extra push inside. Out came the flag, and just like that not only was the Jets drive extended, but the 15 yards they received from the penalty helped make the final few plays a little easier to set up their game-winning field goal.
According to Belichick, the interpretation to the rule that was cited when the referees called the penalty was that it couldn't come from the second level, which in this case didn't happen. Instead, the officials pointed out that players aren't allowed to push another teammate at all, and obviously the Jets got a second chance and we know how it ended.
After the game was over, Jones shouldered the blame for the penalty.
"It was something that I decided to do," he told the Boston Herald. "I was just trying to get that extra little oomph in the middle to get up there. Just trying to block the field goal. I made that mistake. I should have been more aware. It was my mistake, nobody else's. I've just got to man up to it and fix it next time."
Overall he had a pretty solid outing, finishing with 10 tackles (3 for a loss) as well as two sacks. As nice as all of that was, Jones said none of it matters since they didn't win the game.
"It would've been great if we would've won, but we lost," said Jones. "So everything that happened before that is just out the window."
SLATER BACKS HIS TEAMMATE:
Back in action for the first time since getting injured was Matthew Slater, who as a leader on this team backed his teammate after the game as media members apparently began peppering Jones with questions.
According to the Boston Globe Slater let everyone there know that Jones wasn't the reason they lost the game.
"It's not on him," Slater told the media via the Boston Globe of Jones. "There were 20, 30 plays throughout the game that could have gone differently. You guys are asking Chris a lot of questions, but it's not his fault. We lost this game as a team."
JETS FAN PUNCHES PATRIOTS FAN IN THE FACE:
Reading that headline you would normally roll your eyes and just assume it was a normal altercation between rival fans. However, in this case some Jets fan wearing a Wayne Chrebet jersey completely clocked a petite blond woman wearing Patriots gear in the face after a verbal exchange that caused the woman to go up to him and give him a shove. After the push the man reeled back and clocked her in the face, and you can see in the video the amount of force he hit her with. Give her credit, she didn't go down, but it's disgusting to think the guy didn't just decide to simply walk away.
SOME NUMBERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN:
1) Following Sunday's game the Patriots have now run 500 offensive plays this season, including 70 during yesterday's loss.
2) Yesterday marked the second straight week where Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass. His next one will move him ahead of Fran Tarkenton for fourth all time in the NFL.
3) What a difference a year makes. In last year's meeting in New York the Patriots were nearly flawless on third down, finishing 11-of-15 on the afternoon. Brady also finished 7-of-8 passing with two touchdowns. Obviously they didn't repeat that performance yesterday.
4) Turnover streak remains intact - Logan Ryan's interception return for a touchdown fortunately kept one streak going yesterday, with the Patriots now with 34 straight games forcing a turnover. Obviously that was one of the only bright spots in Sunday's win, but likely an exciting one for the rookie.
5) After yesterday's game Chandler Jones now has 6.5 sacks on the season, topping the six he had all of last season and currently has him tied for 7th in the NFL with that total.
6) Julian Edelman's five catch performance on Sunday now has him ranked 3rd in the NFL in receptions with 46, trailing Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown (47) and Houston's Andre Johnson (48). Wes Welker has 44 on the season.
7) Tom Brady's fourth quarter stats haven't exactly been great in recent weeks and you can probably expect some criticism in the media this week thanks to yesterday's outcome. After starting the first four games with completion percentages of 65%, 60%, 86% and 75% respectively over that span, Brady went 3-of-12 (25%) in Cincinnati, 6-of-13 (46%) last week against the Saints (albeit he pulled out that heroic late game drive), and 7-of-18 (39%) Sunday in New York. Expect those numbers to be thrown around this week.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Jets dominate in the trenches - Ben Volin - Volin has his analysis from yesterday's loss, which saw the Patriots struggle against the Jets running game.
Patriots penalty helps Jets claim OT victory - Shalise Manza Young - Manza Young files her game story this morning, which looks at many of the problems the Patriots had on Sunday.
Tom Brady blames himself for Patriots loss - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer looks at Brady, who took responsibility for the loss in New York on Sunday.
Rob Gronkowski plays well in his return to Patriots - Michael Whitmer - Whitmer looks at Gronkowski's performance on Sunday, who obviously made his return to the field for the first time since back in January.
Patriots' Chris Jones didn't keep up with the rules - Ben Volin - Volin files his "on football" piece this morning, and writes that Jones took full responsibility for his penalty in overtime.
Patriots' young defenders really took charge - Ben Volin - Volin looks at the defense's overall performance, which aside from the gaffe in overtime saw Chris Jones play pretty well.
5 takeaways from the second Patriots-Jets game - Zuri Berry - Berry files this morning's takeaways, which includes the Patriots issues in the third quarter.
Rob Gronkowski a focal point for Patriots in loss to Jets - Berry writes that in his first game back, Gronkowski had a significant role for the team's offense against the Jets.
Rob Gronkowski erratic in return to lineup - Karen Guregian - Guregian writes that Gronkowski at times looked like himself on Sunday, but appeared to get fatigued as the game wore on and stumbled out of breaks.
Jets defense sacks, picks Brady to pieces - Dan Duggan - Duggan files his game story for the Herald, and writes that for the second time this season, the New York Jets left Tom Brady completely frustrated.
Best and worst of yesterday's Pats-Jets game - Ron Borges - Borges has this week's "best and worst" piece, which includes rookie Logan Ryan's interception returned for a touchdown.
Patriots rookie shows class following key mistake - Ron Borges - Borges has a good column this morning on Chris Jones, who made no excuses after the loss.
Inability to convert for first downs pains Tom Brady - Jeff Howe - Howe files this morning's notebook and writes the Patriots issues on third down is becoming a troubling trend.
Ryan's pick-six special - Karen Guregian - Guregian has an article this morning on Logan Ryan, who felt it the play he picked up Geno Smith for a touchdown was just a play where "11 guys did their job".
Penalty, failure to execute cost Patriots in OT loss - Jeff Howe - Howe looks at Sunday's game and writes the Patriots weren't dealing with hypotheticals after it was over.
Snaps: Gronkowski eases into mix - Mike Reiss - Reiss has snap counts from yesterday's game, noting that Gronkowski was somewhat limited in his return.
Misinterpretation costly for Belichick, Pats - Mike Reiss - Reiss files his game story from yesterday, and writes that the Patriots issues run deeper than the rule that gave the Jets new life in overtime.
Tom Brady: I have to do a better job - Mike Reiss - Reiss has comments from Brady after the game, who admitted fault on the pick-six he threw to start the second half.
Bill Belichick disagrees with flag - Field Yates - Yates looks at Belichick's reaction following Sunday's game, where the coach didn't seemingly agree with the call.
Gronkowski: 'Feeling good,' but work to do - Field Yates - Yates has post game comments from Gronkowski who felt good after the game but feels he has "lots to improve on".
Sunday proves Tom Brady, Patriots don't look right - Mike Petraglia - Petraglia writes there was no excuse for the Patriots coughing up a 21-0 halftime lead and gagging their way to a 30-27 loss to the Jets.
What we learned: Near misses, ill-timed errors mark surprising loss to Jets - Christopher Price - Price has his weekly column and looks at a variety of areas, and it's a great entry for those of you who haven't seen it.
New England Patriots rookie cornerback Logan Ryan on his pick-6 - Nick Underhill - Underhill has comments from rookie Logan Ryan following his performance on Sunday, which included an interception returned for a touchdown.
ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE
Gronk welcomed back with open arms - Mark Farinella - Farinella looks at yesterday's win, and notes that the Jets didn't treat Rob Gronkowski with kid gloves during his return.
Pushed aside - Mark Farinella - Farinella writes that with no Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo, and Aqib Talib, the Patriots personnel issues caught up with them on Sunday against the Jets.
FARINELLA: A rookie's mistake - Mark Farinella - Farinella has his column this morning and looks at Chris Jones, and the rule that obviously came int