|10.09.11 at 10:05 pm ET|
The crowd was buzzing after the opening play of the second half had the Patriots looking to add to a slim 10-7 halftime lead. Then, BenJarvus Green-Ellis went up the middle for a yard.
Then, Brady was flushed out of the pocket, running for his life like he had all afternoon and found Deion Branch at the Jets 3. Branch caught the ball with no one on him. He touched his right knee to the turf but since no one got to him, he was free to get up and advance. But before he could, Calvin Pace came over and poke the ball out from Branch’s arms.
The Jets recovered and hustled on the field but Bill Belichick immediately threw the red challenge flag. The play would be reviewed. Was Branch certain it would be overruled?
“Honestly even when I saw it on the jumbotron, I was like it’s going to be a close one, it could go either way,” Branch admitted. “It’s one of those bang-bang plays. Yeah my knee was down but it could have gone the other way as well.”
Branch had one HUGE mulligan. Instead of a momentum-killing fumble and turnover, the Patriots had new life. Branch took advantage by making Antonio Cromartie look very foolish on a curl route in the back of the end zone. Naturally, Brady found him for the quarterback’s only TD pass of the day.
“Oh that would have been big,” Branch said of the turnover that wasn’t. “That one would have been big. Because you can almost, if you think about it, we were in the red area and Wes caught a 73-yard pass play, got us down to the 10 yard line and then if that would have happened, it would have taken all the air out of us. Starting out the second half, we always preach about starting fast, both halves and we did that. That would have been bad, but I’m glad it went the other way. ”
|10.09.11 at 9:40 pm ET|
That’s because Branch thinks Brady is one of the best fighters he’s ever seen in the NFL.
Brady was sacked just four times in the first four games. He was sacked four times alone in Sunday’s 30-21 win over the pressure-hungry Jets. He was also hit five times and pressured several more times throughout the 60 minutes. But Brady managed to 24-of-33 passes for 321 yards and a nine-yard touchdown to Branch. Brady took some hits but kept on counter-punching.
“That’s Tom, though,” Branch said. “This guy’s a fighter, he’s a winner, he’s our leader. He has to get up, we expect him to get up. Now, the next thing for us is to make sure we protect him and for the receivers to make sure we get open fast enough so he can get us the ball and the front line to do to block up good enough so he can do his job.
“But we know he’s going to get up. He’s knows those guys are fighting for him.”
Those guys are offensive line. They had their hands full all afternoon in what was not one of their best games. But Brady hung in the pocket as long as he could, taking at least one sack because his receivers were covered.
“We’re not even worried about the toughness with Tom,” Branch said. “It’s just overall making sure we’re doing the right thing. The times he was hit was when we were making mistakes. It wasn’t like guys were really beat. That’s stuff was just, ‘Hey, he just missed a block.’ Sometimes, you’re going to lose. It’s just all about tightening up the next one.”
“Great player,” Branch said. “The guy just took advantage of opportunities today. Coaches gave him the ball, front line said, ‘Hey, we’re going to run.’ That’s what we did.”
Branch was asked if Green-Ellis served the same role on Sunday that a closer does in baseball. Nope. That’s the job of the offensive line, according to Branch.
“The front line is the closer,” Branch said. “They start it and they finish it. It starts with them. However far this team goes, it’s going to start with them and it’s going to end with them. As long as they protect in the pass game, and they run block, we’ll be OK. We all get the extra credit on the outside but all the credit really, truly goes to those guys. The things they do and what coach Scarnecchia puts them through, one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, period. This guy puts them through everything. We have to protect our pride and joy and they do that.”
|10.09.11 at 9:38 pm ET|
In a critical play at the end of the first half, tight end Aaron Hernandez looked a lot like a player who was just coming back from an injury.
With the Patriots at the Jets’ 11-yard line and less than 10 seconds left in the half, Tom Brady fired the ball to Hernandez in the front-left side of the end zone. The pass was right on target, but the ball bounced off Hernandez and went flying into the air, into the waiting hands of Jets’ cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was tackled near midfield to end the half.
So was Brady mad that Hernandez had caused him to throw the first red zone interception of his career at Gillette Stadium?
“No, [Brady] always is positive and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it, let it go,'” Hernandez said. “As a player, you love the game, it hurts you. It’ll still bothers me until this night’s over. But like I said you have to turn your game around and bring it back next week.”
Yet for most of the game it was like Hernandez had never been out of the lineup. He was targeted a team-high nine times, hauling in five passes for 56 yards and was a component in the blocking game that sprung BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a career-high 136 rushing yards.
After missing New England’s last two games with an injured left knee, Hernandez was forced to wear a knee brace, which contributed to a slight hitch in his gait.
“I felt pretty good out there,” Hernandez said. “[The brace] slowed me down a little bit, but you don’t really think about it when you’re out there.”
Hernandez got some advice on wearing a brace from Wes Welker who had to wear one after he tore both his ACL and MCL at the end of the 2009 season.
“Wes told me it’s going to feel a little weird, but when you’re in the moment at a game with all them fans out there, national TV, you kind of forget about the brace,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez was on the field for 60 of the Patriots’ 72 offensive plays. He went to the locker room momentarily after coming down awkwardly when he tried to catch a jump ball in the second quarter, but he returned to play the rest of the game and reported no more issues with the knee after the game.
Hernandez’ return also gave the Patriots their full arsenal of receiving options, opening up the field for Brady and the offense. Welker caught five passes for 124 yards and was happy to have Hernandez back in the fold.
“Aaron is such a great player, anytime you can get more weapons out there on the field and more places that we can go with the ball, it’s always going to help us out,” Welker said. “It’s always great to get those weapons out there.”
Also returning after missing the last two games was Albert Haynesworth, who was held out with a back injury. Haynesworth played 18 snaps and looked winded at times, even cramping up at the beginning of the fourth quarter. But he was a presence for New England in the trenches when he was in the game.
“I just caught a little cramp, but nothing serious at all,” Haynesworth said. “I felt good being out there.”
The Patriots’ defense showed marked improvement from the first four weeks of the season, forcing seven three-and-outs on the Jets’ 12 possessions. New York had just 255 yards of total offense and made only two trips to the red zone in the game.
“We know we have the talent, we have all the parts, we just needed to put it together and that’s what we did,” Haynesworth said. “Some of you guys were saying that we didn’t have a shot because Jerod [Mayo] wasn’t out there but we wanted to step up and show that it was a good defense and no matter who comes in for him, they can play just as well.”
|10.09.11 at 8:39 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The key moment in Sunday’s game came when the Patriots were able to put together an 11-play, 77-yard drive toward the end of the third quarter that allowed them to put some distance between themselves and the Jets in the second half, stretching the New England lead to 24-14.
On that sequence, the Patriots got 23 of the 77 yards from running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who finished the afternoon with 136 yards, his first 100-yard game of the season. They also got a 17-yard pickup from Rob Gronkowski, but it was Green-Ellis who carried the Patriots down the stretch. He had 85 yards in the second half, and allowed New England to engineer 11-play and 13-play drives to keep the clock moving and close out the game.
“When you get in those situations, you have to play situational football, and obviously, you don’t want to give them the ball back and give them a chance to go down and score, and we were kind of able to do that tonight,” Green-Ellis said. “That’s always a plus — we had a game where we weren’t able to finish with the ball in our hands. … We pride ourselves on being able to do that.
“You always want to be able to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park, and we were able to do those things,” he added. “But it’s not just an individual effort. It was all 11 guys out there. Nothing happens without those guys up front, and I think they did an extremely good job of allowing me to make reads and get cuts off those guys.”
“Benny, he’s a great guy to block for,” said offensive lineman Logan Mankins. “He’s going to read the play, he’s going to find the right hole, he’s not going to fumble. He’s going to do the right thing. He’s going to give you everything he’s got. He’s a great guy to block for.”
“The first thing you notice about him is that he works so hard,” said offensive lineman Brian Waters of Green-Ellis. “He tries to get every yard. He definitely has always run the ball the right way, and he always makes sure to give full effort to get every yard, and you can count on him finishing every run.”
|10.09.11 at 7:20 pm ET|
FOXBORO ‘The Patriots moved to 4-1 on the season Sunday, using a career effort from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, another 300-yard passing game from Tom Brady (and another 100-yard receiving game from Wes Welker) and the best defensive performance of the season to defeat the Jets, 30-21. The Patriots — who are tied with the Bills for first in the AFC East — will host the Cowboys next Sunday.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the dominant player on the Patriots’ opening TD drive, picking up 30 yards on six carries and dragging Sione Puoha into the end zone on his three-yard TD rush. Green-Ellis picked up his second TD of the game in the third quarter, capping an 11-play, 77-yard drive with another three-yard score. Green-Ellis, who finished the game with a career-high 136 yards on 27 carries, has 18 rushing TDs since the start of the 2010 season, most in the NFL. Green-Ellis also carried the Patriots in what was the most important drive of the game, picking up a pair of first downs (including a third-and-4 rush) to kill the clock in the final minutes of the game following a Santonio Holmes TD.
— Oft-maligned (and correctly so), the Patriots defense was solid against a mediocre Jets offense (particularly in the first three quarters). Through the first four games, the Patriots had held opponents to a total of eight three-and-outs. On Sunday the Jets had seven three-and-outs. Mark Sanchez threw for just 144 yards on 26 pass attempts, and the Jets could only manage 13 first-downs. The Patriots had allowed 488 yards of offense per game in the first four weeks. Sunday? 241 yards. As the year goes on this might turn out to be more an indictment of Sanchez and the Jets, but the Patriots defense had its strongest effort of the year on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »
|10.09.11 at 5:37 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots and the Jets are done with two quarters here at Gillette Stadium, and New England holds a 10-7 lead. Here are a few quick notes:
‘¢ The Jets opened in a 3-1-7 formation against the Patriots — the same way they approached the playoff game last year — and had a variety of coverages on Wes Welker. He lined up opposite Darrelle Revis in man coverage often, but they also zoned it up a bit, as well. (The surest way to spot it? The Patriots sent Welker in motion a whole lot over the first half, and whenever Revis trailed after him, it was a pretty good sign New York was in man coverage.) Welker ended the first half with three catches for 47 yards.
‘¢ With New York utilizing so many defensive backs, New England took advantage, running the ball for serious yardage over the first two quarters. On the first scoring drive of the game for the Patriots, BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball four straight times for 27 yards, with the final carry going for three yards and a touchdown to make it 7-0 with 7:36 left in the first quarter.
Green-Ellis ended the first half with eight carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. Overall, the New England offense was bogged down a bit in the second quarter, but still managed a 44-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to make it 10-0 with 11:15 left in the second. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 13-for-17 for 157 yards, but ended the first half with a pick deep in the New York red zone on a ball meant for Aaron Hernandez that went off his hands and landed in the breadbasket of New York corner Antonio Cromartie. (Brady was also sacked three times by the Jets.)
‘¢ The two big injury questions marks on both sides — Hernandez and Jets center Nick Mangold both got some serious run in the first half. Hernandez caught three balls for 26 yards while Mangold went the first two quarters without incident. (Hernandez briefly went to the locker room early in the second quarter, while New England was able to get its first sack since Week Two when Mark Anderson brought down Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez in the first quarter.)
‘¢ Defensively, the Patriots put together an impressive performance against the Jets, at least in the early going. The Jets didn’t get a first down until just over 10 minutes were left in the first half when Sanchez hit Plaxico Burress on a 19-yard pass play. On that same drive, New York went back to the ground and pound attack, chewing up plenty of play clock. For the Jets, it was a 13-play, 78-yard drive that took 7:54 and ended with a Shonn Greene touchdown run from three yards out to make it 10-7 with 3:24 left in the half.
|10.09.11 at 3:50 pm ET|