|10.21.12 at 5:56 pm ET|
FOXBORO — We are at the half here at Gillette Stadium — here are a few second-quarter notes on one of the stranger games we have seen here in recent memory:
‘¢The Patriots hold a lead, but have still left a lot of points out on the field through the first two quarters. The Jets had a safety, an ill-timed penalty that gave the ball back to New England and a turnover (a pick by rookie Alfonzo Dennard on a horribly thrown ball by Mark Sanchez), but are still only up 16-10.
‘¢The second quarter started nicely for New England, as Vince Wilfork was able to create disruption in the New York backfield — meanwhile, the Jets botched a handoff deep in their own territory for Shonn Greene. After the ball squirted loose, Mark Sanchez kicked it out of the back of the end zone for a safety, giving the Patriots a 16-7 lead. (It was the Patriots’ first safety since 2006.)
‘¢Defensively, the Patriots gave the Jets a little bit of a shakeup, moving to a 3-4 look on several occasions in the second. One of the highlights of the changing looks was the sight of Wilfork moving around to multiple spots on the defensive front. The defensive highlight of the quarter came midway through when Dennard camped under a Sanchez floater, picking off the ball at the New England two-yard line and bringing a New York drive to an end. It was an awful pass by Sanchez, who could have/should have zipped the ball in to Stephen Hill — if he did that, it would have been a New York touchdown.
‘¢Some of the other defensive wrinkles the Patriots presented in the second quarter included the return of linebacker Dont’a Hightower to the regular rotation at linebacker (it marked his first regular action since he went down with a hamstring injury against Buffalo), as well as the continued use (mostly) of Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson at safety. Jermaine Cunningham also continued to get good reps as part of the front seven.
‘¢The Jets were able to put together a short drive at the end of the first half — a 12-play, 59-yard drive that took 3:41 and ended when Nick Folk banged home a 54-yarder with two seconds left in the first half.
‘¢The Patriots got a gift midway through the quarter — they were forced to punt on the drive following Dennard’s touchdown, but a facemask call on the Jets gave the ball back to New England. The Patriots couldn’t make New York pay, however, as they punted four plays later — much to the consternation of the New England fans, who were booing when the punt team came onto the field when it was 4th and two.
‘¢Linebacker Jerod Mayo appeared to suffer some sort of left arm/wrist/shoulder injury just before the end of the half. In addition, special teamer Matthew Slater limped off after New England’s first punt of the second quarter.
‘¢After going the first quarter without a target, Wes Welker had his first reception of the game when he pulled in a 16-yarder on New England’s first drive of the second quarter.
|10.21.12 at 5:09 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The first quarter is in the books here at Gillette Stadium, and here are a few quick notes:
‘¢The highlight of the quarter for the Patriots came midway through when Devin McCourty electrified the Gillette Stadium crowd with a 104-yard kickoff return that tied the game at seven. It was a great read by the defensive back, who went inside and then outside. He delivered a fantastic juke on kicker Nick Folk and ended up taking it all the way back for the second-longest kick return in Patriots’ history.
‘¢The Patriots opened the game using Shane Vereen at running back, and he got the first three touches of the afternoon (two rushes and a pass). New England’s drive ended after the Patriots couldn’t convert a 3rd and nine and ended up punting it away. On New England’s second drive of the afternoon (the Patriots went with Stevan Ridley in the backfield) and were able to get their tight ends involved, with a 19-yard pass play from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski and an 11-yarder to Aaron Hernandez to get deep into Jets’ territory. The drive finished with a flourish when Brady hit Gronkowski for a 17-yard touchdown pass over safety Laron Landry in the corner of the end zone, a brilliant grab for the big tight end.
‘¢The Patriots made a singular change at right guard, subbing in Nick McDonald for Dan Connolly. The Patriots announced that Connolly left the game with an illness, and his return is questionable.
‘¢On defense, the Patriots shuffled Devin McCourty to safety and paired him with rookie Tavon Wilson. (Rookie Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington got the call at cornerback.) On that drive for the Jets, they were able to pick up sizable chunks of yardage through the air: First, there was a Mark Sanchez-to-Jeremy Kerley 23-yard pickup. After a brief cameo from Tim Tebow at quarterback, it was a 26-yard connection from Sanchez to Kerley. Shonn Greene put the capper on an 11-play,. 76-yard drive with a one-yard run to make it 7-0 with 8:51 left in the quarter. (On the touchdown, the Patriots had only 10 players on the field.)
‘¢As for some defensive highlights, Kyle Love had a four-yard sack of Sanchez midway through the quarter that contributed to the Jets eventually having to punt the ball away at the end of their second offensive series of the afternoon. And cornerback Ras-I Dowling had a very nice pass breakup on a third-down pass play for the Jets.
|10.21.12 at 4:16 pm ET|
|10.21.12 at 1:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Clear skies and temperatures in the low 60s are expected for the 4:25 p.m. kickoff between the Jets and Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
Wind could be a moderate factor as forecasts call for a breeze out of the west at 12 mph.
The Jets have ruled out defensive linemen Kenrick Ellis and Sione Pouha, running back Bilal Powell and defensive back Eric Smith.
Rex Ryan is looking to even his all-time record against Bill Belichick as he comes into Sunday’s game with a 3-4 record, including a 24-21 win in the AFC divisional playoff at Gillette Stadium in Jan. 2011.
Tom Brady is a remarkable 15-4 all time against the Jets as a starter in regular season games and 1-1 in the playoffs. Brady has completed 63.6 percent of his passes against the Jets in the regular season and 64.6 percent in two playoff games.
Of course, Brady made his NFL debut against the Jets on Sept. 23, 2001 when Brady replaced Drew Bledsoe, who was knocked out with a life-threatening punctured lung by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. The Jets won that game, 10-3.
But the passing game might not be the best choice of attack today as the Jets have allowed 150 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them 28th in the NFL. The Jets are fifth-best in the NFL in pass defense, allowing just 209 yards per contest.
Whatever route the Patriots take, the Jets will be sure to have the officials keep a close eye on their substitutions after complaining to the NFL about New England’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense.
The Patriots swept the Jets in 2011 on their way to winning the AFC East for the ninth time in 11 seasons. They outscored the Jets, 67-37, in the two games.
|10.21.12 at 8:04 am ET|
|10.20.12 at 11:21 pm ET|
1. Just because we didn’t include the information in our weekly roundup of offensive opportunities: The Patriots ran 85 plays last week against the Seahawks, and 23 of them were in no-huddle (28 percent). By our count, the Patriots have gone no-huddle 32 percent of the time this season. Expect the Jets to try and do whatever it takes to slow things down — New York linebacker Calvin Pace said only half-jokingly that the Patriots’ offense is ‘borderline illegal’ — and that includes reminding the officials about the provisions that allow defenses to react and adapt to changes made in the offensive lineup. ‘It’s going to be a major point of contention before (our) game with the officials to make sure that they know the rule is when they substitute we’re permitted to substitute,’ New York defensive coordinator Rich Pettine told the New York Daily News.
2. Our favorite stat from Nuggetpalooza this week, and something to really look out for on Sunday: The Patriots have run left 96 times this year, the most in the league. Left side rushes make up 44 percent of all Pats’ run plays this season (6th highest percentage), compared to 24 percent up the middle (24th) and 32 percent to the right side (19th). On those lefty rushes, New England has averaged 4.9 yards per carry (11th in the league), compared to 3.4 up the middle (18th) and 3.9 to the right (21st). For what it’s worth, the Jets run defense has been gashed pretty good this season, especially to the offense’s left, where they’ve given up a 5.4 yard average, the fourth-highest total in the league.
3. When Stevan Ridley has run for 100 or more yards, the Patriots are 3-0. When he’s been under the century mark, they’re 0-3. Ridley had 125 yards (Tennessee), 106 yards (Buffalo) and 151 yards (Denver) in New England’s three wins, and 71 yards (Arizona), 37 yards (Baltimore) and 34 yards (Seattle) in the three losses.
4. It was interesting to see the Patriots decide to make Wednesday’s practice a walkthrough — as ESPN colleague Mike Reiss noted, it was perhaps an attempt to manage the team’s health on the heels of a physical loss to the Seahawks and what will likely be another physical game this week against the Jets. Regardless, I can’t remember another time the Patriots have used a Wednesday practice during the regular season to engage in a walkthrough.
5. To make room for Terrell Suggs on the roster, the Ravens released the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Sergio Kindle, which likely brings down a short but eventful career in Baltimore for the former second-round pick. It will be interesting to see if anyone takes a chance on Kindle, a highly-touted pass rusher out of Texas who never really lived up to his rep in the pros. He was taken with the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 draft — one pick after Rob Gronkowski — but had several off-field incidents, that included multiple arrests for drunk driving and a fall down the stairs that resulted in a fractured skull. It’s unlikely that he’d be able to have an impact this season, but I could see a team grabbing him now and stashing him on IR for the rest of the season, getting him in their system for an extended stretch and then seeing what they have when spring workouts roll around.
|10.20.12 at 7:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When he wasn’t wearing a onesie on Friday, Stevan Ridley was on the field preparing for a Jets defense that the Patriots hope to turn into child’s play.
The 3-3 Jets come in with a pass defense that is ranked fifth in the entire NFL, allowing just 209 yards a game. Their run defense is a different story altogether. They are allowing 150.5 yards per contest, 28th in the NFL.
So, for all the talk about whether the Jets will run against the Patriots or attack their secondary, the better question might be just how much the Patriots and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will use a rushing attack that – before last week – posted consecutive 200-yard games for the first time since 1978.
Last week, the Patriots managed just 87 yards on 26 carries, 3.3 yards per carry. Ridley netted a season-low 34 yards on 16 attempts.
“It’s the Jets, man,” Ridley said of what to expect this Sunday, careful not to give away trade secrets. “They’ve got players, they’ve got athletes, they’ve got people up there that have been there for a while with linebackers that have experience. They’re a solid defense and we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game if we want to win. Everybody’s 3-3, nobody’s one-up on anyone. So, for us, Sunday is a day for us to come out and playing ball against against a solid defense, and we have to be a solid offense to get where we want to be.”
Ridley also repeated a motto that has been coming down from the top this year from Bill Belichick.
“Keep working hard, keep working hard,” Ridley said. “We’re going to go against different defenses each week and some people going to do some things differently. They might defend the pass a little bit better, they might defend the run a little bit better but week-in and week-out, you just have to prepare the same way and hope for the best on Sunday.”
“We just have to keep working. It’s a 60-minute football game. You can’t 40 minutes, can’t play 45 or 50, you have to play it all the way to the end. For us, whether it’s finishing the game, starting off fast or whatever, it has to be a complete football game, and that’s what coach has been stressing to us. It doesn’t matter if we try to turn it on at the end or start off hot, if we don’t do all four quarters, play all four quarters, play all 60 minutes, the chances of us finishing with a win and the way we want to do it, aren’t high.”
Ridley, of course, was referencing last week’s meltdown when he ran the ball twice into the line for one-yard gains and the offense chose a bad time for only its fifth three-and-out this season as the Patriots lost a 13-point lead and the game.
“As a team, we have to blame ourselves,” he added. “It’s not anybody else, it’s not anything else that they’ve done, it’s not anything else another team has done. It’s us as a team. We have to continue to improve and continue to build on what we’re working on.”