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Week 7 Notes and Observations: Patriots Let One Slip Away, Lose to Jets 30-27 in OT

Rob Gronkowski made his much anticipated season debut, but it wasn't enough as the Patriots fell to the Jets in OT. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

We are all aware of the controversial call that ended up winning the game for the Jets. Yes, that was an awful call at a critical moment in the game, but you can’t allow the game to be in the referees’ hands. NFL officials, or officials in any sport for that matter, have shown that they can make bad calls at any moment. While it is easy to blame the refs for costing the Patriots this game, the fact is they should have never been in that position in the first place.

- Let’s take care of the elephant in the room first. Rob Gronkowski made his long awaited season debut yesterday, and he looked as good as ever. He was sporting some armor on that left arm, but it didn’t appear to hinder his style of play at all. On his very first catch, Gronkowski took a hit on the left arm from three Jets’ defenders and didn’t even flinch. It was calming to get that first hit on the arm out of the way, and it definitely instilled some confidence moving forward. He finished the day with 8 catches and 114 yards. 

- My one issue with Gronk returning was the impact it had on Tom Brady. While it was great that he now has one of his best weapons back, I couldn’t help but notice that this took away from how he spread the ball around. There were a couple occasions where Brady was trying to force the ball into Gronk, who was being double covered. If Gronk is seeing double coverage, that means someone else is open. The only time they took advantage of this is when Brady hit Brandon Bolden on the underneath wheel route. That play was nullified due to offsetting penalties.

- Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Austin Collie, and Julian Edelman combined for 11 catches. Four wide receivers combined only had three more catches than the Patriots tight end. That is a problem. Brady needs to use Gronkowski’s presence as a way to take attention away from the other receivers. There were more than a few times where Brady missed the open man in an attempt to feed the ball to Gronk. Even when Brady was throwing to the open man, his throw was off the mark.

- You can blame a lot on the drops by the receivers but you have to see that Brady is missing open guys at an alarming rate. This is now two out of the last three games where Brady has an interception and no touchdowns. After he went 52 straight games with a touchdown, he all of a sudden looks like he doesn’t know how to get the ball into the endzone.

- The offense looked strong in the first half. It wasn’t anything special but they were showing they could move the ball on the Jets’ defense. The second half was a completely different story. It definitely didn’t help that the second half started off with a pick-six for the Jets, but after that the offense never got going. They finished the second half with only 6 points. That is why they lost the game, not because the refs blew a late call.

- Through seven weeks of this season, the New England offense is still trying to find its identity. The game plan is all over the place. Brady’s timing is still way off, and when the running game looks good, they don’t use it enough. I still think they will get it together towards the end of the season, but I don’t think anyone expected the growing pains to last this long. The most alarming part of this is how bad Brady has played. Really, this team could be 1-6 with the way they have played this year. The only game they really put away was the game against the Buccaneers. As bad as they have played they are still 5-2 and in first in the division. Here’s hoping the offense gets it together.

- Now onto the defense. We all know they were banged up yesterday. No Vince Wilfork, no Jerod Mayo, no Tommy Kelly, and no Aqib Talib. With Talib, Wilfork, and Mayo out, the Patriots were missing their best defenders at each level of the defense. All in all they didn’t have a terrible game. The run defense looked surprisingly strong with two rookie defensive tackles in Joe Vellano and Chris Jones. Yes, the Jets had 177 yards rushing, but that was on 52 carries. That’s only an average of 3.4 yards a carry.

- Jeremy Kerley was their biggest headache. No matter where he was on the field, Kerley was catching passes, most of which converted third downs. It was frustrating to see because no matter how many catches he had, he was still allowed to run open through zone defenses. You have to make an adjustment to take away their biggest threat, and on this day that was Kerley.

- The biggest issue with the defense yesterday, and it appears to be an ongoing issue, was the inability to get off the field on 3rd down. These weren’t just 3rd and 2′s either. They allowed conversions on a 3rd and 21 and a 3rd and 14. Those 3rd and longs cannot be allowed. This game could have been completely different had the defense bore down on 3rd downs. The Jets were 11-of-21 on 3rd downs, while the Patriots were 1-for-12. Another major reason the game resulted in a loss.

- There was some good yesterday as Chandler Jones showed that he is continually getting better. He found ways to get to the quarterback on a few occasions, while registering two sacks and a forced fumble. It appears that he is stepping up in the absence of the veteran defensive lineman Wilfork and Kelly.

- Joe Vellano and Chris Jones also showed that they can play at a high level. There was nothing awe inspiring about either of them but they are doing the little things right, which is really all you can ask for in rookies. The penalty on Chris Jones in overtime still does not seem to be the right call (though Belichick shockingly admitted on Monday he was wrong after all), but at least he owned up to it at the end of the game. You can bet he’s going to be working his butt off to prove to the team an error like that won’t happen again.

- Logan Ryan showed some promise yesterday. He jumped a route that led to a pick-six and his man coverage was solid. He had the one misstep where he fell down on the pass that Geno Smith just heaved to Nelson. He already looked better in outside coverage than Kyle Arrington. Arrington struggled yesterday in outside coverage as he usually does, which led to Marquice Cole stepping in and playing a good portion of the game. Cole played well except when Smith scrambled for the touchdown. Cole was thinking too much of protecting the sideline and gave the middle of the field to Smith. Dont’a Hightower was also tentative in stepping up and challenging Smith and it allowed him to scamper right in. Those are the miscues you could expect from a now very young defense.

- When the defense put pressure on Smith he made mistakes and looked uncomfortable. When they gave him all the time in the world to throw, he picked them apart. Smith is predominately a one read quarterback. When you pressure him it brings that characteristic out and forces him into making mistakes. The Patriots didn’t send enough pressure all day and it allowed Smith to sit back and wait for guys to get open. With the absence of Talib, there should have been more of an attempt to pressure Smith.

- You never want to lose a game to a division rival this way. The Patriots definitely let one slip away and it wasn’t the refs’ fault. Blame it on an offense that is still struggling to find its way.

About Steve Bastek - @sbastek12

Graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BA in Communication studies. I've been a Boston sports fan all my life and enjoy having the opportunity to write about it.

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