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Week 2 Notes and Observations: Patriots Win Ugly Home Opener vs. the Jets, 13-10

Aqib Talib, with his first of two interceptions on the night, helped set the tone for the defense. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

I will preface this by saying that you don’t lose a season in September. No matter how ugly the first two games have been, keep in mind the Patriots are now 2-0 with both wins in the division. Yes they are banged up, and the offense has looked far from sharp, but the defense has now shown up big in two consecutive games in a span of five days. This is going to be a long year for the offense, but the bright spot appears to be that the defense seems to know exactly what its identity is.

First Half

– The first drive looked like maybe this week would be different for the offense. Yes they were helped by a key pass interference penalty on Antonio Cromartie, but they also ran effective plays at an upbeat pace. Tom Brady made sure to get the ball to his only reliable target, Julian Edelman, early and often. The key play came on 3rd and 2 on the Jets’ 39, when Brady ran a play action and quickly got the ball to a wide open Aaron Dobson for the 39-yard touchdown. 

– The touchdown was set up nicely by the fact the Patriots were getting to the line quick and they used a two tight end set with Hoomanawanui and Develin being set in motion. The Jets were caught off guard when Hoomanawanui and Develin were lining up wide and motioning towards the line. The entire defense bit on the play fake, which left Dobson wide open for the easy catch and run.

– The Jets did have a very good drive which led to their only 3 points of the half. Geno Smith definitely looked like a rookie, but there were a few moments that he hung in the pocket and made some plays. He connected with Santonio Holmes on a 27-yard pass on 3rd and 7. What was so impressive was when Smith ate a big hit from Chandler Jones and Michael Buchanan but still hung in to make the pass. He also drew a roughing the passer call to put the ball in Patriots’ territory.

– Luckily for the Patriots, Gates couldn’t hold onto what would have been a touchdown pass, so the Jets had to settle for the field goal.

– As good as Dobson looked on the first touchdown reception, he dropped two passes later in the quarter that he would definitely like to have back. One was on an out route towards the sidelines that slipped through his fingertips. On the next play he was going down the middle of the field and Brady dropped a beautiful pass in his hands, but once again he couldn’t hold on. I understand that there will be growing pains with rookie wide receivers, but if the game against the Bills and the first half of this game is any indication, it’s going to be a long year offensively.

– All the credit in the world to the defense in the first half. Aqib Talib forced a fumble which Devin McCourty returned all the way to the 8 yard line of the Jets. However, the Patriots could only get a field goal. When you get the ball 1st and goal, you need to score a touchdown. There are no excuses.

– When the defense pressured Geno Smith, he made mistakes. He ran out of the pocket after making only one read, and a few times was forced to throw it away. Chandler Jones tallied two first half sacks, while rookie Michael Buchanan notched one of his own. This defense can do some great things when they play up to their ability. They need to pressure quarterbacks with their front seven and that will make the secondary look even better.

– Kyle Arrington always seems away to make his presence known, whether it be good or bad. He was the one covering Holmes on the 27-yard 3rd down catch. But he also had a great tackle on Stephen Hill to stop him a yard short of the 1st down marker on another 3rd down. He also had great coverage on Gates on a seam route that ended up being an incomplete pass on yet another third down.

Second Half

– To say the Patriots looked awful to start the second half would be an understatement. Sure it started pouring, but that really is no excuse. After punts from each team the Jets took the ball down the field and were once again helped by a key 14-yard pass from Smith to Holmes. They capped off the drive with a touchdown run from Bilal Powell.

– Tom Brady has not looked good in the first 8 quarters of this season. I understand he has basically an entirely new cast of offensive weapons, but it appears he is far too fixated on throwing the ball where he expects these guys to be. Brady needs to realize that these receivers aren’t that good. He’s not throwing to Moss and Welker anymore. Brady is going to need to adjust to throw the ball where the receivers are as opposed to where he wants them to be.

– Both teams played sloppy football in this game; the Patriots just happened to have more plays on defense which clearly won them the game. I mentioned earlier that if the front seven can pressure quarterbacks that the secondary can make plays. The evidence is right in this game, as Talib had two interceptions (the second of which iced the game), and Alfonzo Dennard had one himself. With the offense struggling to find any semblance of a rhythm, the defense is going to need to step up and continue making plays.

– The lone bright spot on the offense has been Julian Edelman. He has shown the ability to run the inside and outside routes while catching just about everything thrown his way. The thought right now is that when Gronkowski, Amendola, and Vereen are healthy, Edelman will simply be a complement rather than the focal point of the offense. Until they start getting healthy, however, it will continue to be the Julian Edelman show. Here’s hoping he can stay healthy this season, because clearly they’re going to need him.

– Obviously the elephant in the room is the dropped passes. Thompkins and Dobson are both rookies, so of course there is a learning curve there. The main problem I have with them is that they can’t be dropping passes that hit them in the hands. Wide receivers need to reel those in. In time I do believe these guys will get it and the offense can get back to executing, but it is going to be a long, frustrating road. Buckle up.

– Gostkowski missing the the 43-yard field goal is also something that can’t happen. He’s been doing this for the past few years now and the inconsistency is certainly alarming. Another year like last year and I don’t see him sticking around too much longer.

– All in all, the offense is the biggest question mark and that is alarming when Tom Brady is your quarterback. The bright side in all this is that they did not have a great deal of practice time this week, are riddled with injuries, and are 2-0. A win’s a win and now they have 10 days to prepare for the Buccaneers in Week 3. Over time they will get healthy and Brady and his receivers will get on the same page. In the meantime, the defense is going to be the strength of this team. Judging from how the defense has stepped up in the first two games, though, maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.

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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