Amazing how much a late comeback can change one’s point of view. Trailing 17-16, the Patriots strode down the field with help from the arm and brain of quarterback Tom Brady, who needed all of three minutes, eight seconds to go 83 yards resulting in the winning TD pass to rookie Malcolm Mitchell. Defensive end Chris Long’s day-long efforts were rewarded with a forced fumble on Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to give the Patriots possession with 1:43 left, effectively ending the game.

This marks Brady’s 200th overall win (regular season and playoffs), tying him for most all-time with Peyton Manning. Not too shabby.

The late-game wizardry became necessary after a first quarter that contained all the magic of a concrete brick. The fired-up home team bolted out to a 10-0 lead and, with Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski leaving the game with a back injury, looked poised to play rude hosts to New England. Brady tied it up with his first touchdown pass of the day to Mitchell, after the QB essentially made a bounce pass to himself to heighten the degree of difficulty. You can watch a highlight reel of Brady’s day here, including his inexplicable use of The Force as he kinda-sorta blocked for LeGarrette Blount around the left end without actually touching anyone. He simultaneously gets in the way while becoming a ghost. Weird play.

Now the Patriots sit alongside the Raiders atop the AFC with 9-2 records. New England hosts the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday at 1 p.m.

Player/Team Observations

Drawn And Quartered: This was the first time New England failed to score in the first quarter. Including the first four seconds of the second quarter, the visitors got outscored 10-0 and put themselves in a significant hole to start the game. It didn’t help that the Patriots came out with about as much enthusiasm as cats forced to wear reindeer antlers. They came back strong in the second quarter with 10 points, then put up another nine in the fourth. New England lost momentum at times, which partly could have been caused by Gronkowski’s absence, but the defense gave up some completions that did not bode well for future contests against better passing teams. In the end, though, the D kept the Jets off the scoreboard for the final 10 minutes as the Pats put up the points necessary to win.

Will they string together four full quarters of football this week, and maybe after that? We shall see.

Oh Brady, You, You Got What I Kneed: He would never tell (and during his weekly interview on WEEI, he pointed to other possible factors like overeagerness), but Brady seemed to be affected by his recent knee injury. Yes, the Jets defense deserves some credit, simply for the fact that they know the Patriots well and always seem to get up for these tilts. Still, for Brady to end up completing passes at a 60 percent rate, and to miss as many receivers as he did along the sideline, especially in the early going, it appeared that something physical must have been amiss. Something to keep an eye on for next week, including any limitations to Brady’s practice time.

Let’s Take Off Your Tights And See What Happens: The Patriots entered the game with two tight ends and ended the game with about half of one. Gronk had to leave in the first quarter with an apparent back injury that may have occurred diving for a football as a defender landed on him. Bennett tried to contribute after crawling off the field with his tweaked ankle, but he couldn’t do much as a receiver. He ended up with three catches for 22 yards, while Gronk left the game before catching a pass.

Without two tight ends, the Patriots had to switch up the offense. Eventually, they managed to do so. How, you may ask?

The Grateful Eight: In Gronk’s absence, New England had eight different players catch passes on Sunday. Five receivers got involved in the game’s final touchdown drive. Brady found Julian Edelman for 24 yards across the middle, Dion Lewis for 16 on a gentle floater toward the sideline, Edelman again for six, James White for a crucial four on fourth down, Chris Hogan for 25 down the seam, and Mitchell for eight yards at about the two-foot line before he wheeled into the end zone past cornerback/observer Darrelle Revis.

Add Bennett, Danny Amendola, and James Develin, and you’ve got your pass-catching crew. If you needed proof that Brady has a knack for finding the open guy, Sunday’s game provided it.

The Long And The Short Of It: Oh, thank you, Chris Long. Thank you for your constant hustle and for your veteran presence. Thank you for your tenacity. And thank you for making sure those characteristics paid off with a timely strip-sack that returned the football to your team so they could run out the clock. This provided a perfect example of what a turnover can do for a team. The Patriots have historically benefited from their positive turnover ratio. They need to get it going again to gain momentum and secure home field advantage in the playoffs.

Feeling Punchy: Kudos to Malcolm Butler for going after the football like he heard it make fun of his mom, punching it out of the grip of Robby Anderson for the Patriot defense’s first turnover in about four years. (Note: it was three weeks, but it seemed like a lot longer.) Butler didn’t have a great game: Jets’ receivers’ height became as much of an issue as an NBA center’s in a basement full of ceiling fans. Lateral position didn’t seem to matter as much as vertical position; Butler got out-jumped on a couple of big plays.

Lonely Island: Remember 2014 Revis? Remember when he could shut off half the field from opposing quarterbacks? I remember that guy, and I don’t think he’s shown up in Jersey this season. On their final drive, both Edelman and Mitchell seemed to get clear as effortlessly as penguins popping out of the water.

Watching Revis play reminds me of my senior year in college, after a few months of letting myself go. I went to play racquetball with my roommate, and I remember a specific moment when the ball bounced a few feet in front of me: my brain said, “Go,” and my feet said, “Wait: now?” Physically, I was a step behind what I wanted to do – what I had previously been able to do without thinking. Revis’ brain gets him in the right area, his body just fails him for that extra step or two. Strange to watch this decline in real time, while interesting to see if he can get that ability back.

Kick Out The Jams: Yup. Time to worry about kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed a 39-yarder on Sunday. The Patriots won, so this didn’t come into play as much as it could have, but Gostkowski has definitely been over-compensating his kicks depending on what hash mark he kicks from. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that he missed from the right hash mark by pushing the ball too far to the left. It’s a weird time, especially now that we have grown to perceive his misses the same way we do hiccups: we all think we might have a cure for them, but none of us really knows.

We’ll just be holding our breath and hoping for the best.

Random Observations

Go Fourth And Prosper: Whether or not Gostkowski had made his kick, I appreciated the Patriots going for it on fourth down during their final scoring drive. Too much was made of the idea that Bill Belichick didn’t trust Gostkowski to attempt a 54-yarder down 17-16 with just under three minutes left. The way Brady was passing – especially on the underneath routes – four yards seemed easier to get than a long field goal, no matter how well their kicker was doing. More pressing would have been the amount of time the Jets would have had to play with, including two timeouts, needing only a field goal to win.

No, going for it remains the proper call. Even if they didn’t score a TD, the Patriots could have run down the clock and/or have made New York use up their timeouts and set up their kicker for a much more makable field goal. It was a nice play by running back White to stretch for enough yardage, and the right play call at the time regardless of the kicker.

Reach Out, Reach Out: And with praise comes a bit of prodding in our note to White (and to Blount re: a couple of weeks ago vs. Seattle), when you find yourself near the goal line with the ball – and I mean, like, close enough to slow dance with it – just reach the football toward it. All you have to do is break the plane, which means the tip of the ball just has to kiss the vertical wall that would rise from the goal line. That’s it. So, if you’re running toward the pylon, Mr. White, maybe shift the ball over to your inside arm so that the two-point conversion counts and your fans can go into the ensuing Jets’ possession knowing the worst they could do is tie.

Make sense? Good.

Pack O’ Bills Cannon: Strike up the music for right tackle Marcus Cannon, who signed a five-year contract extension with the Patriots. He has been appraised as the most consistent lineman in New England this season. Someday, someone (maybe line coach Dante Scarnecchia himself) will explain how the differences in coaching affected Cannon’s performance so sharply this season. This year he has seemed invisible, a positive trait for an offensive lineman. Last year, he seemed non-existent.

Seahawks. See Hawks Lose: As your weekly proof of the weirdness of the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks lost 14-5 to Tampa Bay, which sounds like a lopsided Red Sox score.

Me: The Red Sox lost 14-5? Who the hell pitched?

Sidekick: Everybody! (ba-da-BOOM!)

Ah, I’ve always wanted a sidekick. Anyway, the Seahawks got their safety from a holding call in the end zone, not a sack or tackle for loss, so even that wasn’t very cool. Just one of those things. Interesting read here in The Seattle Times by columnist Larry Stone re: was this just a fluke, or are there concerns? Stone says it’s probably the former.

Plain Brown Wrap-up: Oh, the poor, poor Cleveland Browns. At 0-12, it’s just not funny anymore. This is a team that has just enough talent to keep games close but not enough to actually win it. It also takes maximum effort from everyone, and for one play at least, former Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins seemed to escort Odell Beckham into the end zone rather than push him out of bounds, as Kevin Dillon on Masslive.com pointed out.

My heart goes out to those fans. A little over 20 years ago, the New England franchise freed itself from “perpetual punchline” status. Here’s hoping Browns fans can experience that soon.

Shaking Off The Rust: If you’re above a certain age, and you read the names Rod Rust, Zeke Mowatt, or Scott Sisson, specific scenarios come to mind, none of them good. Before the triumvirate of Robert Kraft, Bill Parcells, and Drew Bledsoe stuck roots in Foxboro (though, in Parcells’ case, they were characteristically short roots), New England fielded a quirky, erratic, funny-from-the-outside franchise. Most years, fans hoped for 9-7, a mere winning record, just to demonstrate signs of possible consistency. From The Electric Goal Post incident to a case of sexual harassment in the locker room, the Patriots franchise found ways to embarrass their fans off the field as often as they did on it.

This calls to mind something my father used to say about life: why practice misery? Why make it a habit? If the Patriots are good – and they have secured their 16th winning season in a row, so we can say that with confidence – so why obsess over what’s not so good? ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss called Sunday’s victory New England’s best of the year. Even if you disagree, it’s a topic worthy of discussion that shouldn’t be dismissed, right? The Patriots need improvement in a few areas, yet we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that, despite an eventful and strange season, they have a 9-2 record and play three of their last five games at home. What, exactly, are we worried about? Not winning the Super Bowl? That’s our biggest concern?

I direct you to our old pal Fitzy in this video from February 2015 (NSFW). Fans should enjoy this: enjoy watching the best coach and the best quarterback navigate a system that’s stacked against those who succeed. Appreciate what perpetual success feels like. New England has done more in 16 years than they did in their previous 40. Exponentially more. Of course we can make critical observations, but we should do so in context.

Just Desserts: A quick etiquette question here. When you bring dessert to a dinner party, what claims to you have on said dessert? If, for example, the hosts offer several courses so that very few guests want dessert – or maybe another one is available and captures more diners’ imaginations – is it then within your rights to take back at least some of said offering, or have you given it to the hosts for their safekeeping/consumption over the course of the coming week? Because, if it happens to be one of your favorite after-dinner foods, then maybe you should get some of it back?

Asking for a friend.

The Walking (And Walking And Walking) Dead: For years, “The Walking Dead” has focused on two characters, along with the three or four people with whom they’ve aligned themselves. Every once in a while, the writers try to branch out and follow one semi-regular character, often on a solo mission, and these episodes yield mixed results. Not sure what purpose this Tara episode served, other than to unnecessarily highlight a potential future plot point. But, we already know other colonies exist, right? Do we need details on another one? Also, exactly how far does Negan’s realm stretch? Have they traveled 50 miles? One hundred? Too bad that this episode served as a reminder of one of the dumbest plot choices of the past couple of seasons, when a character who had no business venturing outside of the walls did so for no apparent reason and, of course, suffered the consequences of seeming like a decent person and finding emotional growth in the zombie apocalypse. Death sentence.

One last note: I totally get the idea that zombie movies don’t exist in this world, so we get all sorts of nicknames for the dead, including walkers, biters, lurkers, and bobbers for those who live close to water. But the idea of zombies goes back hundreds of years. In the Kongo language of West Africa, “nzambi” means “spirit of a dead person.” Haitians practicing voodoo spoke of slaves coming back from the dead to work the fields. Now, writing a dead-come-to-life show without using the word “zombies” is like having a vampire show where Bram Stoker never wrote Dracula. It seems kind of strange and, again, unnecessary. Kind of like sticking to the “No Halloween Candy Before Dinner” rule no matter what. I mean, what’s left at this point, malted milk balls? A WarHeads hard candy? No need to be so stubborn.

I’m Pretty F**kin’ Far From Okay: Well, this should cheer you up. I figured it was time to start linking to an OK Go video each week. This week’s is their most recent, for a song called “The One Moment.” It took 4.2 seconds to film and is choreographed in slow motion over the course of a four-minute song. Pretty cool. You can see it here.

On to the Rams. Now that they’ve moved, we can break out the “This Is Boston, Not L.A.” theme.

Chris Warner attended the Electric Goalpost Game and remembers it being as crazy as it seemed. Email at chris.warner@patriotsdaily.com or tweet: @cwarn89

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8 thoughts on “Patriots Thursday Observations, Jets Review

  1. Chris, good write-up.

    However, I’m afraid I’ve got you beat: You “attended” the Electric Goal Post Game? Well sir, I not only attended it, I actually SAW the goal post hit the high-tension wire along Route 1, and saw the flash of white/blue light that accompanied the contact of the pole against the wire.

    The idiots who carried the pole out of the stadium were walking along the other side of Route 1 (opposite from my friends and I, as we were walking back to our car). Apparently, they got a little tired from carrying the thing all the way out of the stadium to where they were at that point, so they put it down and inexplicably stood it up on one end (rather than just placing the whole thing down on the ground for a couple of minutes). The post was then leaned forward — again, inexplicably — and the top of it made contact with the electrical wire.

    Our first thoughts were: “Oh wow, that flash of light was cool.” Our next thoughts were: “Um, if anyone was holding onto that pole when it hit the wire, they could be in big trouble.”

    Not to our surprise, after we crossed over the road to inspect the situation, we saw the guys lying on the ground, either unconscious or barely conscious, and possibly squirming a little (that memory is a bit hazy 31 years later, but I seem to remember it anyway…)

    Crazy day….but it was a great game, and a great win, and it led to what was up until that point the greatest month of Patriots football ever.

    In fact, I can still see Robert Weathers galloping 41 yards for the game-clinching touchdown on 4th and inches late in the fourth quarter. He ran straight at us, as we were sitting in the corner section right above that end zone. Tony Eason’s long TD bomb to Stanley Morgan earlier in the game also happened in that end zone, so we had a great look at it.

    That was a really, really fun game to watch.

    1. Tony, I love this story. I remember watching fans rushing onto the field and thinking it would be fun, but coming to my senses and heading out with my friends and one friend’s father. On the Weathers run, we all jumped up in excitement (seats halfway up, around 20-yard line), and my buddy and I got showered in warm booze someone had snuck in and spilled (my bet would be Wild Irish Rose). Such a crazy game – I remember some shirtless guys running around the stadium. A playoff game, really, that sparked a historic run.
      Thanks for writing in.

  2. Desserts are a gift to the host. Indulge yourself if all the desserts are offered for consumption, but do not under any circumstances take any back home.

    I’m such a longtime Pats fan I remember when a touchdown drive seemed like a victory, so I give you a HELL YES PEOPLE APPRECIATE THIS FOR GOD’S SAKE for noting this is a good team and we should quit with the #-$)#& whining. Thanks.

    1. Actually, to further this narrative, I saw the “Football Life” featuring Chuck Noll on the NFLN last night (I know, I shouldn’t be giving them any of my money, but I do like the NFL Films stuff they run).

      Anyway, Noll’s widow was interviewed extensively for the piece, and she said that after Pittsburgh won Super Bowl 14 (that was #4 for them) in January 1980, Noll told her, right after the game was over, that she needed to buckle in for a long, bumpy ride, “because we’re an old team and we haven’t been able to pick high in the draft (because of winning too much).”

      And Noll was right, after SB 14, the Steelers didn’t get back to another one for the remainder of his time there (through 1991), though they did have a few “just OK” playoff teams.

      Why do I bring this up? Because even though Noll didn’t have high draft picks, he had the luxury of having the complete core of his team together for 6 straight seasons (1974-79). He never had to worry about a salary cap or losing a Greene, Swann, Stallworth, Lambert, Webster, Harris, Blount, or Ham to free agency; and yet, after the sixth year together, everything began to go south due to the lack of high draft picks.

      Belichick, meanwhile, with the same “no high draft picks” handicap as Noll, yet with the additional handicaps of free agency/salary cap (and the league office trying like hell to take-down his team off the field), has managed to crank out 16 straight winning seasons, 6 Super Bowl appearances, 4 Super Bowl wins, 10 AFC title game appearances (including 5 in a row)….the list goes on and on.

      Despite all that, the only thing some media people (and an alarming number of fans) around here can do is complain that he’s “only” won 1 Super Bowl since 2004, Never mind that, with even a smidgeon less bad luck with injuries, fluke plays, dropped passes, bad bounces, crappy officiating, etc., that “1” since 2004 could easily be “4.”

      Perspective is everything….

  3. The Jets were and are a garbage team. This was a sloppy win. Breer and Felger were correct, it was a W but it was a sh*t W. When you read that BB said practice was sloppy, that Brady sat out, that’s a signal guys, you saw that on Sunday. BB is a, ‘you play like you practice’ coach.

    Now with Gronk out for two months they better sharpen up and focus on both sides of the ball. As for dessert, ‘You can’t have any pudding if you don;t eat the meat…’

  4. I saw a couple of tweets about the apparent similarity between Dez Bryant’s TD and James White’s 2-point score that wasn’t. I’m not on twitter, so I thought I’d try to reach people here. As much as it pains me to say, the NFL got it right in both cases.

    As you know, the plane of the goal line extends around the world, so if your body is in bounds in the end zone and the ball crosses the plane out of bounds, it’s still a score. That’s what happened in Bryant’s case. In White’s case, he stepped out of bounds before the ball crossed the plane – in fact, it was his first step over the line that was out – so it was not a score. Bryant’s first step across the line was completely in and the ball crossed the plane before his next foot went out. This is an important distinction that I think has been lost in the discussion.

  5. Chris Hogan; 1 year of college football at Monmouth no less, 3 yr. Penn State lax., no football at PSU. BB drafts a Hopkins lax player in ’17.

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