Well, not the worst way to ring in the New Year, right? A first-round bye, meaning an extra week for the Patriots to rest up while also advancing in the playoffs. Not too shabby.
New England did what they needed to do, beating the flightless Jets to secure second place in the AFC. For a team that didn’t always play their best against losing squads, the Patriots showed up on Sunday, holding New York to a field goal while scoring four offensive touchdowns for a decisive 38-3 stoning.
The Patriots await their opponent, whom they will host at Gillette at 1 p.m. on Sunday, January 13. That’s a ways away, so the Boston media has plenty of time to point out New England’s faults. Yikes. Until then, maybe we should just watch 2018 highlights.
On to the notes!
Please Remain Tom: After a week against the Bills where it seemed he would have a more enjoyable time passing kidney stones, Our Tom Brady lit up the short-handed Jets secondary, connecting with 24 of 33 targets for 250 yards and four touchdowns. The best sign of the QB’s comeback week came near the end of the first quarter when he stood in the pocket like the Colossus of Rhodes and zipped a thunderbolt to a crossing Julian Edelman for 18 yards. A few plays later, after another 18-yarder to Edelman, Brady took advantage of man-to-man coverage and rainbowed a beauty to running back Rex Burkhead for a 14-3 lead with 12:57 left in the first half.
Brady got the ball right back after a one-play Jets drive ended in a fumble (more on that below). With New England’s ensuing possession extended by a roughing-the-passer call involving just enough contact to irk a Catholic school dance chaperone (that’s home field advantage, people), Brady rolled to his right and fired an outside fastball to Phillip Dorsett along the end line. That made it 21-3, Patriots, and even though 11:12 remained in the second quarter, that kinda/sorta ended the suspense.
Said this last week, but it’s worth repeating that the Bills had the best pass defense in the league. Every week presents a different challenge. This week’s challenge involved keeping up the intensity against a team going through a rough patch. Brady looked up for it. CBS Sports Boston’s Michael Hurley takes a close look at Brady’s performance in his weekly “Leftover Thoughts” column.
The Magnificent Seven: Brady spread his passes among seven different targets, with receivers Edelman (five catches, 69 yards, TD), Dorsett (five, 34, TD), and Chris Hogan (six, 64) joined by tight end Rob Gronkowski (two, 24) and running backs Burkhead (one, 18, TD) and James White (four, 39, TD). The involvement of Hogan and Dorsett became heartening for Pats observers hoping to see New England make up for the productivity lost with the suspension of Josh Gordon. Important to expand the corps beyond Edelman and Gronkowski; Brady got in some real-game practice, seeming to seek out Hogan in the fourth quarter for three receptions in a row (17, 20, and five yards) on the team’s lone field goal drive of the day.
The Magnificent Seven, Part II: New England’s front seven gave New York rookie quarterback Sam Darnold about all he could handle, sacking him four times and causing him to fumble once. Darnold completed 16 of 28 passes for 167 yards. On the strip sack, Trey Flowers lunged at Darnold, slowing him up enough for Adam Butler to poke the ball away, leaving linebacker Kyle Van Noy space to scoop up the ball like a small, delightful serving of Ben and Jerry’s Coconut Seven Layer Bar and hand-deliver it to the end zone for New England’s 28-3 lead. (You can watch that play here. Also, nice job by Boston Sports Journal’s Chris Price breaking it down as his Defensive Play of the Game.) Butler, Flowers, Derek Rivers, and Lawrence Guy all registered sacks. Flowers also deserves credit for the aforementioned one-play Jets drive/Elijah McGuire fumble, as Flowers punched that ball to the ground with such ferocity it looked personal.
The Jets rushed for 104 yards as a team, with 28 of those yards coming on one Darnold run. McGuire averaged 2.3 per carry (18 for 41). Defensive tackle/walk-in freezer Danny Shelton (6-2, 344)helped clear blockers and pave the way for linebacker Elandon Roberts, who had six total tackles Sunday. A solid game for the front seven. NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry reviews New England’s improved run defense in this piece.
(Note: there is no sequel to The Magnificent Seven, but if there were it would look a lot like the shootout at the end of “Godless.” I would call that one of the most underrated TV moments of 2018, but it came out in 2017, proving that I am old and have lost the ability to track time.)
A View To A Gilmore: QBs don’t want to dance into the fire. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore has been stopping drives more effectively than my daughter’s need to use the bathroom. He broke up two passes on Sunday, including a fourth-down foray to Robbie Anderson into the end zone that could have significantly changed the tenor of the game at halftime (credit also to Van Noy and safety Patrick Chung for their respective pressure and contain on Darnold). Rookie JC Jackson provided an additional spark, with one pass break-up, a tackle for loss, and seven stops total. Darnold showed off his raw ability on quite a few passes, including a 22-yard sideline throw to Deontay Burnett that had such a heavenly touch Roma Downey may have been involved (clip here), but the Patriots’ defensive backfield consistently worked to keep his performance earthbound.
An Ow-ski For Gronkowski? Is Gronk hurt? Maybe. But he still managed a couple of noteworthy receptions, and got one taken away from him when fellow tight end Dwayne Allen got called for offensive pass interference on a day when that just wasn’t getting called much (note Edelman pushing off on his touchdown route with all the subtlety of Mongo punching a horse). As Gronk has said before, he’s all in for this season. With the rest he’ll get this week, that’s all we can hope for.
We are on to the playoffs. As usual. No big whoop.
Continue Bringing Stats: I will say this about the CBS broadcasts: they slather on the statistics. In the first 30 seconds, they had bits about Brady, guard Joe Thuney’s Iron Man streak, and a few other things I probably missed. In the first quarter, CBS noted that the Jets had the most consecutive games without an opening drive TD (a whopping 23, with Washington second at nine). After their three-and-out, CBS followed up with a graphic of the Jets’ NFL-most 56 three-and-outs on the year. I like this aspect of their broadcasts. They keep you busy.
Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts get a lot of guff around these parts, but I’ve always been fine with them. In the spirit of the New Year, I’ll mention a couple of bits I enjoyed. With one minute left in the first half and New England contemplating whether or not to go for it on fourth and short, Fouts said, “The Jets would be wise to call a timeout here.” Shot of (recently set free Jets coach) Todd Bowles, who appeared as though he were trying to will himself invisible. Timeout? Nope. Nada.
Along those lines, when D’Angelo Henderson fumbled at the end of the game, Eagle said what we were all thinking. “If that doesn’t indicate what kind of season it’s been for the Jets, I don’t know what does.”
One last note regarding a part of the Burkhead touchdown I saw before the snap. Jets cornerback Derrick Jones waved his arms at linebacker Avery Williamson, who hesitated before getting into coverage vs. Burkhead. Bad sign for New York. Touchdown, New England. To CBS’ credit, Fouts noted there was “a lot of confusion in the secondary” and, during the replay after the commercial, Fouts focused on Jones’ attempt to set the defense.
Again: I am fine with these guys.
Some commercials worth pointing out…
False Advertising: The Home Depot ad “Storage Solutions,” where the mom organizes the kids’ room to the point where no toys or books are out? Nope. Not having it, The Home Depot. I am more likely to tile and grout my own bathroom than make my child’s room that organized. Never.
Here’s where you’d think I’d make a New Year’s resolution to become more neat and organized. And here’s where I ask you to MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX.
See You Slither Away With Your Skin And Your Tail: A real reptile? With all the directions the new Chevy Equinox commercial could take, I’m not sure unleashing alligators in the studio is the best way to show off its Surround Vision camera. I mean, you could put a couple of tricycles behind the car and we’d get the right idea with a lot less distraction than a misguided Crocodile Dundee remake.
Idea for a Crocodile Dundee remake based in Miami: Alligator Weintraub. Raised in the Everglades, became a lawyer. Writes itself.
The Sweater Song: Nearly came undone at the “2018 Holidays: Ugly Sweaters” commercial for Portal from Facebook that includes a funny assumption a daughter has of her parents. I suppose I find it humorous because I don’t have Portal: if I did, I would accidentally insult people all the time. “Oh, you’re staying in tonight? No? That’s what you’re wearing?”
Yeesh. Just discovered my New Year’s resolution: shut up more.
Jumpsuits? More Like Parkoursuits: Apple’s ad for the iPhone XR called “Color Flood” has to qualify as one of the most visually arresting commercials right now. Hundreds (thousands?) of people in various colored jumpsuits merge onto city streets, creating a moving, living rainbow. Cool once you know what’s going on, but in the beginning it looks like a bizarre mash-up of the Wiggles and Dawn of the Dead. Just a weird, rainbow apocalypse.
Netflix Note Of The Week: Watched the “Bandersnatch” episode of “Black Mirror” on Netflix, and it has its moments as a choose-your-own adventure show. The idea that the character felt as though he wasn’t making his own decisions added an original meta-twist that I enjoyed. One big issue: it seems that choosing for the character to take his medication ends the episode prematurely because the project he’s taking on fails due to a lack of artistry. I hate that idea, that medication and stability has to destroy creativity. Disappointing that such an edgy show took on such an archaic point of view.
In all seriousness, if your medication makes you feel weird, you can adjust it. This is coming from a guy who took Paxil for years and felt, you know, fine, but never that much better. When I switched to something else, I wondered why I’d waited so long. Anyway, like most “Black Mirror” episodes, I never have to watch “Bandersnatch” again.
Don’t Be Frumious With Me: Sorry, but my majoring in English compels me to tell you that “Bandersnatch” comes from the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, which is a weird and pretty awesome piece of work when you consider he made up words that we still use today, e.g. “chortle.”
Matt Finish? No Sweat: Big fan of “Escape at Dannemora,” about the prison break in upstate New York in 2015. If you’re like me and have vague memories of the event, avoid researching it online until you watch this show (Showtime on demand). Great acting, and Ben Stiller demonstrates his keen eye as a director. Some of the best TV of 2018. Unlike that shootout in “Godless.”
Here’s to New England playing their best game of the season so far on January 13, and here’s to 2019 bringing you joy.
Chris Warner would like to offer his services for the next Ben Stiller project. Will work for whatever’s left on the catering table. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @cwarn89.