BGA: Patriots at Jets (Part Two – Defense/ST)

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Welcome to Bent’s Game Analysis, which is based on watching and re-watching TV footage. As such, it is not always possible to accurately determine everything that was going on. However, every effort has been made to ensure that the information below is as complete and correct as possible.

We’re breaking down yesterday’s win over the Patriots. Part one is here. In part two, we’re focusing on the defense and special teams.

Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.

It was a fine defensive performance, but like everyone else, I’m going to ignore that and talk about the controversy surrounding the penalty that set up Nick Folk’s game winning field goal. However, I will move onto the usual individual player analysis once that’s out of the way.

Piecing everything together, it now seems apparent that Bill Belichick legitimately “misinterpreted the rules”. (Eric Cartmanez would be so proud). Judging by his comments after the game, Belichick apparently thought he had found a loophole in the rules whereby a player on the line of scrimmage could not be flagged for pushing a teammate up the middle to create penetration on what was always going to need to be a low kick. It’s not just his comments after that game though (and his subsequent comments today admitting that he was wrong). You could actually HEAR him on the broadcast protesting to Jerome Boger that Chris Jones was on the line of scrimmage and that’s not against the rules.

Belichick might have had good reason for thinking what Jones did was legal because there was an NFL.com report and video floating around which did include language about the player pushing into the line not being on the line of scrimmage. Some have suggested the NFL ret-conned this after realizing they made a mistake yesterday, but that language never made it into the rulebook. And with good reason – the NFL were trying to avoid pileups which had led to several injuries and clearly realized that a player on the line could still push to create the same kind of pileup.

The fact that Belichick was looking for a loophole to enable him to still create the kind of situation the NFL was obviously trying to avoid is perhaps more damaging to his reputation than the fact he and his coaching staff had failed to identify that the loophole had been closed before the rules were added to the rulebook. Belichick is lauded for trying to get every little advantage for his team, but when it’s something that could have seriously injured a Jets player (and the players involved – Willie Colon and Damon Harrison have both had serious injury issues in the past), then that’s reminiscent of the actions Greg Schiano was criticized for on the kneel down play a few years ago.

Taking all this into account – and also bearing in mind the fact that the Patriots have done the same thing earlier in the year and not been punished – it’s all the more satisfying to see them punished in such a high profile manner. The fact that the Jets are the beneficiaries is mind-boggling, but not unwelcome.

That didn’t win the Jets the game though…this did:

Interior Line

Once again, the Jets performance was sparked by its defensive line. They had four sacks – all in the last 31 minutes of regulation – and only one of them came when blitzing. 18 of their 23 sacks so far this season have been achieved without blitzing. While they gave up a disappointing 90 yards on 20 carries in the running game, they only gave up six first downs on the ground and overall held the Patriots to 1-for-12 on third down.

The offensive line had their hands full all day, quite literally in some cases. Check out Muhammad Wilkerson making the stop on third and short despite the Patriots getting away with three holding penalties:

Wilkerson was dominant once again, stuffing three runs, blowing up two others and getting in on the tackle on two other stops near the line. Once again, he did a great job as a pass rusher, getting a sack (his 10th in 14 games) and three other pressures. He got caught inside on a couple of runs, jumped offside once and missed a tackle (although the play still got stuffed by someone else), but New England were unable to drive him off the line.

Damon Harrison’s impact was muted in this one as he was restricted to 17 snaps by the Jets remaining in the nickel most of the time. He made a great play against the run to stuff a play for no gain, one play after he’d just jumped offsides. While his run stopping has been where he’s excelled most of all to this point, he actually did his best work yesterday as a pass rusher, recording one pressure and his first career sack in just eight pass rush attempts. I enjoyed the debut of the “Snackdance” as well.

Sheldon Richardson missed just four snaps and did a good job again, stuffing two runs for no gain. He only had one hit as a pass rusher, but did contribute, using a spin move twice to free himself from his blocker and collapsing the pocket once against a double team. He also would have had a half-sack, but Tom Brady lost the ball a split second before he hit him. There was just one play where he was driven off the line and he also had a personal foul, although the television footage didn’t show the incident.

There wasn’t as much rotation from the bench in this game. Kenrick Ellis, whose reps had been on the increase, played just one snap and Leger Douzable played five. He may have lost some time after jumping offside.

Edge Rushers

Quinton Coples looked a step quicker in this game and picked up his first sack of the season on the first play of the second half, batting the ball out of Brady’s hand. He played every snap but one and although he only got credited with one other pressure, he got close several times, including on the play where Brady threw a pick-six. In the running game, he blew up a run at the goal line, but did lose contain once. He also jumped offside. Coples hasn’t been grading out well since his return, but it’s no coincidence that Wilkerson wasn’t either until Coples returned and has done since his return.

On the other end, Calvin Pace had a strip sack, three pressures and a pass breakup, but also had some negatives. He jumped offside, lost contain on the second touchdown run and was blocked out of some plays. Also, while he did break up that pass, you could criticize him for not making the interception. In addition, he was rather fortunate on that play because the play seemed to be designed for him to react to Rob Gronkowski underneath and the fact he didn’t and instead jumped the route on the outside meant that Gronkowski was wide open over the middle. Had Brady spotted that, it would have been a big play and ironically Pace ended up in the wrong place at the right time on the one occasion that Brady put the pass in the wrong place too.

Garrett McIntyre was in for just five snaps and did not rush the passer.

Linebackers

David Harris was credited with 25 tackles over the past two games, but in this one he remarkably had just one with four minutes left in the third quarter. He was only blocked out of two plays at the second level though, so it’s not like he was playing badly. His one tackle in the first half saw him avoid a blocker to make a tackle in the backfield on a short pass. In the second half, he made a good open field tackle on a short pass but only ended up with five tackles. Harris blitzed just 5.0% of the time, the lowest percentage since the Texans MNF game last year. He also drew a penalty on a pick play.

Demario Davis was more statistically productive, with nine tackles and two pressures. He stuffed a couple of runs and made some good open field tackles after short passes, but also got beaten for a couple of first downs by Gronkowski. Perhaps surprisingly, he’s just five behind Harris in the race to be the team’s leading tackler and well on course to have over 100 tackles.

Cornerbacks

After bashing him last week, let’s give Antonio Cromartie a ton of credit. He may only have been thrown at four times, but his impact on the game was significant as Kenbrell Thompkins had just two catches for 16 yards after having 15 catches and four touchdowns in the previous four games. Cromartie’s one mistake came early in the game when he missed a tackle after a short pass, allowing an 11-yard catch, but he was in good position on two other incompletions.

With Dee Milliner returning, Darrin Walls was relegated to backup duties and played just nine snaps (mostly when Milliner was hurt). Milliner was disappointing and the Jets are obviously taking the long term view by giving him reps over a guy who would likely outperform him. If that means Milliner will realize his potential sooner, then hopefully it will be worth it, but he gave up three first downs and an eight yard catch, all because he was too far off his man. One of these saw him turned inside out by a simple inside break. He also was beaten on three other plays where the pass was inaccurate and therefore fell incomplete. Having said that, I do see signs of improvement from the rookie. He was in a good position for three other incompletions, including one on a third down play, and made a couple of good tackles.

Kyle Wilson continues to quietly put together a pretty decent season, at least numbers-wise. He broke up a pass, was in good position on a couple of others and made a good play against the run, stretching it to the outside and drawing a hold. He did give up two first downs, including the one that set up the game tying field goal, but some of you will be shocked to learn that he currently ranks 1st in coverage snaps per reception for slot corners, 2nd overall in yards per coverage snap (behind Darrelle Revis) and 5th overall in lowest QB rating.

Safeties

I noted last week that Antonio Allen had the best game of his career. He arguably surpassed that this week by holding Gronkowski to six catches on 14 targets, breaking up two passes and intercepting one for the touchdown that got the Jets back in the game. He did also get beaten for a couple of first downs, called for an interference penalty and almost beaten for what could have been the game winning touchdown when Gronkowski almost made a one-handed catch, so Gronkowski gave as good as he got in that matchup. It’s a sign of how far Allen has come because if you think back to last year, Allen was picked on by Brady who threw to his man three times in a row to get them in range for a late field goal and ultimately an overtime win.

Allen didn’t actually start, although he played on all but seven plays. That honor went to Jaiquawn Jarrett, who played 34 snaps and had no tackles. He did record one pressure, but there was also a play where there were 12 men on the field that may have been his fault.

Dawan Landry played a largely mistake-free game, although he perhaps could have taken a better angle on the second touchdown run. He had one big play when his hit broke up a pass on third down.

Special Teams

Aside from all the controversy surrounding the penalty flag, it was good to see Nick Folk nail the game winner once again, especially after he hooked the one that didn’t count. As we’ve seen in previous seasons, you can rely on Folk to start the season strong, but as soon as he starts missing, there’s a danger of him going downhill.

In the return game, Josh Cribbs did a fine job of fielding punts and making the first man miss. I like this pickup already. There was one that he kind of misjudged and he did get blown up on a kick return following a missed block by McIntyre, but he looks sharp and dangerous. He also looked good in kick coverage, with two tackles and a drawn penalty. As I speculated in the offensive BGA, maybe Cribbs’ inclusion as a return man will also help Jeremy Kerley produce more as a receiver by allowing him to focus solely on that.

At punter, Ryan Quigley continues to be a disappointment. He did land two kicks inside the 10, including one late in the game, although New England were still able to drive for the game tying field goal. However, his overall punting was poor and there was one in particular that he shanked out of bounds near the halfway line. In his defense, one of his poorer kicks – leading to a big return – came as he was under pressure after Jamie Collins split a double team between Cribbs and Josh Bush. That long return also saw Isaiah Trufant, Michael Campbell, Ellis Lankster and McIntyre credited with missed tackles and Jaiquawn Jarrett unable to get off his block.

Jarrett did have two special teams tackles, as did Nick Bellore. Alex Green also drew a holding penalty.

Conclusions

With the analysis out of the way, I think it’s simply time to reflect back and enjoy this one.

The pattern would suggest that the Jets are going to lose next week, but they’ll head to Cincinnati full of confidence. The Bengals are tough, though, and are coming off a late win of their own (thanks to Mike Nugent’s last-gasp 54-yard field goal against the Lions). Two weeks ago, they beat New England and were the first team to hold Brady without a touchdown pass for over three years. On Sunday, they will face the second team in three weeks to achieve that feat.

If you have anything you’d like me to take a closer look at or any other questions for me, leave them in the comments section of either BGA post, tweet them to @Bent_Double or email bentdouble@gmail.com and I’ll respond in BGA Extra on Wednesday.