EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 22, 2012

Hector longo's Two-Minute Drill

Patriots 29, Jets 26


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BIG SHOWS

1. Rob Ninkovich – Another huge play with the strip-sack of Mark Sanchez in overtime. The kid is stealth. How, other than severe tunnel vision, do you explain Sanchez not seeing Ninkovich before he pasted his “Pat Patriot” helmet to the “6” on Sanchez chest? Locks down the win.

2. Rob Gronkowski – Chain-mover, caught six balls for 78 yards and a pair of TDs. Spent the day in a two-man bracket. Still found a way.

3. Stephen Gostkowski – This guy cost them with a hook against Arizona, but he was true twice when it counted, hitting from 43 to tie it and 48 to break the tie in OT.

4. Tom Brady — Pretty average for about 58:28, he came alive late to win it. He hit 9 of 13 passes for 95 in the final two possessions, one in which they tied the game and sent it to overtime, and the other to take the lead in OT.

NO SHOWS

1. Devin McCourty — Are you kidding me, Devin? A fumble on the biggest kick-return of the night, in the final 2 minutes with the score tied? This first-round pick in 2010 might have blazing straight line speed, as he showed in a pretty 104-yard return early. But his ability to make football plays has so much to be desire. Shifted to safety, he played about 25 yards off the line, obeying a Bill Belichick edict certainly to not let anyone get behind him. That left the middle of the field vacant. Five solo tackles but was confused or beaten many more times than that.

2. Brandon Lloyd – An absolutely brutal day with one catch for 6 yards by what we all expected to be the Pats’ lead receiver. Singled up all day, he shook nobody. And he had at least three clear drops. What a disappointment!

3. Danny Woodhead – Please let the love affair end. In my eyes, you are talking diminishing returns when Woodhead gets more than 5-6 touches. He averaged 2.8 yards on 6 carries and caught four balls for 29 yards. He’s tough, he has a place, but it’s in spots, not in 60 percent of the snaps.

4. The secondary – I’m tired of naming names. Mark Sanchez, in a pathetic performance where he missed literally dozens of wide-open receivers, still hit 28 of 41 passes for 328 yards. Kyle Arrington’s brutal season continued as he was clearly the worst of the lot. Ras-I Dowling was matching him down the ladder into the abyss, but luckily for Dowling, he pulled a hamstring and had to leave before he could do any more damage than he had.

5. Stevan Ridley – His running style would be qualified as timid. He spun before contact too often on his way to a 17-carry, 65-yard night. There was space. Shane Vereen (8-49) found it. Ridley was too apprehensive to exploit the gashes in the Jets’ front.

GRADING THE GROUPS

OFFENSE

Line (B) … Logan Mankins missed the game, and Dan Connolly took ill in the pregame, according to reports, leaving this group shorthanded. Helped by the fact that the Jets rarely blitzed and sent only 3-4 rushers, they protected Tom Brady well (only one sack). There were holes in the run game, too, with three backs combining to carry 31 times for 131.

Backs (B-) … Not a great night, missing Brandon Bolden. Steven Ridley didn’t hit the holes like he had earlier in the year. Shane Vereen could have put up good numbers, but was held to only 8 carries for 49 yards.

Wide receivers (C+) … No qualms here with Wes Welker (6-66), who fought bracket coverage all night, or Aaron Hernandez (5-54) as the latter works back to the lineup after a nasty leg injury.

Tight ends (B+) … Rob Gronkowski came through with one of the grittier efforts in his life, catching six of nine attempts thrown his way for 78 yards. Nothing at all from the others.

Quarterback (B) … Guts. Stuck it out on a tough, tough night. He was straight cash when it counted, though, in the final 92 seconds of regulation and the one drive in overtime, winning this game on sheer determination alone.

DEFENSE

Line (B) … For some reason, the Jets kept pounding it up inside, right at the strength of the Pats’ defense – Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love. Congrats, New York earned its 3.2 yards a carry. Quiet night for Chandler Jones in his 1 on 1 with D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

Linebackers (B+) … Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham combined on the strip sack to end it. Jerod Mayo was a magnet to the football with 10 solo tackles. Donta’ Hightower was back in the lineup with limited success. Brandon Spikes can only play the run, so his efforts were limited.

Secondary (D-) … Alfonzo Dennard’s pick was the highlight on a day that the Jets tortured the Pats. Fittingly, that pick came on a ball in which he was beaten badly to the corner by Stephon Hill, with no help from the safety. Mark Sanchez found the receiver a second to late, and then underthrew him by 15 yards, allowing Dennard the pick. Other than that, man or zone, Jets flew free like the U.S. Air Force over Baghdad in Desert Storm.

Coaching (C-) … Again, too much confusion on the sideline with the defense sending players on and off at the snap of the football. The play-calling on offense remains unpredictable to the point that there is no rhyme nor reason. Why would Josh McDaniels try to pound the football with Logan Mankins in street clothes and Dan Connolly unavailable? Luckily, this was the Jets, whose coaching staff earned a D-.

Special Teams (C+) … How only a C+ when you run a kick back 104 yards for a TD, you kick the game-tying and game-winning field goals late and your punter bails you out with a 44.8 yard average, with four (of) six kicks inside the 20, two of those inside the 10? Simple, you fumble away what should have been the game in the final 2 minutes. That’s like skipping the essay on the history midterm. You’re A+ becomes a C+.

Dumb And Dumber

The New York Jets were one pathetic drop from becoming the stupidest football team to pull off a Gillette Stadium victory in the Bill Belichick Era.

Forgive me for feeling this way after the Pats escaped defeat in a handful of awkward, yet effective ways. But, today, on Oct. 22, 2012, I’d still take the Jets roster over the Patriots, based on physical talent and football skill.

Yes, that’s even with Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez calling signals. The Jets are better.

They also happen to be an incredibly dumb football team.

Of course, you start with Sanchez, whose inability to see more than one receiver in the pattern – a brutal case of myopia – often forced spontaneous combustion.

At least six times last night, including the time he almost got Shonn Greene decapitated by Brandon Spikes, did Sanchez check down to a well-covered safety valve, while right behind that receiver, at the next level, was a wide-open crossing Dustin Keller.

But it’s so much more than Sanchez, who literally propped himself up in the pocket for three full seconds before Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich collapsed on him.

That was just the last of the Jets’ brain cramping.

We take the Pats for granted sometimes. They may be overwhelmed in the secondary by mediocre offenses. They may not deliver in the clutch like they used to. But their football I.Q. tops the charts.

And that really was the difference here last night.

No right to win

Pardon my longing for the past, but whatever happened to the good, old days of 2007?

Back then, the Pats would get up 10 points and go for the jugular, often to the point of running up the score.

So how do you explain this Patriots team and yesterday’s multiple attempts to give this one away?

You have the football, up 10, with 58 seconds left in the third quarter. That’s too early to sit on the lead, but if you score a TD to go out 17, the Jets are all but dead.

So how does Josh McDaniels attack? He runs the football four straight times, followed by two straight swing passes that lost yardage.

McDaniels and the Pats were asking for trouble, and they got one spectacular scare.

Less right to win

Sorry, but it’s not like the New York brain trust was any better.

This team got the ball back on the Devin McCourty fumble at the Pats’ 18, with the game tied and 2:01 to play.

The Pats had the two-minute warning and three timeouts to play with.

With 2:01 left, the Jets had the opportunity to go for New England’s throat. If they called a pass on first down, it doesn’t matter if it goes incomplete. The clock is stopping anyway.

First down was the attack down. Instead, they pounded it into the pile with Tim Tebow.

Again, that was the time to attack, not on third-and-7.

One first down there, and it’s over. One TD there, and you make Brady’s job all that much tougher.

Of course, this is from a Jets team that huddled every play on a 14-play, 92-yard TD that ate away 7 minutes of the fourth quarter when they were down 10.

Five thoughts as we look to London with a 4-3 mark

1. The AFC East remains a disaster, with the Pats clearly the only team worth its weight in blocking dummies. Seeing Buffalo and then the Jets snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yesterday, it’s clear they are both on the fast track to loserville, with no sight of the playoffs. The only entity left to self-destruct is the Dolphins. Keep your eyes open there.

2. I give colleague Bill Burt big props for asking Rex Ryan for an explanation of his defense’s implosion at the end of the game. For so long, they gave Tom Brady fits, and then the Jets just disappeared.

“The kid’s been doing it, you know … he’ll probably go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in the game,” explained Rex. “They had a lot of weapons. Some of their guys got open. I wish we had a few things back, but you have to give them back.”

The “few things” were clearly Rex’s decision to go to a soft zone defense with a three or four man rush, which gave Brady all night to throw.

“We did try to play some zone on them … We’d been playing it a lot of those call the majority of the game.”

3. The New York media was looking for Rex to comment on the Shonn Greene-Brandon Spikes collision, which they seemed to think was a cheapshot by Spikes. If anything, it was Greene who led with the crown of his helmet. Spikes put on a tackling exhibition on how kids can stay safe, lowering the boom on Greene with his head up. If Spikes’ head was down, it might have been tragic for both.

4. Give it up for Jets’ goat/receiver Stephen Hill, who had a huge drop inside the 10 that could have given the New Yorkers the win in regulation. Hill was WIDE open, but just dropped it. With a tear in his eye, he stood and answered every question the media had and then some. Talk about character.

“It was just a catch I should have caught,” he summed it up perfectly.

5. It was a very quiet night for Chandler Jones, who clearly ran into one of the game’s best left tackles in D’Brickashaw Ferguson. How the rookie end handles the next battle with Ferguson will go a long way in telling if Jones is just very good or has the propensity to be great.

Follow Eagle-Tribune Sports Reporter Hector Longo on Twitter under the screen name @MVcreature.