1. Rob Gronkowski — A team-best 8 catches for 113 yards and a pair of TDs. The Jets could not find him, and when they did, he swatted them away like a greenhead at Salibury in late July.
2. Andre Carter/Mark Anderson — Yes, Tully Banta-Carter racked up all the numbers, 4.5 sacks, much of which was done in garbage time, but both ends were dynamite on this night. They caused Mark Sanchez to panic without the need of a blitz, while holding the edge nicely. Huge night for these two.
3. Rob Ninkovich — The ball found him on one interception and he pounced on a shell-shocked Mark Sanchez, making the second one look easy as he Bruschi-ed into the end zone for six.
4. The unknown Patriot — This goes out to Sterling Moore, (Central coach Chuck Adamopoulos' favorite) Niko Koutouvides, Phillip Adams, Jeff Tarpinian ... etc. All you guys, who stepped in and stepped up, take a bow.
1. Chad Ochocinco — Rule 1, know where the sideline is and don't stepout on your own.
2. Danny Woodhead — His biggest blunder was being overwhelmed on a blitz pickup, which cost the Pats the safety.
Note: With the injury to Devin McCourty, New England defensive backs have officially become ineligible for the "No Shows." None of these guys belong in the league. I can't be critical if they're placed in position for which they are not qualified.
GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (B) — One penalty up front, and zero sacks. They had problems in the running game, but who really cares when Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have it going on.
Backs (C-) — It took a scheme mismatch for the Pats to do anything on the ground as Danny Woodhead chipped out 5.4 yards a carry. Everyone else carried 21 times for 22 yards.
Tight ends (A+) — Is Rob Gronkowski the front-runner for the AFC's Offensive Player of the Year? Yet another unstoppable performance with 8 catches for 113 yards and a pair of TDs. A quietly productive night for Aaron Hernandez with four grabs for 41 yards.
Wide Receivers (B-) — Who needs receivers when you have Gronk? Seriously
Quarterback (A+) — All of you who were giving up on this guy the last couple weeks and through the first 28 minutes last night. Brady finishes with an impeccable 118.4 rating, hitting 26 of 39 for 329 yards and three TDs.
Line (A) — There was more of the 3-4 look now that Albert Haynesworth has taken his fatness to Tampa Bay. The edge guys played a dominant night. Tully Banta-Carter hit the QB eight times. Vince Wilfork continues to be stout and active.
Linebackers (B+) — Much of the night it was Tarpinian, White, Mayo and Ninkovich across, not exactly reminiscent of Belichick's Giants crew of Taylor, Carson, Johnson and Banks. Yet, they got it done. Ninko, Tarpinian and White combined for 11 tackles. And New York only picked up 80 yards on Mayo's five solos (average gain of 16.0 for those tracking at home).
Secondary (A+) — Other than Ross Ventrone, I don't know who you guys are, but you held a middle-of-the-pack NFL QB to a rating of 64.7 Spectacular.
Special Teams (B) — An improvement. At least Julian Edelman only fair-caught half the punts hit to him inside the 10, right? Seriously, big night out of Zoltan Mesko (net 43.8) and the coverage was solid. Jet return fiend Joe McKnight was no factor.
Coaching (A+) — Just a first-round knockout here by Bill Belichick and his staff. The Jets' heads are still spinning. Superb defensive gameplan and patchwork all over the place.
Game ball to Bill O'Brien
Honestly, this one was a Bill O'Brien highlight reel, his shining moment as Patriots' offensive coordinator.
When the Pats went hurry-up, he found the weaknesses, with Danny Woodhead (7 carries, 38 yards) of all people in the New York defense, namely nobody able to cover Rob Gronkowski and an incredible hole in the run defense at the tight corner and the Andover native ripped at it like a crow on a dead raccoon's carcass. It was gruesomely delightful.
The gear switch also ignited a slumbering Tom Brady.
The bottom line
Man for man, the New York Jets are better than the New England Patriots, from top to bottom ... except for quarterback.
And at least in this year's regular season meetings, that gaping void between Tom Brady and Mark Sanchez is the difference between wins and losses.
This Jets defense isn't as dominant as it was a year ago. It can't change a game like it did in 2010.
The turning point
On the opening drive, Mark Sanchez hits Santonio Holmes on a deep in-cut. In a calamity of errors, Devin McCourty and safety James Ihedigbo collide, leaving a wide open path for Holmes to waltz into the end zone. The normally nimble Jet trips over the 12-yard line, falling at the 9. The Pats stiffen and Nick Folk yanks a chip-shot 24-yard field goal.
Instead of a 7-0 Jets lead, New York instilled hope into the Pats, who with newfound confidence, make the home team pay.
Why Belichick's better?
New York is about to face a huge play in the final two minutes of the first half, second and goal from the Jets' 10.
Rex Ryan wants to talk it over. Great, call a timeout, right?
Unfortunately, with the clock running, the Jets use the timeout at 1:24, instead of waiting to run off 17 more seconds (on the play clock and game clock).
The Jets scored, fine. But they left the Pats 1:20 and not 1:03.
New England marched right down the field and scored with :09 on the clock, time that should never have been on the clock. It was a free four points, figuring the Pats would have at least scored three.
Belichick would never have made such an egregious mistake in time management.
And, for the record, I won't even get into the fact that nobody in Jets' Green could figure out a way to hang in the same zip code as Rob Gronkowski.
Five thoughts as forge forward
1. New York now is forced to play for its playoff life in the toughest of settings, Thursday night in Mile High Tebow Country against the Broncos.
2. The Pats, on the other hand, now enjoy a second-half cakewalk to the AFC East title in a bye with remaining games against Kansas City (4-5), Indianapolis (0-10), Philadelphia (3-6), Washington (3-6), Denver (4-5), Miami (2-7) and Buffalo (5-4) ... a combined 21-43 if you're counting.
3. The Devin McCourty injury could seriously hurt this crew, even though it didn't show last night. Of course, with Mike Vick and Ryan Fitzpatrick the only legit QBs left on the slate, worry about it in January.
4. I admit it, I am shocked by the Jets' lack of fight. But how hard would you block, just to have Mark Sanchez spray bullets into the hinterlands.
5. Great time for the long week, if you are a New England, football player or fan. And the news gets better with KC coming in next Monday night, with Matt Cassel leaving yesterday's game with some kind of hand injury.