By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- Credit to the Patriots for this: They've made winning boring.
Not all wins, obviously. But when you win 12 games every year, they can't all be thrillers. Case in point: Sunday's 14-point win over the Jets.
A 14-point win, by nearly any definition, would qualify as a comfortable victory. A near-blowout, in fact. But given how great and dominant and thorough and overwhelming the Patriots can look at times, nobody in New England was jumping for joy after Sunday afternoon's affair in New Jersey. It was, in every sense of the term, a business trip.
While the game in and of itself may not have been an all-timer, it was the most recent addition to what might be the most absurd stretch of late-season winning in the history of professional sports. That's no hyperbole. Check this out, from the Patriots' postgame notes:
Since Robert Kraft purchased the franchise in 1994, the New England Patriots own the NFL's best record in the second half of the season. The Patriots are the only team with a winning percentage over .700 over that span.
MOST WINS IN THE SECOND HALF SINCE 1994 (REGULAR SEASON ONLY)
New England: 143-52-0, .733
Green Bay: 127-66-1, .657
Pittsburgh: 127-66-1, .657
Indianapolis: 117-77-0, .603
Just look at the staggering difference from the Patriots, to the only two teams even remotely close to their stratosphere, and then down to the distant fourth-best team. It truly is remarkable.
What stands out about this mark is that it doesn't just hinge on the success of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. This one goes back to the heart of the Bill Parcells era, with a sprinkling of Pete Carroll, before Belichick's arrival in 2000. We don't often look back at the days of Drew Bledsoe, Curtis Martin, and Terry Glenn for being overly successful, outside of the '96 season, but there's no denying that this is a most impressive figure.
When the weather turns, and the games feel like they matter more, and everything is hanging in the balance, the Patriots have won over 73 percent of their games for almost a quarter-century. You know, that's not bad.
Anyway. The 27-13 win over the Jets may not have been epic, and it may not have been exhilarating, and it may not have been particularly inspiring. But it was an NFL win, and it did get the Patriots to 8-3 on the season. That marks the 18th straight season with at least a .500 record, the second-longest streak in NFL history. That's also good.
Let's hop right on into some leftover thoughts, before this game gets lost in the sands of time.
--I guess, along the same lines of the Patriots making winning boring, Tom Brady has created his standard. That looked and felt like maybe a mediocre game from the quarterback, right? Some missed throws, too many failed drives, a lack of real fluidity to the offensive performance. But then you look, and he's 20-for-31 (64.5 percent) for 283 yards, two touchdowns, no picks, and a 115.4 rating. That rating just happens to be his best for any game this season.
I suppose it just speaks to his regular greatness that we've come to expect all of those passes to get completed. But most quibbling about Brady's performance Sunday would have to be filed under the nit-picking category.
--What was the biggest issue with the Patriots on Sunday was the flood of penalties they committed. While, yes, sure, Shawn Hochuli's officiating crew was overeager to become a storyline in this game, there really weren't too many instances of dreadful calls being made. (The offensive pass interference on James White, and potentially the defensive holding penalty on Stephon Gilmore notwithstanding.)
And, really, the 11 penalties for 105 yards could have been worse. Just look at the Jets' final offensive play. Jason McCourty was all over Jermaine Kearse.
It was great defense, but it could have been called a penalty. (Everything can be called a penalty.)
On the same play, Deatrich Wise was awfully late in getting to Josh McCown, but he still delivered a forceful hit and dropped the QB to the ground.
We've seen much less called.
Just overall a dangerous afternoon with all of those penalties, something will definitely need addressing this week.
--Do you know what was a pretty darn athletic play? This one, right here, made by one Mr. Josh Gordon.
Those are the hands of a very, very strong man.
That was a huge play, too. It came on a third-and-10, so anything short of a sure catch on the sideline, and the Patriots are punting it away to the Jets, giving New York a chance to tie the game. That's why Brady ran over and immediately gave Gordon an old-fashioned smack of the dome.
Gordon has 547 yards in eight games with the Patriots. That's really remarkable when you consider all the factors. He joined this team after the regular season began. The offense is famously complex. Brady is extremely demanding. Gordon had only played 10 NFL games total in the previous four seasons. It's really quite the story.
--Julian Edelman is a wolverine. An angry little wolverine. Are enough people talking about this? I can't be sure. But that man is unstoppable. And kind of nuts. But I suppose those two things go hand in hand.
Anyway, it's total football cliche to throw out statements like "he just wanted it more."
But. Also. Like. Hello:
If that's not an instance of one man simply wanting it more than the four or five men around them, then I don't know what would be.
(I went with "wolverine" on Edelman. Just felt right. I know he's got that squirrel thing going. I don't mean to infringe on that enterprise. But I see more of a wolverine. I also don't know a ton about wolverines. Decided to do some research. Feel like this checks out: "Typically weighing less than 35 pounds, the wolverine is powerfully built and has short legs with wide feet for traveling across the snow. ... They can also take down much larger animals, including caribou and moose, when circumstances such as deep snow are in their favor. ... Wolverines are highly effective scavengers, with their keen sense of smell, [and] strong teeth that crunch up bones." Works for me. Keeping it.)
--Edelman caught four balls for 84 yards and a touchdown, but he earned some extra credit with his wise football play on a Jets punt. He knew he wasn't going to try to field the punt, so he threw a block on Trenton Cannon at the 10-yard line as the punt was coming down to the turf around the 7-yard line:
That was more than enough of a speed bump to throw Cannon off, and he was then unable to down the punt despite having a pretty good opportunity to do so:
Instead of starting at their own 1-yard line, the Patriots started at their own 20. They marched 80 yards in 4:29 to go up by 14 points.
Score one for The Wolverine.
(There's not any chance that this catches on, but I'm fully committed at this point. Just roll with it for a few more minutes, would you?)
--I thought leaping over the line in an attempt to block kicks was banned by the NFL. I've since been informed that it's legal as long as you don't get a running start.
Regardless, I'm impressed with the ups of 315-pound defensive lineman Lawrence Guy.
When Chandler Jones or Jamie Collins or Kam Chancellor or some other prototypical super athlete does it, then it's pretty cool. When Larry Guy goes full Superman over an adult male with no running start or anything of the sort? That's a jaw dropper.
--The officials did just stink out loud on this day. Can't even tell you how many times I was left to shout "mama mia!" at my television on this otherwise pleasant Sunday afternoon.
They called so, so many penalties. Some of them had to be called, of course. Others, perhaps not. And yet, it still felt as though they missed too many calls.
Take this sequence for instance: Fourth-and-1 for the Patriots, inside handoff to Cordarrelle Patterson. The kick returner/receiver/running back hit the line at full speed and got more than enough to keep the drive alive. Huzzah for the road team! But, well, what was Jacob Hollister doing to Jordan Jenkins?
If I'm the Jets, I'm fuming mad about that one. "How does that blatant hold go unnoticed?!" I would shout.
I'd be so mad, in fact, that three plays later, on a third-and-9, I might decide to just mush David Andrews' entire face. I'd just get in there, and I'd mush it all up. Mushed Face City. Population: David Andrews. That is what I'd do:
Not being satisfied with my initial face-mushing, I may even throw in some right hand face mushing at the end, just for good measure.
So, yeah. How both of those calls are missed by a professional officiating crew, I know not.
The Hochuli legacy lives on.
(That was Henry Anderson doing the face-mushing. He later had some of his own body parts mushed. Sports, man.)
--Big day for Sony Michel, obviously, but man oh man, that young fella needs to find a way to avoid suffering injuries that appear to be completely devastating but end up being minor. His poor mother must be physically ill watching him go down this season.
I thought the biggest play for Michel was his first touch after halftime. The Patriots obviously weren't feeling great, being tied at 10-10 with the dreary Jets. The rookie took it upon himself to change the momentum on one play. He adjusted to a solid push by the Jets' front, made a jump-cut to his left, then burst through the line, dispatched one would-be tackler, sprinted through the open field, then gained six extra yards after contact, crossing midfield for a 31-yard gain.
You can debate the whole running back-as-a-first-round-pick thing until the cows come home. Meanwhile, this rookie keeps getting better and better as the season goes on.
--Run blocking doesn't put tuchuses in seats. I get it. But the work of Marcus Cannon, Rob Gronkowski, and James Develin on this first-down pickup by Michel was a symphony.
That play was so good that it might have gotten Dante Scarnecchia so fired up that he said, "All right. Good play."
--This is a stupid sweatshirt.
I'd never wear it.
Also stupid: Accepting an OPI penalty on James White to give the Patriots another opportunity to convert a third down. By moving the Patriots 10 yards back, the best-case scenario was forcing them from a 42-yard field goal attempt to a 52-yard field goal attempt. Stephen Gostkowski does miss some 50-plus yarders, sure, but Tom Brady does also convert some third-and-12s. (Or is it thirds-and-12? Who can say, really?)
Of course, the Jets being the Jets, they gave up a 34-yard touchdown to the guy who you really shouldn't allow to score 34-yard touchdowns. This was not smart.
Bowles explained after the loss: "Third-and-12 are better odds than fourth-and-2. Third-and-12 were good odds for us. We've been pretty good at third-and-12. We knew they would have gone for it on fourth-and-2. We figured if we backed them up, we had a chance [for them] to kick a field goal."
We sure they were going to go for it on fourth-and-2? I'm not. They had, after all, just failed on a third-and-2. They trailed 7-0 and needed points.
Nevertheless. The Jets are 3-8.
--The "GO PATS" sweatshirt was a bit childish. As in, I could definitely see a 9-year-old loving that thing. So I understand why it exists.
But you'll note that Belichick wasn't wearing it. Wonder if anyone even asked him. "Hey, uhh, Bill, they want you to uhh ... wear this ... just like ... a marketing thing ... you know ... yeah ... umm ... OK ... never mind ... I'll just see myself out. Have a good day."
--Rob Gronkowski: All-World Tight End, Pretty Decent Defensive Back:
--Wouldn't be a Leftover Thoughts without a Zero Humans play. Welcome back to the fray, Chris Hogan!
--Just a stunning graphic here. The kicker is brutal.
Anyways. See you next week.
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