BOSTON -- The Patriots are winless no more after an ugly 15-10 win over the New York Jets on Sunday. It may not have been a pretty football game, but a win is a win, and the Patriots finally have one in the 2023 season.
The New England defense made stops all day while the offense ... well the offense left a lot to be desired. Mac Jones and company had their issues against a talented Jets' defense in the rain at MetLife Stadium, but at least they'll be reflecting on those issues in victory and not another defeat. And for the first time all season, they held onto the football.
An 0-3 start to the season would have been devastating for New England, especially if that third loss came against a Jets team led by Zach Wilson. And it had a real chance of coming to a reality, as Wilson's last-second Hail Mary attempt nearly landed in Randall Cobb's hands. Losing on that would have been absolutely crushing for the Patriots, and likely sunk their season.
But the 2023 Patriots have a heartbeat and something to build off heading into next weekend's matchup with the Cowboys in Dallas. Here are the Ups and Downs from Sunday's win by the Patriots.
Defense Rules The Day
The New England defense dominated this game. Yes, they played an offense led by Zach Wilson, who is now 0-5 against the Patriots in his career. But the defense didn't let that offense do much of anything for the majority of the game.
New England forced eight punts on 13 New York drives, six of which came after New York three-and-outs. Matthew Judon came up with the play of the day when he pulled off a sick spin move and took down Wilson in the end zone for a safety late in the fourth, making it a 15-10 game. Judon had two sacks on the day and three QB hits.
The Jets had zero ground game on Sunday, held to 38 yards on 22 carries for a 1.7 yards-per-carry average.
And then there is rookie corner Christian Gonzalez, who deserves his own spot in "Ups."
Gonzo Does It Again
We are a broken record with the kid at this point, but we'll say it again: Christian Gonzalez is the real deal.
The rookie saw a lot of Garrett Wilson on Sunday, and the Jets' star was non-existent all afternoon. While Zach Wilson does indeed factor into that, Garrett Wilson was held to four meaningless receptions for 17 inconsequential yards before he hauled in a 29-yard reception on New York's final fire drill possession.
So far this season, Gonzalez has matched up against Philly's A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in Week 1, Miami's Tyreek Hill in Week 2, and Wilson in Week 3. He's held his own and limited each of them from really breaking out against New England.
Brown's Big Play On Offense
Who is Pharaoh Brown, you may be wondering? He signed with the Patriots' practice squad on Aug. 30, and was elevated to the active roster a few days later to be the team's blocking tight end. He had zero catches on zero targets heading into Week 3.
On Sunday, he had the biggest offensive play of the season for New England.
Bonus points for an epic Gronk-like spike after the score.
Brown was brought in to block, but he showed Sunday that can he make some big plays when his number is called.
Zeke Gets Going
The New England run game still isn't where it needs to be, but Ezekiel Elliott led the charge on Sunday. He broke off for 12 yards on his first carry of the day, and had a 14-yard run in the second quarter. He finished with 80 yards on his 16 carries -- good for five yards per rush attempt.
Overall, the Pats ran for 157 yards on 40 attempts. There is work to be done, but Elliott had his best game in a Patriots uniform.
"The most important thing is points. The second most important thing is turnovers," Bill Belichick said after the win.
The offense was far from perfect, but in crummy conditions against a solid defense, Mac Jones and the offense did not give the Jets any free possessions. After turning the ball over twice in each of their first two games -- two picks, two fumbles -- this was a nice step in the right direction for the Patriots.
Stevenson Couldn't Get It Going
While Zeke had a good game on the ground, Rhamondre Stevenson continues to struggle as New England's lead back. He had just 59 yards on his 19 carries, an average of just 3.1 yards per rush. Stevenson also caught just one of the four passes that went his way on the afternoon.
Three Penalties On One Drive
After a very disciplined first half, the Pats were flagged for three penalties on one drive in the third quarter, costing them 20 yards and some momentum.
On first down, JuJu Smith-Schuster was flagged for 10 yards for a needless blind side block, pushing the Patriots back to their own 10-yard line. Facing a third-and-17 at their own 17, Trent Brown was hit with a false start, pushing the Pats back five more yards.
Before the Pats could snap the ball on third-and-18, Mike Onwenu was hit with a false start. The Pats called a draw play for Elliott on third-and-23, and then had to punt the ball away.
New England gained 12 yards on the ground and lost 20 yards due to penalties on the drive. The Jets started their next drive at midfield, but thankfully they're the Jets and went three-and-out.
Tough Day For Joe Cardona
The nine-year vet is as steady as they come at long-snapper, but Cardona had two high snaps on missed field goals by rookie kicker Chad Ryland -- one from 48 yards and another from 57 yards.
Bad Miss By Refs
This was NOT called pass interference.
We were under the assumption that smacking a receiver in the face before the ball gets to him was a penalty.
Some Worrisome Injuries
The Patriots lost defensive linemen Daniel Ekuale (elbow) and Davon Godchaux (ankle) on back to back plays in second quarter. Both left the game and did not return.
Tight end Hunter Henry appeared to suffer a lower-body injury late in the game, but was on the field for New York's free kick. But his health will be something to monitor this week.
The Rest Of The AFC East
The Patriots are now 1-2 on the season and no longer in last place in the AFC East. But third place in the division will likely be their ceiling.
Because the Miami Dolphins are absolute monsters right now, trouncing the Denver Broncos 70 (yes, 70!) to 20 to improve to 3-0 on Sunday. The Bills appear to be back as well, improving to 2-1 with a convincing 37-3 victory over the Commanders.
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