BOSTON -- I believe in the power of sports.
I believe -- no, actually, I know -- that certain sporting events can lift enormous groups of people to heightened senses of joy, heartache, exhilaration, euphoria, devastation, and everywhere in between. Nothing else in the world can compare.
There truly is nothing on this planet quite like the highest level of sporting competition.
Unfortunately, the football game that was played at MetLife Stadium on Sunday between the New England Patriots and New York Jets was not one of those moments. It wasn't even close.
It was freaking bad, man. And it's getting kind of old.
The Patriots won their 15th straight game against the Jets, despite missing two field goals, despite failing to convert 11 third downs, despite never getting to the red zone, and despite scoring one touchdown all day. It was ugly, grisly, unpleasant, and gross. And it was kind of the norm for when these teams meet.
Last year, we wasted a whole afternoon watching a 3-3 slog end with a punt return touchdown. This one was just as dreary.
In the end, the Patriots got their first win of the year, avoiding an 0-3 start and proving they can beat a team that doesn't employ an NFL quarterback. Which is all well and good. But there was a whole lot to dislike about this game.
--Despite dominating on the stat sheet, the Patriots came within an inch or two of losing the football game on a pinballed Hail Mary as time expired.
--On five third downs when the Patriots needed between three and six yards, Mac Jones threw deep. The passes fell incomplete. None really had a chance. (Jones did hit DeVante Parker for a first down on a third-and-15, when the team really needed the big yardage.) Rhamondre Stevenson also dropped a pass that would have converted a third-and-3.
--The Patriots' lone touchdown was scored by Pharaoh Brown. It was a bit fluky.
--The Patriots had a chance to score before halftime but the coaching staff worked to only ... set up a 57-yard field goal attempt for the rookie kicker. What resulted was the worst kick in NFL history. (That's only a slight exaggeration. And even then -- maybe!) That came after the Patriots burned a timeout while defending a field goal, immediately after the Jets had called a timeout to attempt a field goal. Slop city.
The counterpoint: They still won.
The question: Was it a one-off?
I don't know. But I do know this. Outside of the Week 18 rematch, the Patriots will not face a worse quarterback than the one they faced on Sunday. That's a fact. So squeaking out a five-point win against a team with the most hopeless offense on the schedule isn't exactly encouraging.
But, yeah, they did win, and the season's not over. So let's hit the leftover thoughts from that scintillating 15-10 victory.
--Admittedly, maybe it's not as tight of a football game if an obvious pass interference is called ...
... or if an obvious late hit is called:
(A number of people have fought back on that one, saying Jones was still trying to run forward after the whistle had been blown. I would challenge those people to ask themselves what would have happened if the defense had allowed Jones to run forward after the whistle had blown, instead of body-slamming him to the turf. You know?)
The missed PI came two plays before a missed 57-yard field goal, and the missed personal foul led to a punt instead of having a first down in field-goal range. The Patriots likely would have had a few more points to show for their efforts if Bill Vinovich's crew had done its job. I'll give you that.
Also factor in that Randall Cobb drew a PI call in the end zone by going full-on NBA with his flop, and it was an ugly game for the third team on the field as well. Fitting, yeah?
--I knew the Jets were done when Robert Saleh celebrated Chad Ryland's first missed field goal as if the Jets had just won the Super Bowl.
That was embarrassing.
--We do the HARDCORE MAC JONES ANALYSIS here, obviously, and I think there was good and bad. The bad has been mentioned. There were some third-and-short plays where Jones seemed to have his mind made up pre-snap that he was going to take a deep shot. These were poor decisions. They led to unsuccessful football plays. They like to call them "50-50 balls" down there in Foxboro but the actual success rate might surprise them.
Here's a quick cut:
Those were all useless -- useless! -- plays on third down. And with Jones saying he has a lot of pre-snap decision-making freedom in Bill O'Brien's offense, he's going to have to be better.
--There was good, though. Plenty of it.
The first third down of the game saw Mac complete an 18-yarder to Mike Gesicki.
In the second quarter, Jones delivered a perfect intermediate ball to Demario Douglas to convert a third down:
Likewise, a third-and-15 completion to DeVante Parker was the type of pass that the internet would have you believe Mac Jones can't make:
A common thread throughout most of Jones' completions was that he was getting smashed by Jets pass rushers all day. The pocket was never quite clean, and he was hanging in long enough for receivers to get open, absorbing the shots while delivering the passes. The Jets didn't have a sack on the day, and that was in large part due to Jones' timing and willingness to get smoked. The other quarterback on the field could stand to learn something from that.
--If you really want to feel good about something after Sunday, then forget about the quarterback and look at the No. 1 cornerback. Christian Gonzalez is in the midst of a trial by fire in the NFL, seeing an A.J. Brown/Devonta Smith offense in Week 1, a Tyreek Hill/Jaylen Waddle offense in Week 2, and then spending most of Week 3 manning up Garrett Wilson. He did a damn good job.
The CBS broadcast had a nice isolated cut of his work against Wilson, who's so good that he was rookie of the year last year despite having a clown car of quarterbacks throwing him the ball. If the two players stay on their current teams, they'll have plenty of head-to-head matchups in the years to come. The first one was a win for Gonzalez.
--The other positive on the day is that the Patriots' defense is clearly pretty good if it held Miami to 24 points last week. If you didn't notice, the Dolphins scored 70 points on Sunday. Seventy! All on offense, too. That's three points shy of the NFL record for most points in a game, which the Dolphins could have matched if not for a mercy kneeldown at the end of the game instead of a field goal try.
The 2013 Broncos (highest-scoring offense of all time) had a single-game high of 52 points. The 2007 Patriots, second on that all-time list, had a single-game high of 56 points.
Seventy points is insane. So, again, if you're unable to glean much from a defense stopping Zach Wilson, you can at least take that away from Sunday.
--Speaking of Zach Wilson, who is not good, this was clearly intentional grounding and should have been a safety:
What's funny is ... Wilson simply took a sack a few plays later in the end zone for a safety the old-fashioned way, rendering the missed call by Vinovich a moot point.
This officiating crew was bad, in case that message hasn't gotten across yet.
--Deatrich Wise drawing a holding call on Zach Wilson's 11-yard scramble on third-and-10 was kind of the play of the game. Vinovich didn't even want to call it. And he didn't ... until Connor McGovern put Wise in a leg lock and blatantly kept him down on the ground after getting bowled over. Judon had the sack for the safety on the next play.
There were many positive plays on defense, though. Kyle Dugger's coverage against Ty Conklin stood out. Jabrill Peppers blowing through Randall Cobb en route to preventing a Jets first down stood out. The open-field tackling stood out. The Patriots' defense is, indeed, good, even if a strong performance against Zach Wilson doesn't fully capture that.
--I mentioned it earlier, but the Patriots did a horrible job managing the game before halftime. It wasn't quite as bad as the Vikings' end-of-game situation on Sunday, but it wasn't the mark of a team that's functioning at the highest level.
It began when the Jets called timeout after faking like they were going for it on a fourth-and-2. They came out of the timeout and lined up for the field goal. The Patriots then ... called their first timeout. It wasn't like they had 12 guys on the field, so it's unclear why they called that timeout with 1:25 left in the half. But there went one timeout.
The Patriots then went into a quasi-hurry-up, running the ball on two of the first three plays of the next drive. Clearly, they had their doubts about the ability to drive into field-goal range. Which, OK, fair enough. But why even suit up if you don't think you can compete?
The Patriots let almost 30 seconds tick off the clock before running a play on third-and-8, which ended up being a completion for nine yards to Hunter Henry.
So, good thing: The Patriots moved the chains. But bad thing: Only 21 seconds were left in the half.
And instead of really trying to drive into manageable field-goal range with one shot to do so, the Patriots went with a QB sneak to set up a 57-yard field goal attempt for rookie Chad Ryland.
What followed was the worst kick in the history of feet, sports balls, and synthetic turf.
It was bad football.
--I'm fascinated by all the emotions inspired by Mac Jones. He's like ... a very boring guy! I'm not insulting him or anything. But he's quite plain! And yet people see him and lose their minds. They argue about him all the time. It's wild.
What's crazy is it extends beyond fans. Opposing players seem to go nuts with the guy.
Like ... guys! It's Mac Jones! Keep your cool!
I don't get it!!!!
--On the plus side for the Patriots, the schedule technically got a little easier on Sunday, as the Cowboys proved they are indeed beatable by losing to the Cardinals, who may be the worst team in the league. However, the downside of that for New England is that the Cowboys are going to play pissed next weekend in Dallas, looking to make up for that flop in Arizona.
Either way, most of us looked at the first four weeks of the Patriots' schedule and saw 1-3 as the likeliest scenario, with 2-2 being an optimistic outlook. The better end of that mediocre projection is still in play, thanks to New England doing enough to win a nasty game in New Jersey.
Let's all be thankful that it's over, yeah? Yeah.
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