MNF Recap: Jets at Patriots
The weekly recaps are written by former Stanford kicker Derek Belch.
Monday Night Shocker
Even if you predicted a New England victory heading into last night, I can’t imagine there’s anyone on the planet who predicted the type of beat-down the Pats put on the Jets in what many pundits considered to be the biggest regular season game for both teams in the last several decades. New England beat the Jets in every phase of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – and made the Jets look like more of a 2-9 team than a 9-2 team with one of the league’s top-rated defenses.
So, how did the Patriots do it? Pretty simple, really; Tom Brady was magnificent, completing 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. It was the second straight game in which Brady has thrown for over 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and nearly the second week in a row of posting a perfect passer rating (148.8 last night after a perfect 158.3 last week against the Lions. Brady has now gone 7 straight games and over 200 pass attempts without throwing an interception, and has increased his season total to 27 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. The man is absolutely on fire, and all without the big-play-threat of Randy Moss.
Instead, Brady is distributing the football to a bunch of guys that very few casual fans have ever heard of, including a pair of rookie tight ends and three guys who are 5’9” or shorter. Brady completed passes to eight different receivers last night, including four passes for 104 yards to the diminutive (but oh so awesome) Danny Woodhead. Woodhead also carried twice for 11 yards, and has quickly established himself as one of Brady’s go-to-guys in clutch situations. It will certainly be interesting to see if the Pats keep him next season, and whether his role in the offense will continue to grow in upcoming seasons… Among Patriot wide receivers, Wes Welker led with 7 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown (the third straight game in which he has scored), while Deion Branch caught three passes for 64 yards and a score as well.
What’s interesting about Brady’s sizzling run of huge numbers is that he really is doing it all without the presence of the big play. With the exception of blown coverage a few weeks ago on Brandon Tate and terrible tackling last week in Detroit on Branch, the majority of Brady’s completions are in the 5 to 15 yard range, with significant yardage coming after the catch. While in a lot of cases those huge YAC yards are due to guys being wide open, it doesn’t take a football guru to see that Brady is so on right now that he’s putting the ball in the perfect place for his receivers to run after the catch on nearly every play. In fact, I’d venture to say that nearly half of Brady’s touchdowns this year have come on plays where the receiver did not catch the ball in the endzone. Don’t quote me on that, of course, but I bet I’m close.
A month ago, Brady torched the Pittsburgh Steelers defense for 350 yards and three scores. Last night, he carved up a similarly-ranked unit. Despite facing two of the league’s better secondaries the next two weeks in Chicago and Green Bay, there’s no reason to believe Brady will slow down any time soon. Oh and here’s another reason: is it just me, or do Brady and the Patriots look like they’re on a mission to blow every team out like they did in 2007? You gotta love that if you’re a Brady owner.
Mark Sanchez needs a hug. After a week in which every sports talk show in America was talking about this game, he put up the stinker of all stinkers, completing only 17 of 33 passes for 164 yards, no touchdowns (obviously, hence the 3 points the Jets had), and three interceptions. It was good for a passer rating of 27.8. Ouch.
Whereas Tom Brady hasn’t thrown an interception in seven straight games, Sanchez hasn’t gone seven games without throwing a pick, and has thrown two or more in three of those contests. And from a fantasy perspective, games like last night and last week where he fails to throw for over 200 yards in addition to turning the ball over are absolute killers not only for Sanchez owners but for Jets wide receivers as well. While Santonio Holmes managed to lead all Jets players last night with a somewhat respectable 7 catches for 72 yards, no other Jet recorded more than three catches.
Of course, during Sanchez’s hot streak (what seemed like ages ago), he threw for 300 or more yards over a three game stretch and made all of his weapons (particularly Holmes) fantasy relevant. But alas, he’s reverted to the sophomore struggles, and is killing Jets fans and fantasy owners alike. With Miami, Pittsburgh, and Chicago left on his (fantasy) playoff schedule, I sure wouldn’t want to have to rely on Sanchez (or his receivers) with a title on the line.
Don’t be fooled by Shonn Green’s 13 carries for 64 yards last night, as most of those carries and yards came during a fourth quarter in which the Jets just wanted to get the heck out of Boston. LaDainian Tomlinson, meanwhile, continued to run well last night, albeit in a limited role. LT got the start as he has all year and carried 10 times for 47 yards and caught two passes for 19 yards. Unfortunately for his owners, Tomlinson hasn’t gone over 60 yards rushing since week five against Minnesota, when he ran for 94 yards on 20 carries, and hasn’t scored since week six when he punched it in twice against the Broncos. I hope you traded him while the value was there… On a positive note for running backs in this game, Benjarvus Green-Ellis continued his strong season last night, carrying 18 times for 72 yards and two touchdowns. “The Law Firm” was active from the very first play, and continues to get the bulk of the carries in an offense notoriously known for nightmare carry distributions. Green-Ellis has now scored two touchdowns in two straight games, and 11 on the season. He has also received double-digit carries in every game but two this season (one of which was the game against Cleveland in which New England trailed by two or more scores all game), and is clearly the guy Bill Belichick trusts the most to carry the rock. Continue to start him regardless of the matchup, and pray that his week 16 game against the Bills means something for the Pats… Has anyone seen Dustin Keller? Since catching two touchdowns in back-to-back games during weeks three and four, Keller has topped 70 yards only once, and has topped-out at four catches as a single-game best. In what’s once again a down-year for tight ends, Keller has gone from a dependable player with upside to a fantasy ghost.
And here’s one more note of interest for this game, something completely un-fantasy related. Don’t get me wrong, the Jets are a very good football team, but they are not a championship football team. Aside from getting blown-out last night the Jets have failed to do something all year that is among the highest indicators of championship potential: blow teams out. The best teams every year not only win the close games, but they also absolutely crush the teams that they should beat convincingly. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Jets needed come-from-behind wins against Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, and Denver. Not good.