By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
It still wasn't exactly how the Patriots drew it up, but they certainly played well enough to earn a road win over the New York Jets by a 27-13 score. It's hard to complain too much about the Patriots' imperfections on the road after a game like this, a predictably tough battle against the Jets for about two-and-a-half quarters.
No, this year's edition of the Patriots has not put together a complete 60 minutes on the road. But at the same time, this is how it almost always looks when the Patriots go to New York. These games frequently have "a win is a win" type outcomes, and that's fine because it's always hard to win a divisional game on the road, no matter how inferior the opponent.
Here are some quick-hitters to think about after the Patriots gut out what ended up being a relatively comfortable road win.
-- Patriots pull away in second half. To call this a "Tale of Two Halves" might be too extreme, but the Patriots victimized themselves with an absurd amount of penalties on both sides of the ball in the first two quarters. They managed to clean it up a bit in the final two quarters, and it resulted in a 17-3 second-half score to give the Patriots more than enough to hold off Josh McCown and New York.
-- Defense closes strong. The unit allowed its share of big plays and let the Jets jump out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. They had penalties of their own, too, including a costly roughing the passer against Deatrich Wise that led to the Jets' only TD. They tightened up in the second half, allowing only a field goal and generally getting better pressure on McCown to force errant throws. Kyle Van Noy (QB hit, pass breakup, tackle for loss) had a nice half to help spur the defense up front, and the Pats' cornerback tandem had a good day overall. A decent bounce-back for this group after a debacle in Nashville.
-- Solid return for Rob Gronkowski. The tight end still needs to be more efficient, as he only caught three of his seven targets. But he made them count with 56 yards and a touchdown, and at least two of his non-catches can be partially blamed on Tom Brady. The QB was off with a throw to the end zone and Gronk had to temporarily become a defensive back to tip the ball to the ground and prevent an interception. On an early third down throw, Brady was just a hair late to a wide-open Gronk and safety Jamal Adams was able to close on him and break it up. But Gronk certainly looked to get open more often and came up with big plays when he did get the ball in his hands. He was also strong as a run-blocker, which is a good sign for his prior back injury.
-- Sony Michel, running game steps up big-time. The Patriots were fine in the passing game, but the offense had a balanced attack on Sunday thanks to an excellent ground game. Michel ran through contact and around blockers consistently to find holes in the second and third levels, breaking off a handful of runs for over 20 yards. He ended up with 133 yards on 21 carries, and could've had more if not for a few nice gains wiped out by penalties. The Pats rushed for 215 yards on 36 carries as a team, as the run game proved to be a highly effective and important component of the offense in this one.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].