How the Patriots made the single biggest play of a much-needed win
Mac Jones needed that. Bill Belichick needed that. The New England Patriots needed that.
It’s still a work in progress for the Pats’ offense, and Sunday’s game at a rainy, sloppy MetLife Stadium was always going to be a slow day for both teams. But days like these often come down to one play, one big pendulum swing. This time, it was Mac Jones’ pass to a wide-open Pharaoh Brown for a 58-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
How did they pull off the game’s single biggest play? In classic Belichickian Patriots fashion, it came down to simple preparation and execution. They drew the play up during the week, worked on it, then called it and executed it the best possible way, at the best possible time. And it took everyone: Bill O’Brien’s play-call, solid blocking, Jones’ play-action fake, a heads-up Brown completing the catch and finishing it at the pylon.
The finish was sneaky-huge, because if Brown came up a yard or two short, a touchdown on the ensuing series wasn’t guaranteed. But he grabbed the Pats’ only score of the game, and enough for Jones and the offense to get out of New York with a win that felt like a must for the entire organization.
“It was just a little play-action play,” Jones said on the touchdown. “We kind of knew it was going to work, and he made a great catch (Brown). “We worked on that in practice, and it worked in the game, so, that’s what we want.”
Asked a follow-up on how he knew the play was going to work: “I’mma keep it to myself.” Then a chuckle. Possible translation: it’s the Jets.
Belichick had to love that one play, because of the way it took all 11 guys executing to get it done, not to mention the coaches having everyone prepared and O’Brien making a timely call.
“We started to have a little continuity on the offensive line, so that was good, I think that definitely helped the running game,” Belichick said. “Coach O’Brien did a good job mixing the play-actions in there. He hit a big pass. And I think probably the running game helped that a little bit. The more we can keep these guys working together and improve our timing and execution, the better off we’re gonna be. No turnovers, that’s a good place to start.”
Caveats: The Brown touchdown, while a big moment for him, was obviously the kind of thing that happens because of a busted coverage. The Patriots ultimately scored only 15 points and won largely because of their defense, which had a better start-to-finish 60-minute effort. The offense still needs to improve a lot in order to be in position to beat better teams. And to be absolutely certain, Jets quarterback Zach Wilson is not good, and head coach Robert Saleh’s staff clearly got out-coached by Belichick and the Patriots.
But we already knew the Patriots had a good defense and head coach, we already knew Wilson stunk, and we already knew this was going to be a tough game for moving the ball and scoring. There’s no news there. The important thing coming out of this game for the Patriots, especially for Mac Jones and the offense, is whether they can start making more winning plays and playing more winning football.
Jones took a solid step forward in that department on Sunday. He played better than the stats would suggest in a turnover-free, mostly well-managed performance, and he was able to connect with Brown for one massive play that basically decided the game. And it was a total team effort.
Read more on the New England Patriots below…