New England Patriots

  • Facing a fourth down five yards from the lead, it’s little wonder that Mac Jones turned to the reliably consistent Jakobi Meyers to close the opening series of Sunday’s second half in The Meadowlands.

    Meyers’ grab, backpedal, turn and dive inside the front right pylon, giving the Patriots a 13-10 advantage over the Jets, was one of his nine catches among a dozen targets totaling 60 yards. It was Jakobi’s third touchdown in his last four appearances and fifth score in his past 14 games.

    This, remember, after Meyers went without a touchdown in his first 38 NFL contests.

    When he scored for the first time last November vs. Cleveland on his 135th career reception, Meyers was mobbed in the end zone by more than 20 teammates. His latest, amid a taut and much-needed divisional road win, lifted Jon Bon Jovi out of his seat in team owner Robert Kraft’s box, as Hunter Henry et al congratulated Meyers down below.

    “I’ll just take every one that I get,” Meyers said on Sunday. “It’s fun being able to score and guys being real proud of me and just seeing plays kind of pay off how you want them to.”

    While Meyers does much to make his teammates proud, he gives us a lot to appreciate.

    Like where he’s come from, as a college convert from quarterback to receiver at N.C. State. How he got here, earning a Patriots roster spot as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2019. What he experienced before breaking through, going from a minor role as a rookie to no role early in his second season.

    During Meyers’ first 23 regular-season weeks in the NFL, encompassing 21 games for the Pats, he logged 428 offensive snaps, according to pro-football-reference.com. He was targeted 42 times and made 27 catches for 366 yards.

    Five of those games were at the outset of 2020. Meyers was inactive for one and never saw the field in another. In the other three contests, his lone target in 22 snaps was a seven-yard reception.

    When the loss of an injured Julien Edelman opened the door to opportunity, Meyers seized it with his knack for getting open, keen awareness of spacing and sure hands. Playing 1,910 snaps in 32 games since Week 7 of 2020, Jakobi’s made 176 catches in 251 targets for 2,003 yards.

    The numbers compute to a 70.1 percent catch rate, 5.5 receptions per game and 11.4 yards a grab. Many, like Sunday’s score, occurred when his team needed him most.

    Meyers is currently halfway through the one year of a $3.986 million contract he signed last spring as a restricted free agent. Come March of 2023, he’ll be unrestricted.

    Unless Jakobi and the Patriots agree to a new contract beforehand. Let’s hope they do.

  • Coming up short

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 30: Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots kicks a field goal during the second quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 30, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Three of Nick Folk’s five field goals on Sunday finished drives that started in Jets’ territory. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    The Pats enjoyed a 23-yard head start on average in Sunday’s win at New York. While the average starting field position for the Jets’ 12 series was their 20-yard line, the Patriots’ 13 possessions originated on average at their own 43.

    Excluding a final sequence of end-of-game kneel downs, the Pats began five drives in New York territory, totaling 19 plays and just 15 net yards, resulting in three field goals and two punts. On four of the five series, they failed to pick up a first down.

    Obviously, the Patriots (4-4) will need to take better advantage of short fields to go farther than the regular season. Through eight games, they’ve opened 18 drives on the opponents’ side of midfield, netting six touchdowns and four field goals. The remaining eight scoreless series ended in five punts, two turnovers and a ‘victory formation.’

    Regardless of where they’ve started, the Pats have struggled to ‘close the deal’ when they’ve driven inside the 20-yard line. They reached the end zone once in three such trips at the Jets and are tied for 29th overall in ‘red zone’ offense, scoring TD’s on 45.8 percent of their opportunities. 

  • Playing from behind

    Ehlinger fumble

    The Colts are tied for the NFL lead with 16 giveaways in 2022. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

    During Frank Reich’s first four seasons as head coach, the Colts produced the NFL’s fourth-best point differential (+91) in the first quarter, according to Pro Football Reference via the Indianapolis Star.

    This year is different story. Indianapolis has been outscored in the opening quarter by a 40-10 margin (-30). Its second-quarter deficit is even wider at 65-32 (-33).

    That’s a 105-42 difference (-63) and an average touchdown-plus halftime deficit (7.88 points per game) facing the 3-4-1 Colts.

    Correspondingly, Indy’s turnovers are up from a year ago, while their rushing production is down. Significantly.

    The 2021 Colts committed 19 turnovers in 17 games, tied for eighth-fewest in the league. In 2022, their 16 giveaways currently tie them with the Patriots and Saints for most in the NFL. With just eight takeaways, Indy’s turnover margin is -8. Only New Orleans (-9) has a worse differential.

    Featuring then MVP candidate Jonathan Taylor, last year’s Colts had the league’s second-best rushing offense. They averaged 149.4 yards a game and 5.09 yards a carry. This fall, Taylor is battling ankle problems, a once vaunted offensive line is struggling and Indy ranks 29th in rushing yards per game (87.8) and carry (3.71).

    Bob Socci is in his 10th season calling play-by-play for the Patriots Radio Network on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Follow him on Twitter @BobSocci.