It wasn’t altogether easy to watch, but the Patriots got the job done in their home opener Thursday night against the New York Jets. New England edged out a 13-10 victory over New York in a game riddled with offensive miscues from both teams. The key to the game ended up being the Patriots’ ability to avoid letting their mistakes result in turnovers. New York on the other hand, turned the ball over four times including three New England fourth quarter interceptions.
Tom Brady and the New England offense had a very frustrating evening. Brady was visibly offbeat with his young group of receivers. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins caught the ire of Brady on more than one occasion Thursday night, and rightfully so. The rookie wide outs simply were not on the same page as Brady when it came to reading and adjusting to the Jets defense. Both rookies had drops and cut off their routes too early more than once.
Thompkins nearly caught a touchdown in the back of the end zone near the end of the first half. He appears to very Brandon Lloyd-like in the sense that he’s a player that’s looking to go down as soon as he makes the catch. In the Patriots’ first two games this season, Thompkins has spent a lot of time on the ground and diving when it might not be necessary to do so. Thompkins needs to work on his body control, which makes sense for a rookie. He made a nice grab up the sidelines in the second quarter, but his momentum took him out of bounds. The ball that Brady threw on that play gave Thompkins plenty of room to work with along the sidelines, but Thompkins was unable to collect himself and work his way up what ended up being empty sidelines.
Aaron Dobson’s first NFL catch came on a 39-yard touchdown grab from Tom Brady. Dobson made the catch in the flat after a Brady play-action on the Patriots’ opening drive of the game. Things went downhill for Dobson after that as he was noticeably out of rhythm with Tom Brady. Dobson also made some key drops throughout the game on balls that Brady put in the perfect spot. It ended up being a tough night for Dobson after what looked to be a breakout game early on.
The offense as a whole just couldn’t get things going. Stevan Ridley looked shaky at best and Brady finished the game with only 185 yards passing. Julian Edelman led the charge offensively for New England. Edelman finished with 13 catches for 78 yards as the Patriots only steady offensive player.
The star of the night was the New England defense. New England forced four turnovers including three fourth quarter interceptions. Truth be told though, the Patriots can give a big thanks to Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith for the interceptions. Smith also missed wide-open receivers across the middle of the field a few times Thursday night.
Aqib Talib registered two of those interceptions and Alfonzo Dennard the other. Talib and Dennard certainly made nice plays on the picks, but Smith had no business throwing any of those balls. Smith has always been a player who rarely sets his feet when he throws even though he spends a lot of time in the pocket. He did the same thing during his college days at West Virginia.. Thursday night, Smith threw balls all night off of his back foot and across his body. New England was able to take advantage as Tom Brady and the offense trudged through the game doing a better job of protecting the ball.
On the defensive side of the ball, New England defensive ends, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, both flashed Thursday night for the Patriots. Rob Ninkovich seemed to be right on Geno Smith’s hip the entire second half. During the first half, New England managed to get pressure on Smith, but during the second half their front four as a whole stepped up the pressure big time. Chandler Jones finished with two sacks providing most of the first half pressure on Smith. Tommy Kelly had a solid game from the tackle position for the Patriots. With Vince Wilfork getting so much attention from the Jets offensive line, Kelly was able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups Thursday night. Kelly made some key third down tackles against the Jets and finished the night with five tackles and a sack.
It’s been a while since the Patriots have leaned so much on their defense in order to win. The Patriots of late have been high scoring teams, but in 2013 the New England defense is being asked to grind. So far, the defense is doing just that. They’ve come up and made stops when they need to, ultimately taking pressure off of the evolving Patriots offense. While the offense heals up and the rookies get their valuable game reps the defense is being relied on early. This is a big step for the Patriots defense as they’ve afforded the team the luxury of gathering two early division victories while enduring the breaking in of a new offense.
As the season rolls on the Patriots offense will get on the same page, and when that happens in combination with this hardened Patriots defense, New England should be just where they want to. Dogfights are a good thing for a defense, and the Patriots haven’t been in many of them these last few years. The 2013 Patriots defense is proving they can handle it. The days of putting up 400 yards of offense on the Patriots defense appear to be over.