Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Three Reasons the Patriots beat the Jets

Most games aren't this easy to dissect, but the Patriots are not your normal team. They play mistake-free football, and watch the other team beat themselves.

In the 19-10 New England victory over the Jets, there are three obvious parts of the stat sheet that stand out.

1. Field position (well, special teams in general)
2. Penalties
3. An interception by Brett Favre

Seven of nine possessions started at the 20-yard line, with the other two starting at the 23 and 25 yardlines. You can't score consistently with horrible field position.

The total net yards was 260-256 in favor of New England. Both teams played good defense, but moved the ball on occasion. Jay Feely missed a pretty short field goal, taking three points off the board. Ben Graham was inconsistent, with two shanks. That helped New England start five possessions in Jets territory.

Let me repeat that. New England started five drives in Jets territory. The Jets defense did a good job holding them to 19 points, though the underneath passing of Matt Cassel and the late game running by former Jet LaMont Jordan was frustrating to watch at times.

Penalties were also a big deal, as it seemed every borderline call went in New England's favor. But that's what winning teams do, they find ways to stay on the right side of the NFL law. Six penalties for 60 yards for the Jets, including two 15-yard personal fouls put the Jets in a few difficult 3rd and longs, and Calvin Pace's roughing the passer for going helmet-to-helmet on Cassel as he tried to pull up helped allow Stephen Gostkowski to kick his fourth and game-sealing field goal.

New England had two penalties for 10 yards.

Finally, in a game against New England, there is one thing you simply cannot do: make mistakes. Mistakes can be penalties, as I showed above. Or they can be turnovers. And Brett Favre threw a duck to Brandon Meriweather which led to the Pats' lone touchdown by Sammy Morris (8 rushes, 0 yards, 1 TD. Fun statline).

The Jets wanted to make an early statement as the AFC East team to beat, but home divisional losses are tough to overcome. The Jets will have one more chance at New England later this year, but right now, they are looking up at the standings at both the Patriots and the Buffalo Bills.

1-1-1 on my picks. Denver's two-point conversion for the win was exciting, but it only gave me a push. Damon Huard's injury hurt the Kansas City pick, but that team is just a trainwreck. Never again will I take them as a favorite. At least Tampa Bay rolled. I love Earnest Graham, why they don't give him the ball more, I do not understand...

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