Three thoughts on the Patriots’ 24–17 win over the Jets.
1. Replay gone wrong. About halfway through the fourth quarter, it appeared the Jets scored a touchdown to cut the Patriots lead to four with the extra point pending. Austin Seferian-Jenkins took a pass from Josh McCown and bullied his way through a few defenders, powering just across to goal line for what looked like his second score of the game. Under a replay review, however, officials determined that Seferian-Jenkins bobbled the ball as he was going into the end zone, and that he hit the pylon when he technically did not have control of it. That turned Seferian-Jenkins’s second touchdown into a fumble and touchback, despite the fact that the big tight end never actually lost the ball.
You don’t need to be the head of the league’s Competition Committee to see that the call, while technically true to the letter of the law, violated the spirit of both the rule and replay itself. You can be sure that the Competition Committee will take a look at that rule, through the lens of Seferian-Jenkins’s non-touchdown, during the offseason. That brings no solace to the Jets.
2. New England’s defense remains a problem. The Patriots came away with the win, moving to 4-2 and a half game ahead of the Bills and Dolphins in the AFC East. Their defense, specifically against the pass, is still a major issue. Josh McCown racked up 354 yards and 7.53 yards per attempt on the afternoon. Heading into the game, McCown was averaging 204 yards per game with 6.94 YPA. The Patriots have allowed all six quarterbacks they’ve faced this season to throw for at least 300 yards, with the group posting 338.17 yards per game, 8.63 YPA and 14 touchdowns against five interceptions. There might be little shame in surrendering that brand of numbers to Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton and Jameis Winston, but McCown is cut from a different, uglier cloth. This pass defense could be the Patriots undoing.
3. The Super Bowl rematch has lost some luster. The Patriots and Falcons meet in Foxboro next week for the first time since New England pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. At the start of the season, it looked like both teams would be heavyweights again in their respective conferences. The Patriots remain a favorite, if not the favorite, in the AFC, but they’re not quite the powerhouse most expected them to be. Atlanta, meanwhile, might not be very good. They’re just 3–2 after losing to the Dolphins at home in Week 6 in a game they led 17–0 at halftime, and they could just as easily be 1–4. They snuck past the Bears in Week 1, 23–17, aided partially by a drop by Jordan Howard at the goal line on what likely would have been a game-winning touchdown. Two weeks later, an obscure 10-second runoff rule helped them escape Detroit with a 30–26 win over the Lions. With a trip to New England on tap, last year’s NFC champions could easily be 3–3 after their first six games. The Patriots may not be playing up to expectations, but they’re in much better shape than the team whose heart they broke eight months ago.