Faced with the possibility of falling to 2-5 on the 2021 season, the New England Patriots took the field at Gillette Stadium for their Week Seven matchup with the New York Jets determined to make their mark in the win column.
In the second of two meetings between the AFC East Divisional Rivals, New England’s Mac Jones completed 24 of 36 passes, compiling 307 yards with two touchdowns. Running backs Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor would contribute two touchdown runs each as the Pats dismantled the New York Jets 54-13 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
Though the spirits in New England’s locker room are considerably higher than that of last week, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned from the Pats performance on Sunday.
The Patriots Were Indeed Best-Served by Going With Their Best Available Players on the Offensive Line
At long last, the Patriots may have made significant strides to curing their offensive line woes. While lineman Trent Brown remains on injured reserve, the Pats deployed a lineup consisting of LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Ted Karras, C David Andrews, OG Shaq Mason and RT Michael Onwenu on Sunday. As a result, New England looked far more efficient in both run and pass protection than they have all season. The Patriots’ offensive line allowed just one sack and four quarterback hits. In run protection, the line provided the team’s runners the opportunity to rush for an average of 5.0 yards per carry, with Damien Harris averaging 7.6 yards per carry. Against a solid Jets’ defensive front, the offensive line more than held its own, while opening up windows for the offensive to thrive.
Mac Jones is Just Getting Warmed Up
For much of the season, fans and media alike have been clamoring for the Patriots to let their rookie quarterback test his ability to throw the deep ball. On Sunday, Jones had his first 300-yard passing game, during a contest in which he took several deep shots down the field. With the Jets playing in aggressive single-high coverage (aligning several defenders near the line of scrimmage, with the safety playing the box to provide run support) Jones targeted individual coverages along the outside. His 46-yard completion to Kendrick Bourne in the fourth quarter nearly went for a touchdown. Jones also took multi-yard shots over the middle, the most impressive of which was a strike to receiver Jakobi Meyers, placed just under his route, in the second quarter. Overall, Jones continues to grow his repertoire, while continuing to do what he does well. He and the Patriots would travel 72-yards on eleven plays, inside the final two minutes of the first half. Playing to his strengths, Jones found tight end Hunter Henry for the touchdown by throwing him open in the endzone. The rookie still has notable need for improvement in certain areas. However, as he continues to gain more comfort in the Pats offense, he provides greater evidence each week that the best is yet to come.
The Secondary is Still a Work-In-Progress
In the wake of trading cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots’ defensive backfield has been the subject of much conjecture. The questions only multiplied when slot corner Jonathan Jones was placed on injured reserve on Saturday. Filling in for Jones at slot corner, defensive back Myles Bryant compiled a forced fumble, a tackle for loss, and a sack on a corner blitz. Despite some shaky spots in coverage, Bryant performed well enough for the Pats to consider having him continue to fill the role until Jones’ return. However, New England may still need help at outside cornerback. J.C. Jackson had another strong day, collecting three tackles, one pass defended, and one interception. Jalen Mills had a better outing than he did in Week Six, yet still suffered some breakdowns in individual assignments. Though Joejuan Williams’ had arguably his most efficient performance of the season, registering three pass breakups on the day, he still had some unsteady moments in coverage. With the trade deadline approaching, New England may have a sharp eye on some depth options heading into the home stretch of the season.
Christian Barmore is Already an Impact Player
Barmore continues to make quite the physical impression on the Patriots defensive line. The 6-foot-4, 310 pound lineman blends his strength and power with great technique. He plays with good leverage, and is strong enough to take on double-teams. He locates the ball quickly, chases with good effort and has excellent range for his size. On Sunday, Barmore was one of the Patriots most productive defenders. He was credited with two quarterback hits and three total tackles. His ability to push the pocket has made him a disruptive force in New England’s pass defense. However, Barmore is quite proficient when attempting to stop the run, as well. In the second quarter, he registered a tackle-for loss on a Jets’ rushing attempt on fourth down, beating his interior blocker to find his way into the backfield to make the stop. While few questioned Barmore’s undeniable potential when he was drafted, the Alabama product has become a key component of the Pats defensive front in short order.