Extra Points

Five Takeaways From the Patriots' 17-16 Win Over the Jets


The Patriots barely made it out of MetLife Stadium alive on Sunday, playing down to the lowly Jets' level before surviving with a 17-16 win that was as ugly as it sounds. Under siege all day thanks to a leaky offensive line, Tom Brady managed just 182 yards on 35 pass attempts and the Pats finished with only 231 total yards, a mind-boggling 52 in the first half. But the defense and special teams kept them in it (this is a recording) and made enough of a difference in the later stages to earn the Pats a first-round playoff bye and bring them one step closer to homefield advantage throughout the postseason. Here's a handful of food for thought on the Pats' 12th win of the season.

1. The offensive line is in critical condition -- The Pats did a tremendous job correcting the issues that plagued them up front through the first month of the season. But after a couple of weeks that looked like they were backsliding in that area, they officially crashed against the Jets. Left guard Dan Connolly, who has struggled of late, missed the game with an injury and his replacement, Josh Kline, was abused to the point of being benched in the second half. The line seemed to shore itself up to a point in the second half with Ryan Wendell moving to left guard and rookie Cameron Fleming taking over at right guard. But there were still plenty of occasions when Brady was in all kinds of trouble, sacked four times and hit 11 others, with pressure contributing directly to a potentially fatal fourth quarter interception.

It didn't help that there was a lot of mixing and matching, a la September, going on. Or that the running game was nowhere to be found for most of the day. Or that Nate Solder again took over a full quarter to wake up. Or that Marcus Cannon is ever allowed anywhere near the field. These are all serious problems that will ultimately ruin the Patriots' season if they can't figure out how to fix them for a second time this year.

2. Defense saves the day once again -- The Jets moved the ball fairly well at times and quarterback Geno Smith, who is a complete bum against every other team in the NFL, was able to make some plays downfield in the passing game, causing the Pats to sweat on D. But in the end, when it was most necessary, the defense made enough plays to bail out the impotent offense yet again.

After failing to get pressure for most of the day, Chandler Jones rattled Smith enough to force him to throw a bad interception to Jamie Collins late in the third quarter that led to the Pats scoring what would eventually wind up the winning TD. Jones and Sealver Siliga combined for a big sack when the Jets were deep in Pats' territory to set up a field goal that saved the lead for the Pats. And most importantly, Dont'a Hightower sacked Smith on a third-and-four just three plays after Brady's interception to force a long field goal attempt that was partially blocked. If we didn't already know that this defense -- now on a five-game streak of not allowing a second half touchdown -- could rescue the Pats and carry them to a win, those guys keep proving it.

3. Sound the Danny Amendola siren -- The Pats' forgotten man got a big chance to make an impact with Julian Edelman out and after a quiet start, he came through. Amendola (not Ah-mendola, as the CBS broadcast crew called him all day) played 44 snaps and grabbed eight catches for 63 yards, the biggest of which was an Edelman-esque, 12-yard catch, duck and dive for a big first down on the Pats' final possession. He also served as the primary punt returner and ripped off a 39-yarder among his three returns and did his usual solid job running back kicks.

Amendola will probably never live up to his contract or his status as Wes Welker's replacement with fans and he's been borderline invisible for the majority of his Pats' career. But they really needed him on Sunday and while it wasn't great, his performance was good -- and timely -- enough to help the team win.

4. It doesn't matter who the running back is -- The Pats don't want to run the ball unless a) it's to set up the passing game or b) they're playing a team that is completely helpless against the run like the Colts in Week 11. And that's why the argument over whether Jonas Gray or LeGarrette Blount should be the primary ball carrier is such a waste of time. In this game, the Pats' leading rusher was Shane Vereen (whose ability to make yardage out of spread looks was huge when the Pats went up tempo in the third quarter) and Brandon Bolden wound up making the game-sealing play on a terrific, outside run for a first down just after the two-minute warning.

Is Gray a good back? Yes. So is Blount. So is Vereen. So is Bolden. It really doesn't matter which one of them gets the most snaps as long as the Pats can get yardage out of the running game when they need to. It's just not an important or worthwhile argument.

5. Special teams, mental toughness give Pats the edge -- This team is never going to be at a disadvantage in either regard, as has been on display all season. Once again, a blocked kick served as a massive turning point when Vince Wilfork got a hand on a 52-yard attempt that would have given the Jets a fourth quarter lead following Brady's interception.

And as they've shown time and again, the Pats are capable of weathering nasty storms, staying focused and persevering even when things aren't going remotely their way. Forget how easy it is for the Jets to shoot themselves in the foot at crucial times, the fact that the Pats were able to stay close and make enough plays to win this game despite the woeful showing from the offensive line, Brady's subsequent issues and a mostly quiet day from Rob Gronkowski (quiet minus his outstanding, back shoulder TD catch and GRONKSPIKE that may have literally deflated the ball) speaks very well for their long-term prospects.

All the good special teams play and mental toughness in the world won't save the Pats if they don't re-repair things up front on offense. But they are in such command of so many little things and intangibles and so adept at finding ways to overcome adversity within games that it's tough to be too concerned even after a dog of a game like this one.

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