Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports

Patriots 26, Jets 6: New England clinches No. 1 seed and homefield advantage throughout playoffs

Ryan Hannable
December 31, 2017 - 4:10 pm

FOXBORO — The AFC playoffs will go through Gillette Stadium. 

The Patriots beat the Jets, 26-6, in the regular-season finale to clinch the AFC’s No. 1 seed in the upcoming playoffs. The Patriots have also earned a first-round bye, so their next game will not come until the divisional round.

Dion Lewis was the star of the game, as he had a career-high 32 touches and two touchdowns -- one rushing and one receiving.

Here are 10 quick observations from the game.

1. This may have been Lewis’ best game as a member of the Patriots. With only two healthy running backs, Lewis carried the load. He finished with 93 rushing yards on 26 carries, while adding six catches for 40 yards. At times he looked like Le'Veon Bell in the backfield, as he displayed a tremendous amount of patience. In terms of importance to the Patriots offense, he's right up there with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, etc.

2. Tom Brady once again wasn't his best. The 40-year-old finished 18-for-37 with 190 yards and two touchdowns. Granted he was missing several of his big weapons, but there were several poor throws and miscommunications. This likely does not have him and the rest of the offense feeling good about themselves going into the postseason.

3. James Harrison made his Patriots debut and played in limited situations. By our count, he played 28 snaps. It appeared he only was on the field for obvious running situations and his main job was to contain the edge. He didn’t factor much into the obvious passing downs and rushing the passer. Harrison did have a big tackle on third down of the first defensive drive of the second half, and also picked up two sacks and a forced fumble in the final minute. More responsibilities likely will increase with time, as he just came to the team this week.

4. It’s worth noting the first drive of the game, as the Patriots broke their trend and took the ball after winning the coin toss. They went 75 yards in 13 plays, which was capped off by a Lewis touchdown run. The offense also went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Jets' 21-yard line. The team was disappointed with its slow start last week and it was a major point of emphasis this week. That likely went into the decision to go for it on fourth down this week.

5. The next three drives did not go so well for the Patriots, as they totaled just 18 yards. On the second drive, Brandin Cooks stopped running on what looked like a long touchdown reception from Brady and then dropped a pass on a receiver screen. This put a halt to the momentum the Patriots built with their opening drive. Overall, Brady was 5-for-11 when targeting Cooks, as the two still seem to be working to find the chemistry many expected them to have at the beginning of the season.

6. Gronkowski was a non-factor, as he didn’t have a single target. This means he finishes the season with 69 receptions. He played every snap in the first half, but in the second half his snaps were limited and only as a blocker. This means the tight end will not reach the first tier of his incentive-based contract with on-field performance. He still can earn the maximum $10.75 million by earning first-team All-Pro status.

7. There were two positive developments for the Patriots defense, although both worth noting they came against the Jets. The Patriots defense held the Jets without a third-down conversion, as they were 0-for-12. Also, the defense allowed just 40 yards rushing and 2.1 yards per carry.

8. Ryan Allen and Stephen Gostkowski had solid games in the kicking game, forcing the Jets into poor field position on a number of occasions. In the second half alone, Allen pinned the Jets inside their own 5-yard line three times.

9. It wasn’t the best performance by the Patriots offense going into the postseason, but it’s worth noting the miserable conditions played a role in Sunday’s play. It will also help getting potentially James White, Chris Hogan and Rex Burkhead back for the postseason.

10. It was worth noting during the national anthem Harrison stood by himself back near the Patriots bench when the rest of the team stood like they always do on the sideline with one hand over their heart and the other on the shoulder of whoever is standing next to them. This is the second unlike-Patriot thing he’s done this week - the first being speaking to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette before the New England media.

The game-time temperature of 13 degrees was the coldest regular-season game in Patriots franchise history. 

Comments ()