Danny Amendola played like he had something to prove. Mission accomplished. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Things to consider while posting Knee Jerk Reactions anyway, in spite of threats from the North Koreans:
— You know all those times I said I don’t want the Jets to let go of Rex Ryan? How I need him in the AFC East forever, running that team into the ground and providing me a bottomless cup o’ blog material with all his buffoonery? Yeah, about that. Never mind. Forget I ever said it. The sooner he’s out of the division and coaching someplace that’s not on the Patriots’ schedule, the better.
— We’re now two full seasons removed from the last time the Patriots rolled to a nice, easy win against Rex’s Jets where everything went according to plan. Every game in New York the Pats are 10-point favorites. At home, they’re giving two touchdowns. But every game ends up being the alley fight from ‘They Live.” The last four games have been decided by three points, three points, two points and now one point, with one of those a Jets win. In fact, let me get my prediction for next year’s Pats-Jets now, just to save time: It’ll come down to a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter. And I’ll be suffering stroke-like symptoms watching it.
— It’s to Ryan’s undying credit that even in his 13th game coaching against the Pats he can still come up with schemes they are not ready for. Blitzes, stunts, fire zones and games that leave a very disciplined and uber-prepared offensive line blocking air while pass rushers come in unblocked.
— Take that sack on the opening possession. The Jets not only drew it up in such a way that Nate Solder was left to block both Calvin Pace and Jason Babin, but also sent David Harris in behind them all the way from the middle linebacker spot. Even from the shotgun, Tom Brady had no chance.
— The second sack was just a case of Muhammad Wilkerson getting the initial punch on Marcus Cannon and driving him backward. But the third was more of Rex’s diabolical genius. The Patriots had Rob Gronkowski at the Y-tight end spot and Shane Vereen in the backfield in protection. The Jets gave them a two-down-linemen look but then ran an overloaded blitz to the strong side with Antonio Allen and Demario Davis. Both rushed in like it was a Black Friday Doorbusters Sale and Brady was marked down 75 percent, with Gronk and Vereen as the store security helpless to stop them.
— I’m making up a Patriots’ Mistakes Bingo Card. It’ll have spaces like “Browner Pass Interference,” “Solder Hold” and “Chung Bites on Play Action.” And “Cannon False Start” is too automatic to be anything but the Free Space in the middle.
— So like I’ve said before, I need Rex Ryan in my life. He completes me. But not as much as having an intact Tom Brady does. As Capt. Kirk once said when he was warping out of orbit to get away from some all-powerful alien guy, “I want to put 100 million miles between us and that madman.” In Rex’s case, I’ll settle for one conference.
— Danny Amendola plays like a guy who’s fully aware that people think he’s fragile and is willing to do anything to prove them wrong. So he’s running every kick out of the end zone, refusing to fair catch punts, fighting for yards after contact, jumping over tacklers, turning upfield looking to gain ground after his helmet’s been torn off. He’s doing everything short of asking guys to punch him in the belly as hard as they can and holding his hand over a lit candle to prove how tough he is.
— And it’s a good thing he is. This was one of those games that was decided by about a dozen or so plays, and none of them was bigger than the little slip screen on third-and-7 when Amendola fought for the first down. I still don’t know how he got through all that traffic. He was like a burglar navigating through a hallway filled with alarm lasers. And the last couple of yards were all grit and balls. That one play right there might be the difference between home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and a trip to Denver. If so, it was worth the whole $6 million he’s being paid.
— Look, I’m not exactly the place where Jets fans come for comfort and support, but if they’re cheesed off about the officials giving Amendola that first down, I completely understand. I mean, in order for it to be a first down, isn’t the ball supposed to touch the pole? Isn’t that why they call it the “first-down marker”? Because it “marks” the “first down”? And by the way, is it too much to ask that they, y’know, signal that first down? For two full minutes I sat there with dilated pupils, shortness of breath, sweating and tightness in my left shoulder thinking the Patriots were about to go for it on fourth-and-a-chain-link because they decided to keep that whole down-and-distance thing to themselves. Half the time we can’t get these guys to shut up, but on the crucial call in a huge game they decide to go all Code of Silence on us? It never ceases to amaze me how NFL crews can screw up simple things I never saw the refs get wrong in 11 years of coaching youth football.
— I’m kind of liking those car ads with the retro toys, but one thought keeps gnawing at me. Why do women always blame Barbie’s impossibly high standard of female beauty for ruining girls’ lives, but we’ve never heard of one boy getting body image issues from playing with Stretch Armstrong or Skeletor?
— There were almost too many crucial plays in this one to list here. Amendola’s first down, obviously. And the back-to-back plays on that final drive when he hauled in the deflected ball then picked up the first on that little out route. Brandon Bolden came up big, first with that six-yard pickup on a first-down pitch when the play looked stuffed but he jumped over some bodies. And his conversion on third-and-1 that iced it was a brilliant bit of running. The Pats were in tank formation (three TE, two RB) and the Jets loaded the tackle box, but Bolden had the presence of mind to bounce it outside (with the help of James Develin’s earholing of Allen) and it was time to take a knee.
— I know most fantasy leagues are over at this point. But going forward, given the fact that Belichick gave all his crucial fourth-down carries to Bolden, you might want to avoid ever having a Pats running back on your roster. That way lies madness.
— Obviously no one came up bigger than Vince Wilfork on that blocked kick. Or Scott O’Brien, whose special teams units are dominating week after week. You watch that block and the one by Jamie Collins against Miami last week and you can see they’re not just random acts of guys defeating one-on-one blocks. There’s pre-snap movement. Players shifting up front. Making reads. Taking proper angles in on the ball. Clearly O’Brien is finding weaknesses on film and scheming his rushes to exploit them. And yet practically no one knows who he is. Remember when the Jets’ special teams coach was Mike Westhoff, who made a name for himself with his potty mouth on “Hard Knocks” so the Jets couldn’t run a punt back five yards without the obligatory cutaway shot of him on the sidelines for a reminder of what a brilliant strategist he was? Meanwhile, your average Pats fan couldn’t pick O’Brien out of a police lineup. And his units are the single biggest advantage the Patriots have in every game.
— Speaking of potty mouths, the cameras caught Rex using sailor talk after he didn’t get Amendola’s first down reversed. I hope America will do its part by flooding the FCC with complaints and the Globe staff is hard at work with editorials of righteous indignation complaining about how he’s corrupting our youth. Sorry, but putting money in the swear jar just won’t do. This calls for public outcry. What do we want? Sanctimony! When do we want it? Now!
— It seemed to me the Patriots were a lot less aggressive on defense than they have been. The linebackers and strong safety for the most part hung back at the second level, as opposed to all the interior pressure and A-gaps blitzing we’ve been seeing as the season’s gone along. For that I credit Nick Mangold, who’s 10 times the center that, say, Samson Satele of Miami or Chris Watt of San Diego are. Even after Mangold went out, it took the D a while to adjust and start attacking Dalton Freeman. But when the Pats did, it was effective. The key play of the game for the defense was the late third-and-3 on the edge of field goal range when the Pats put Collins and Dont’a Hightower up on the line of scrimmage with Rob Ninkovich on the outside. Hightower blitzed, but a combo of Breno Giacomini and Bilal Powell both had checked down to Ninkovich, and High came in at full speed for the sack.
— On that note, is there an O-lineman in the league the Patriots feast off of more than they do D’Brickashaw Ferguson? Watching him twice a year against them I’m always amazed he’s still in football. Chandler Jones forced the interception by Collins with a textbook swim move on him, then later speed-rushed him to the outside (helped by Collins hammering Chris Johnson as he tried to release into his route, which forced Geno Smith to hold the ball) for a huge sack. But no matter who faces him, the Patriots always D’ominate.
— More credit where it’s due: The Jets are the worst team in football when it comes to defending tight ends, but they kept Gronk bottled up as well as anybody. To my untrained eye, it looked like they were backing up their overloaded blitz packages with pattern read coverage, where you’re in zone but it’s a matchup zone. Meaning you’re not so much playing the area in your zone as you’re playing the man and anticipating his routes. That’s how they ended up with Marcus Williams jumping routes and so much bracket coverage on Gronk that took away his options. Or they just said “69” a lot and he laughed so hard he couldn’t focus. Either way, good job by them.
— That said, the Jets’ offensive play-calling is a fireable offense. Shrex should be fired just for calls like thinking they could run Percy Harvin out of the wildcat without thinking there’d be seven Patriots in on the tackle. Or a reverse to Harvin where Chandler Jones might as well be waiting with a knife, a fork and a napkin around his neck. Not to mention a direct snap to Powell that fooled no one. I’ll concede there hasn’t been much talent there, but when ownership finally does whack him, they need to give him the Godfather I “You’ve got to answer for that offense, Carlo” speech.
— Of course now that I’ve seen Woody Johnson‘s wife, I understand why he wouldn’t be pissed at anyone. Holy smokes. He’s one of the worst owners in sports, inherited every nickel he has and is married to a blazing hot dangerette who could be his daughter. Because the universe is a terrible, terrible place.
— Speaking of owners, what was that thing dangling from Bon Jovi’s neck anyway? It looked like a field pass, but since when do they make you wear them like a dog tag? He looked like one of those chumps you see at the ski mountain who put their lift ticket on their zipper so it whacks them in the face all day. C’mon, Jon. When you’re hanging with a mogul’s mogul, you have to clean that up.
— This week’s applicable movie quote: “You fly jets long enough, something like this happens.” – Viper, “Top Gun”
— I’m confused. Does this mean the AFC East is still a bunch of tomato cans that don’t give the Patriots any challenge or not?