FOXBORO — Bill Belichick knew better than all the experts that had the Patriots has a two touchdown favorite Thursday night.
Short week, injured key players lost for the season and playing your division rival that had absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by beating you.
And that was before the Jets put up 226 yards rushing and held the ball for nearly 41 of the 60 minutes played. The game came down to Chris Jones blocking a Nick Folk field goal attempt from 58 yards. The Patriots held on, 27-25, to improve to 5-2, with an extra three days to rest up before getting ready for the Bears on Oct. 26 in Foxboro. No wonder he ran into the north end zone after the game and gave his old linebacker Willie McGinest a big hug afterward.
“It was, I think, probably about the game we expected,” Belichick said. “With the Jets it’s always tough; definitely a grind-it-out game. [I'm] obviously really happy for Chris [Jones] at the end. After what happened last year, I thought it was so fitting that he made that play. That was awesome. It wasn’t our best. It was good enough, but it wasn’t our best. We have to do a better job in all three phases of the game, all the way around.”
The Jets were 9-of-16 on third down, a major reason they were able to hold the ball for nearly 41 minutes. Still, Belichick gave credit to his team for making it through the stretch of four games in 18 days with a 3-1 record. More importantly to Belichick, he has seen his team prove its mental toughness time and time again in the last three games.
“But I have to give our team a lot of credit,” he said. “They played four games in whatever it is, 17, 18 days, whatever it is, [18 days] since that Kansas City game. They’ve been tough, they’ve worked hard. They’ve really pushed themselves on the preparations. Some guys [are] banged up, some guys having to step in and all that. I thought it was a real good team win for us.
“[It's] always good to win in the division; [the] kind of games that you have to win during the year somewhere along the line. So, give the credit to the players. They made the plays when they had to make them. I thought Danny [Amendola] really stepped up and gave us a lot of energy on the kickoff returns and obviously that touchdown catch was a great catch. That was good too. Hopefully we’ll get a little bit of a break here, a couple days to kind of catch our breath then we’re right back at it. Good to win; we’ll enjoy it for a little while, not too long and then turn the page and get on to Chicago.”
Q: Defensively, they ran with relative ease but is there an adjustment period you figured you would have to go through without Jerod Mayo in there?
BB: I think probably the bigger problem we had was third down. We had our chances to get off the field on third down. That would eliminate a lot of those plays. And we have to play the run better too. We didn’t make them punt until the fourth quarter [third quarter], whenever it was, it was late. Luckily we played well in the red area, kept them out of the end zone and kept the points down. But didn’t do a good enough job in the running game, didn’t do a good enough job on run force, didn’t do a good enough job on third down obviously. So those are obviously not ‘ and we had some three-and-outs offensively that kept us from keeping the ball, keeping momentum. We just weren’t consistent enough in any phase of the game. [We] didn’t cover kickoffs well. I mean, that play hurt us. We had some breakdowns and we can’t afford them, can’t afford them. But give the Jets credit. They played hard and they gave us a lot of problems too. There’s always work to do.
Q: Can you talk about the adjustments your receivers made? Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola both made adjustments on touchdown catches.
BB: Yeah, Danny’s touchdown was, we had a double move outside. Tom [Brady] ended up scrambling, Danny adjusted it, Tom back shouldered him. That was kind of a scramble play. That’s one of the first things we put in when we go to the red area offensively and defensively is to deal with the scramble passes, extended plays. Tom did a good job of buying time and put it where only Danny could get it. Danny made another great catch. Shane’s play it looks like the corner just ‘ we ran a double outside route, it looked like the corner sat on and just dropped Shane. It was like he was out to practice early. It was good by Tom to see it because Shane was kind of a clear-out guy on that route but Tom had time, he was able to scan downfield. You don’t want to give him those kind of opportunities. He’s not going to miss many of them.
Q: Danny hadn’t had many touches the last few games but had contributions today. Is it hard to measure a guy when he’s not getting touches and stay up?
BB: Nobody works harder than Danny does. Nobody works harder than Danny. He’s working every day: offense, scout team, special teams. He always works hard. He’s a really competitive kid; tough. No question about it. I never saw that from him at all.
Q: What was the thought behind using Danny on kickoff returns?
BB: I think Pat’s [Chung] done a good job for us. It’s just Pat is playing a lot of defense, playing a lot of plays in the kicking game. He’s the personal protector on the punt team with Nate [Ebner] out. He’s played on the punt return. Just to try to spread it out a little bit. Danny’s worked back there all year. [We] thought it would be a good opportunity to take a little bit off Pat. But I’m not unhappy at all with what Pat’s been doing. I think he’s done a good job. But it just gives Danny an opportunity to get some balls back there and also to kind of spread the load to everybody. It’s one less thing that Chung has to really focus on because he’s got a lot of other stuff on his plate in terms of defense, punt, punt return, nickel, dime, goal line. There’s a lot of stuff there.