Tom Brady and the Patriots held on down the stretch for the win over New York. (Getty Images)
FOXBORO — The Patriots held on down the stretch Thursday night to pick up a 27-25 win over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. Chris Jones blocked what would have been a game-winning 58-yard field goal as time expired.
It wasn’t a pretty game, but in the end, New England did enough to hold on down the stretch. The Patriots took the lead for good on a 36-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with 4:10 left in the third and held on late, sealing the contest with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola with 7:49 left in the fourth to make it 27-19.
The Jets added a late touchdown, but missed out on the two-point conversion when quarterback Geno Smith’s throw for Jace Amaro was off the target.
Brady finished the game 20-for-37 for 261 yards with three touchdowns. Shane Vereen added 12 carries for 47 yards. He also had five catches for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, Smith was 15-for-27 for 178 and one touchdown, while Jets running back Chris Ivory came away with 21 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Here’s what we learned about the Patriots on Thursday night:
Tom Brady was a mixed bag against the Jets defense
The quarterback hit on some nice throws early, including a 24-yarder to Brandon LaFell and a 20-yarder to Gronkowski. His deep ball on the first touchdown of the night — a 49-yard scoring strike to Shane Vereen — would have been overthrown if Vereen didn’t do a terrific job laying out for the pass. There were a few others that were off the mark, including the 19-yarder to Amendola in the fourth quarter, a ball where the receiver made a great play on the ball. In the end, he did enough to pick up the win in his 200th career regular season, game, finding Vereen twice and Amendola once for touchdown passes.
Rob Gronkowski didn’t have the gaudy stat line he had the last two weeks, but he still played a sizable role
LaFell talked last week about the impact that a healthy Gronkowski has on the New England offense, and that was seen on multiple occasions against the Jets. New York frequently went after the tight end with multiple defenders, as he drew two and three Jets on several occasions, including when the Patriots were in the red zone. That level of attention allowed some other pass catchers to get some one-on-one work, including Vereen (on his second touchdown catch) and Amendola (on his fourth-quarter touchdown reception). In the end, he came away with five catches for 68 yards.
The defensive line is capable of being flat-out dominated
New York was able to run the ball without much of an issue throughout the evening, as Ivory broke the 100-yard mark early in the third quarter and was a colossal part of the Jets running game. (The Jets picked ups whopping 13 first downs by running the ball.) New York’s offensive line was able to shove the New England defensive front around when it came to the ground game, and it was almost enough to give them the victory. With Chicago’s superback Matt Forte on deck next week, it’ll be a massive challenge for the Patriots defensive front to try and get back on track.
Brandon Browner apparently still needs to work on his football fitness
In the first regular-season action as a member of the Patriots, the veteran cornerback started the game and was competitive as a member of the New England secondary. (Despite being flagged for his first penalty in a New England uniform.) However, he appeared to be gassed on several occasions, and missed a sizable chunk of time toward the end of the first half. He was on again with the starters at the beginning of the second half, and played a handful of snaps.
Shane Vereen is going to be relied on pretty heavily the rest of the way
Vereen was absolutely integral to the success of the New England offense on Thursday night, as he accounted for 87 yards from scrimmage (60 receiving, 27 rushing) and a pair of touchdowns in the first half to help the Patriots register a 17-12 halftime lead. And after seeing Jonas Gray get a bunch of carries in the early going, New England turned to Vereen for most of the work on the ground over the course of the final two quarters. He’s probably not the sort of guy who could handle 20 carries a game over the course of a full 16-game season, he’s a good situational guy who can work between the tackles on a limited basis.
When it comes to the offensive struggles, you can’t pin this one on the offensive line
The Patriots, who were missing center Bryan Stork and guard Dan Connolly coming into the contest (both are suffering from concussions), were forced to use Josh Kline and Jordan Devey at guard, and at first glance, both appeared to hold up well. While there were some bad penalties on the line — including an unnecessary roughness call on Jordan Devey in the first half where he pushed a New York defender in the back at the end of a play, likely a way to help protect Brady — the group held up well and gave Brady good time to work in pass protection. (The biggest negative on the night? Marcus Cannon almost got Brady killed when he blew a third-quarter block on Brady’s blindside.)
Danny Amendola has found a new job
Working as kick returner, Amendola did well to give the Patriots manageable field position over much of the evening, including a 26-yard return and a 31-yard return against the Jets. With no one doing much to seize the job over the course of the first six games — and Amendola not doing much when it comes to catching passes — it might seem like a pretty good fit for Amendola.
They got out of this one completely healthy
While the Patriots came into the game shorthanded — Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo were already ruled out for the year, while offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork were sidelined because of concussions — no one left the game because of injury.
No matter what happens the rest of the weekend, the Patriots will stay in first place
The victory allows New England to move to 5-2 on the season, which means that even if the Bills (second place at 3-3) knock off Minnesota on Sunday, the Patriots will stay in first place. Meanwhile, the Jets fell to 1-6, and saw any postseason hopes crumble. Only one team in the history of the NFL — the 1970 Bengals — started the year 1-6 and still made the postseason.