The Patriots’ 54-13 rout of the Jets Sunday wasn’t just a rout. It was a message delivered.
A few messages, really. The ones we deciphered:
Belichick can never hang enough points on the Jets, who disparaged his mental well-being when he quit as HC of the NYJ before ever coaching a game. The Patriots became the first team to score 50 points in a game this season.
Jets coach Robert Saleh probably shouldn’t have celebrated so aggressively after the Niners thumped the Patriots last season while he was the defensive coordinator. Belichick gave him the Joe Gibbs-in-2007 treatment Sunday.
The Jets might want to start lamenting taking Zach Wilson (6 of 10 before leaving with a knee injury) over Mac Jones (24 of 36, 307 yards, two touchdowns).
And this is the big one: The Patriots should not be disregarded for the season just because they started 2-4.
All in all, a nice little Sunday at Gillette.
Some further thoughts, upon immediate review …
THREE PLAYERS WHO WERE WORTH WATCHING
(Players suggested in Unconventional Preview: Jonnu Smith, Damien Harris, Kendrick Bourne)
Jonnu Smith: Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels clearly made a point to utilize Smith, the super-athletic tight end who has far too few chances to show off his abilities after the catch, from the get-go in this one. Smith had three straight touches on the Patriots’ first possession: A catch on the second play from scrimmage was called back because of a hold on Shaq Mason; on the next play, he took a handoff from Jones and picked up 5 yards; then Jones found him on a well-executed short pass for a 28-yard catch and run. Smith added another long catch-and-run — this one for 24 yards — with under two minutes left in the half. He ended up with two catches for 52 yards (on five targets), plus the 5-yard run. He didn’t play in the second half because of a shoulder injury, but his performance in the first half had already ensured this was his best game as a Patriot. Also of note: His fellow tight end, Hunter Henry, scored a touchdown for the fourth straight game. Not a bad showing by the tandem on National Tight Ends Day, if we’re going to pretend that’s an actual thing.
Damien Harris: Harris set the tone with a 12-yard burst through the guts of the Jets defense on the first play from scrimmage. (The Jets dearly miss injured inside linebacker C.J. Mosley) On the Patriots’ second possession, Harris had a stretch where he carried three straight times: a 32-yarder through the middle and then down the right seam to the Jets’ 7; a 6-yarder to the edge of the goal line; and 1-yard plunge to give the Patriots a 14-0 lead. Harris racked up 80 yards on his first nine carries, finishing the day with 106 yards on 14 carries and a pair of touchdowns. It was his second straight 100-yard rushing day and third of the season. Harris has long passed the eye test as a featured back, and he’s putting up the consistent numbers to support his case.
Kendrick Bourne: A week after catching a 75-yard touchdown pass against Trevon Diggs and the Cowboys, Bourne showed he could spot an open receiver as well as become one himself. He capped the Patriots’ opening four-play, 65-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor on a play out of Josh McDaniels’s Playbook of Wicked Tricks. (Maybe Agholor’s hands are more reliable when a fellow receiver is throwing him the ball? He did catch a 21-yard pass from Jakobi Meyers against the Bucs.) Bourne also had four catches on four targets for 68 yards. He’s not a star. He may not even be a starter. But he’s a hard-working, upbeat presence who seems to contribute more each week. I’m almost certain of this: He’s going to be a popular player on the Patriots’ next truly excellent team.
GRIEVANCE OF THE GAME
Consider this a preemptive grievance: Spare me any sports-radio bloviating this week about this being a mostly meaningless win because it’s against the lowly Jets. The Patriots needed a win, any win, after reaching Week 7 without a win at home. Moral victories were getting tiresome. A morale victory like this one, when the team can feel good about itself for a few hours, was so necessary. Who knows, it might even be pivotal.
Patriots running back Brandon Bolden against the Jets’ pass defense
That’s Brandon Bolden, passing-game wrecking machine to you. Just like we all figured, right? McDaniels got plenty of deserved grief last week when he called a completely uninspired delayed handoff to Bolden — a depth running back and special teams ace more than anything else — on third and 1 from the Cowboys 49 with 10 minutes left in a tight game. But the Patriots offensive coordinator figured out a more effective way to deploy him: Use him like a James White understudy. White was arguably the Patriots’ best offensive player in their 25-6 win over the Jets in Week 2, rushing for a touchdown and catching six passes for 45 yards, including a nifty 28-yarder. With White out for the season with a hip injury, Bolden offered a quality replica of White’s Week 2 performance with six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown, that from 15 yards on a sweet touch pass from Jones that put the Patriots up 24-7.
THREE NOTES SCRIBBLED IN THE MARGINS
(Predicted final score: Patriots 27, Jets 10)
(Final score: Patriots 54, Jets 13)
Christian Barmore stuffed Jets running back on Ty Johnson on fourth and 1 with 1 minute 55 seconds left in the first half. It was the kind of play Richard Seymour, inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame this weekend, used to make on a regular basis. Barmore looks like a keeper … Kyle Dugger led the Patriots with eight tackles, but got flagged for a 46-yard pass interference penalty in the first half. The talent is there, and so is the production, but the second-year safety is still in search of consistency … The Patriots went for it on fourth and 1 late in the first half and converted, with Jones finding Meyers for 3 yards. Here’s hoping they keep being as aggressive when the stakes are higher.
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