EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rapid reaction from the Patriots’ 37-16 win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium:
What it means: The Patriots move into sole possession of first place in the AFC East, improving to 6-3. This also gives them a potential tie-breaker edge over the Jets, a result of sweeping the season series. Few saw this coming, as the Jets entered having won three straight, while the Patriots had lost two in a row. Fans headed to the exits after Rob Ninkovich’s pick-6 with just less than eight minutes to play in the game.
No-name defense gets it done: This brings back memories of 2003/2004-type Patriots wins when players like Earthwind Moreland, Hank Poteat and slot corner Troy Brown were pressed into action on defense and the team didn’t miss a beat. The Patriots started rookie free agent Jeff Tarpinian at linebacker, rookie free agent Sterling Moore at safety, and relied on special teamer Tracy White and little-known cornerback Phillip Adams in sub packages. When injuries hit during the game, they reached deeper into their bench and still flummoxed Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. Given the personnel situation, this has to be one of the most rewarding wins of Bill Belichick’s regular-season tenure.
Gronkowski’s national showcase: There might not be a better tight end in the NFL than Rob Gronkowski, who was one of the star performers with eight receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets used cornerback Darrelle Revis on Gronkowski at times, which was a sign of ultimate respect. The second-year player is a stud.
Pass rush rises up behind Carter: Veteran defensive end Andre Carter finished with 4.5 sacks, which is a new Patriots record. He now has nine sacks on the season, easily a team high. While Belichick has taken heat for some of his recent personnel moves, Carter represents the opposite end of the spectrum. He’s been a great addition, both on the field and in the locker room.
McCourty leaves with shoulder injury: The Patriots lost starting cornerback Devin McCourty in the first half to a shoulder injury, a result of “friendly fire” from safety Sterling Moore on a hit over the middle that involved Jets receiver Plaxico Burress. McCourty didn’t return and was replaced by Antwaun Molden.
What’s next: The Patriots return home to host the Kansas City Chiefs on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.” The Chiefs have lost two in a row. A big storyline this week figures to be Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli, the Patriots’ former vice president of player personnel, returning to New England with his new team for the first time. In addition to Pioli, it marks the return of former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, assuming he's healthy after having his right throwing hand banged up Sunday.