Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday game against the Jets and offers some of his fourth-quarter observations:
1. Patriots QB Tom Brady’s decision to throw to WR Randy Moss on the interception by FS Brodney Pool was not a bad one. Moss had single coverage from CB Antonio Cromartie, who initially had his back to the pass. With the height advantage, it is a catch Moss had made routinely in New England. However, it was Brady’s pass that was off the mark. He tried to lead Moss too far towards the middle of the field, requiring Moss to extend himself over Cromartie in order to even get a hand on the ball. If Brady had lofted the ball closer to the sideline, Moss would not have been obstructed by Cromartie and would have been in a better position to make the catch, instead of the critical turnover that resulted from the play.
2. The most aggressive defensive play of the night from the Patriots came on a crucial third-and-6 for the Jets from the Patriots’ 45-yard line. Against four Jets receivers set out wide, the Patriots rushed seven players, including two of their six defensive backs – safeties Patrick Chung and James Sanders. Feeling the pressure, including an unblocked Sanders, Jets QB Mark Sanchez began to quickly sink and eventually threw to empty field as DE Mike Wright broke off his block and added to Sanders’ pressure. It was a key third-down stop by the Patriots, with the team down by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
3. Perhaps the worst stretch for the Patriots' offense in the game came on their second possession of the fourth quarter. After getting their second first down to move to their 26-yard line, the Patriots offense stalled, beginning with a first-and-10 when the Patriots went to a spread formation, using TE Alge Crumpler and RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis as split receivers, with WR Wes Welker not on the field. After an incompletion to Crumpler, the Patriots tried running with Green-Ellis, only to have center Dan Koppen not able to handle NT Mike DeVito, who combined with DE Shaun Ellis in holding Green-Ellis to a short gain. An overthrow from Brady to Moss then ended the possession.
4. The Patriots had their final realistic opportunity to stop the Jets on their second drive of the fourth quarter. On second-and-6, the Patriots tried to get more aggressive, blitzing OLB Rob Ninkovich from a slot coverage position. Sanchez calmly waited for Ninkovich to pass RB LaDainian Tomlinson on his rush, before dumping off a pass to Tomlinson and having blockers to clear the way ahead. It was another case of the Jets staying a step ahead of the Patriots, anticipating their added sense of urgency and using the screen pass to combat the increased blitz presence. This play set up a third-and-1, which the Jets converted to move to midfield.
5. Even with a two-touchdown lead late in the fourth quarter, the Jets continued to bring pressure to the Patriots on their final drive of the game. The Patriots were able to counter with a productive 19-yard dump-off pass to RB Sammy Morris to turn the defense around, but the increased blitzing forced Brady to make quick decisions and throws, two of them falling incomplete before a defensive pass interference penalty extended the drive.
6. Despite the pressure from the Jets, the Patriots were still able to mount a drive and reach the red zone on a first-and-10 before the strip-sack of Brady by OLB Jason Taylor and recovery by OLB Bryan Thomas effectively ended the game. Ironically, the Jets did not blitz on the play, sending only three rushers, including Taylor against LT Matt Light. Brady pumped downfield while Taylor put a spin move on Light and broke free to hit Brady from behind as he was still searching for a target. Light did not have any help with Taylor on the play, which raises questions as Light has generally not been able to handle Taylor for nearly the last decade.