Patriots' first-quarter review: Big nickel and Patrick Chung

Picked-up pieces from first-quarter review of the New England Patriots’ 27-25 win over the New York Jets:

1. The Patriots matched the Jets’ 2-WR/2-TE/1-RB package that included Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro with a three-safety package of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson. That’s sometimes referred to as the “Big Nickel.” When the Jets went with 1-WR/2-TE/1-FB/1-RB, the Patriots countered in their 5-2 heavier look with three down linemen (Vince Wilfork, Casey Walker, Chris Jones). Chung, in particular, was strong in run support throughout as he often came down as a seventh (in nickel) or eighth (in base) defender in the box. He finished with eight tackles, third on the club.

2. From cornerback Darrin Walls’ hit on running back Shane Vereen (5:52), to blockers forcefully pushing Patriots defenders to the ground on a Geno Smith 10-yard run (9:19), it reflected how the Jets were the more physical team. Fatigue might have been part of it for the Patriots, who were playing their fourth game in 18 days, which I thought showed with some sloppy tackling technique (e.g. tackling high). Whatever it was, the Jets dictated in that area. As we've seen earlier in the year, the Patriots can be a more physical defense.

3. One reason the Patriots probably feel more comfortable working with Danny Amendola as a primary kickoff returner (27-yard return, 6:33) is that they are evolving on offense and going away from more three-receiver sets. Amendola has played 20, 24 and 23 offensive snaps in each of the last three games, as he is a pure No. 3 slot. Because Amendola is a player whose workload is best managed, and given the downward playing time trend on offense, it now makes more sense to give him a few extra touches on special teams. Whoever came to that conclusion on the coaching staff, whether it was Bill Belichick or special teams coaches Scott O’Brien and Joe Judge, was sharp.

4. Running back Jonas Gray’s first career run -- a 5-yard rush off left tackle (6:21) -- shows how he is the type of back who isn’t afraid to put his head down and initiate contact. At 230 pounds, he’s more of a bulldozer. Looks like something to work with there.

5. When a team has a 2-WR/2-TE/1-RB package and goes empty, it’s a bit unconventional and speaks to having tight ends who are proficient as pass-catchers. On their opening drive, the Patriots had tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright on the field, and they went empty on the second, third and fourth snaps, the final play producing Vereen’s 49-yard touchdown on a Jets defensive breakdown. The Jets matched in their base defense -- which is a change from what the Patriots have seen against that package the last two weeks -- and had the bad breakdown on the touchdown in which safety Antonio Allen broke on a short route by Wright to the right flat.

6. One week after 64 of his 97 receiving yards came after the catch, receiver Brandon LaFell showed up again in that area on the second play of the game, with 17 yards coming after the catch on a 24-yard completion, with LaFell making the first defender miss.

7. Holding penalties drawn by linebacker Dont’a Hightower and Wilfork in the quarter. Meanwhile, one week after drawing two holding penalties on special teams coverage units, running back Brandon Bolden was called for holding Jaiquawn Jarrett.

8. Couple of strong rushes by Chandler Jones off the right edge, with one example coming as he rocked left guard Oday Aboushi on to his back to surge up the middle on third-and-19 and create a pressure (incomplete pass, :31).