Patriots fourth-quarter review: Aggressive or conservative?

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

1. A little surprised at the way the Patriots handled their final offensive drive – 2:30 remaining, Jets with one timeout left, ball at the 46-yard line. Three straight runs seemed conservative, especially given the struggles of the defense. I wonder if in retrospect they would approach it the same way – balancing the idea of giving the Jets the ball back deep in their own territory with just more than a minute remaining (no timeouts) the way they did, or playing more aggressive and throwing on second down with the idea of trying to win the game on offense. A good debate, and one that's easier to discuss after the fact. CBS analyst Phil Simms liked the Patriots' approach from a time-management standpoint.

2. Quarterback Tom Brady was outstanding in the fourth quarter given the pressure he was facing. The offensive line had multiple breakdowns, but Brady stood tall. His third-and-5 throw to Julian Edelman for 14 yards (10:07), with a free rusher coming quick, was pinpoint. And the ability to keep the play alive on Danny Amendola’s 19-yard touchdown catch can’t be overlooked. The last few weeks we’re seeing the offense open up a bit more, putting more on Brady, and he’s showing he still has it.

3. The Patriots blitzed on the Jets’ touchdown to close to 27-25, with five rushers – Chandler Jones, Dominique Easley, Vince Wilfork, Jamie Collins and Rob Ninkovich and a sixth in Dont'a Hightower, who rushed initially and then backed out. The Jets pretty much won each one-on-one battle to give quarterback Geno Smith the time, which had us thinking: Those are the situations you’d like to see Easley, the first-round pick, win an individual matchup and create a disruption. I thought he had a quiet 20 snaps.

4. Linebacker Deontae Skinner only played five snaps, and in retrospect, maybe his presence could have helped some of the run defense struggles. So instead of playing the 5-2 (a version of the 3-4), maybe the Patriots could have been more of a pure 4-3 at times, as they were on Chris Ivory’s 1-yard run (12:29) when Skinner was in the game. The overall play against the run was not good.

5. Chandler Jones’ sack (14:22) came on a six-man rush on third-and-5, with linebackers Hightower and Collins both treating their rush as a pick of sorts. Collins, for example, makes contact with left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson as Ferguson is in the process of blocking Jones. And Hightower just flattened right guard Willie Colon on the other side. So while Jones deserves credit for the sack, it was an example of a “team” type of rush.

6. Building off the point about the offensive tackle rotation from the third quarter, on the first play Cannon flipped to right tackle (13:30), right guard Josh Kline had a difficult time with Sheldon Richardon, who pressured quarterback Tom Brady into a quick incompletion. Then on third down (13:19), the Jets pinched the edges on both sides to force Brady to step up and dump the ball off well short of the first down. Did rotation have anything to do with it? It might be a coincidence, but perhaps it’s something for the coaching staff to consider.

7. Special-teams holding penalty drawn by captain Matthew Slater (12:43).