Patriots second-quarter review: Matchup game with TE Rob Gronkowski

Picked-up pieces from second-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 17-16 win over the New York Jets:

1. Last week we saw the Dolphins double cover tight end Rob Gronkowski deep in the red zone when Gronkowski was split out wide, so the Patriots handed off to Shane Vereen for a 3-yard touchdown. It was a good example of how extra attention on Gronkowski opens opportunities for others. On Sunday, the Jets went the single coverage route, so the Patriots exploited the matchup; the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski against 5-foot-11, 207-pound safety Calvin Pryor is most often going to go in favor of Gronkowski, as it did on his 3-yard touchdown catch (12:14) when Gronkowski was split wide to the left.

2. Elsewhere on the field, the Jets did something a little different against Gronkowski than we’ve mostly seen this season, sometimes matching cornerback Marcus Williams (5-11, 196) against him. Williams, a smaller, quicker defender than Gronkowski is used to seeing, was competitive, playing inside leverage at times in an attempt to negate in-breaking routes (5:46).

3. Some early struggles for Gronkowski in the blocking game; one example came when Quintion Coples beat him off the defensive left edge to tackle Jonas Gray on a 2-yard run (14:11)

4. Left guard Josh Kline had a few hard-to-miss negative plays. He was steamrolled backwards by Sheldon Richardson on third-and-2, forcing a quick Tom Brady incomplete pass in the direction of Brandon LaFell (5:08). Kline was beaten again by Richardson on the Jets’ fourth sack (:48), which almost certainly led to the decision to replace him in the second half. Initial coverage on Gronkowski was solid on the play, forcing Brady to go to his next read, but by that time, the rush had arrived.

5. Danny Amendola’s 39-yard punt return (15:00) set up the team’s first touchdown, but the Patriots might have had some good fortune that linebacker Darius Fleming wasn’t penalized for an illegal block in the back on linebacker Nick Bellore. Looked like the officiating crew missed that one, but overall, Brad Allen’s crew receives a favorable review for not over-officiating the action.

6. Chandler Jones is part of the field-goal protection unit, playing the same spot in which Gronkowski injured his forearm in 2012.

7. Rob Ninkovich is probably kicking himself after having a golden chance to pick up his ninth sack of the season (11:20) on a delayed rush in which he came free but overran Geno Smith on third-and-4. Smith moved off the spot and connected with running back Bilal Powell for seven yards and the first down. Usually Ninkovich has to work much harder for a sack and that one was right there for him.

8. Linebacker Jamie Collins is playing at an extremely high level. A defender can’t time it up any better, or be more explosive, than he was in tackling Chris Ivory for a loss of two yards (8:54). By the time left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson tried to account for Collins, the Patriots’ second-year defender was already in the backfield.

9. Safety Patrick Chung bit on play-action, allowing tight end Jeff Cumberland to sneak behind him and haul in an easy 20-yard touchdown (6:03). The Jets set it up nicely, aligning two tight ends to the right side of the line, and Chung got caught looking in despite Cumberland releasing from the line at the snap.

10. Bill Belichick said after the game that punter Ryan Allen is striking the ball well. Allen’s 55-yard attempt at 5:04 was probably his best of the day, as the Patriots’ drive had stalled at their own 16 and that limited the Jets’ ability to gain a decisive field-position edge. Coverage teams, led by Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater helped out as well (9-yard return for 46-yard net).

11. Similar to last week against the Dolphins, when Miami ran on third-and-6 on the opening drive, the Jets’ decision to run on third-and-8 from the New England 13-yard line (1:00) was especially curious. CBS cameras showed Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg engaged in a brief discussion after the play, and something seemed off there from a Jets perspective, making me wonder if they either were unaware it was third down, or if there was a communication mix-up on which play to run.