Quick thoughts: Patriots vs. Jets first quarter
The big question going into the game against the Jets was how the Patriots wold make up for the loss of Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen. The answer came early – creative play design and calling.
The obvious move would have been to lean on the running game early and often. Instead, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels decided to come out slinging. The Patriots threw the ball five times and ran it twice on it’s first drive. They used shotgun, no huddle and a clever formation on the final play of the drive, a 39-yard touchdown pass to rookie Aaron Dobson.
The Patriots rushed to the line with an extra tackle on the right side and both Dobson and receiver Julian Edelman lined up on either end of the offensive line in the wing position. It looked like a high school formation (Kearsarge uses a double wing that often takes that shape) and it certainly looked like a run play. The Jets sure thought that’s what it looked like. They bit hard on the play fake, left Dobson wide open for the score and Tom Brady couldn’t get him the ball fast enough.
McDaniels continued to mix things up for the rest of the first quarter, continuing to utilize an extra tackle as a tight end and unexpectedly working fullback James Develin into the game plan. But the Jets adjusted, and when the Patriots got the ball on New York’s 8-yard line after a fumble recovery and return from Devin McCourty, the creative scheming couldn’t get the ball into the end zone. Ingenuity works well when there’s a lot of field to use, but it’s hard to substitute for talent in tight places. This is where New England most misses Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots also got lucky when Geno Smith missed two wide open receivers – Bilal Powell on a third-and-5 on the first drive and Stephen Hill in the end zone on a second-and-7 from the Patriots nine. If Smith wasn’t a rookie, those could have been two touchdowns and a 14-7 New York advantage instead of New England’s 10-3 lead after the first.