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Patriot’s Report Card: Week 7

GronkThe Patriots offense jumped out to a quick start and it looked like they were in control with a 21-10 second-quarter lead over Rex Ryan and the Jets, but a poor decision by Tom Brady, however, and the inability of the defense to get stops put New York in position to win it in overtime – or so we thought. The Jets gambled on a very long field goal, but it was the penalty that everyone is talking about that did, in fact, cost New England the game. The fact remains, though, that they had chances to put it away early on and failed to take them, including Brady throwing another interception.

Quarterback – C+: Tom Brady just does not seem to be himself this season as he has been forced to adjust to having budding rookies on the other end of his passes. While he was certainly happy to have Rob Gronkowski back on the field – and that showed in the box score – he was still way off target as he missed high or wide numerous times and of course threw the costly pick-six, which was a poor decision on his part. He did make some noteworthy plays, however, including snapping the ball quickly with a Jets’ defender in the backfield in the first half.

Running backs – B-: The Pats ran the ball just 20 times on 66 offensive plays, but scored both of their offensive touchdowns on the ground. Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden averaged 4.5 yards per carry, which is not bad at all, and each scored a touchdown. While the holes were not huge, the tandem had a decent day in the backfield, but was unable to contribute to the receiving game with just three receptions for 10 yards. They also maybe could have done a bit more in protecting Brady, who was sacked four times on the day.

Wide receivers – B: Even with Danny Amendola out, the receiving corps got a much-needed boost with the return of Gronkowski. A world of pressure was taken off of the two rookies in Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins, newcomer Austin Collie and even off of Julian Edelman. Those four combined four 11 receptions on 24 targets, but it was Brady misfires, not poor route running that were the biggest problem. Brady may be trying to force the ball a bit and I don’t really think the receivers should be to blame for ill-advised decisions.

Tight ends – A-: The return of Rob Gronkowski brought with it immediate results as Brady received production from a position that was virtually without any all year. Gronk had eight catches for 114 yards in his season debut and didn’t look too rusty at all as he took some hits and ran the seam route we are used to seeing from him perfectly on multiple occasions. He also threw a key block on Bolden’s rushing touchdown that tied the game at seven in the first.

Offensive line – C: The offensive line of the Patriots was outworked by the tough D line of New York. When Ridley did have room to run, it was probably because of a holding call that brought the ball back. While they did give Brady tons of time on occasion, a strip sack to open the third quarter forced the offense into a 2nd-and-16 situation that led to a poor Brady decision and pick-six.

Defensive Line – C: As evidenced by their four sacks on the day and 177 rushing yards allowed, the defensive line was less than stellar with both Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly out. They also generated hardly any pass rush, especially early on, though they did finish the day with a respectable four sacks, but that was pretty much to be expected with the guys had were forced to start and rely on at defensive tackle. Chris Ivory seemed to be able to run right through them at will, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Linebackers – C-: The linebackers, minus Jerod Mayo, were consistently beaten by Jets’ receivers and tight end Jeff Cumberland downfield. Both Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Spikes were unable to do much to stop the pass attack. As you may have noticed, Ivory didn’t have too hard of a time bursting through them either. Hightower and Spikes were both tied for the team-lead in tackles on the day, however, with 11 apiece.

Secondary – C-: The secondary gave up three third-down conversions on New York’s opening drive on which they took a 7-0 lead. The Jets finished the day 11-of-21 on third downs and Smith racked up 233 passing yards while certainly not looking like a rookie as he took a lot of the throws the Patriots were giving him. A couple of times, Kyle Arrington got completely burned by the nothing-special Jeremy Kerley and after bring pressed into action, Logan Ryan gave up a big third-down conversion before his 81-yard interception return. Ultimately, the secondary suffered without Aqib Talib as evidenced by the 20 more points they allowed to the Jets this time around.

Special teams – C-: A mistake by the special teams is what ultimately decided the game. When watching the game live and even on the continuous replays, I know I did not see anything that looked like a penalty, but the new rule is clear and Chris Jones was guilty of the costly infraction. Aside from that, Edelman had another good day returning punts (19.3-yard average) and LeGarrette Blount averaged 24 yards on four kickoff returns. Ryan Allen allowed only three returns for 44 yards to all-pro Josh Cribbs and Gostkowski kept him to 17 kick return yards on just one chance.

The defense has a little bit of work to do this week in preparation for the Dolphins as the 30 points they allowed (even though Brady was responsible for seven of them) were a season-high. And I’m sure that pushing rule will find its way into the team meetings once or twice this week.

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

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