Snap Judgments: Tom Brady makes history, Pats squeak out win, lose Rob Gronkowski to back injury

Mike Petraglia
November 27, 2016 - 2:31 pm
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[caption id="attachment_114144" align="alignright" width="400"]EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 27:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the New York Jets during the second quarter in the game at MetLife Stadium on November 27, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Tom Brady rescued the Patriots Sunday. (Elsa/Getty Images)[/caption] EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Tom Brady would not be denied. The banged up and bruised Brady found Malcolm Mitchell for their second touchdown connection of the day with 1:56 left to rescue the Patriots Sunday, 22-17, at MetLife Stadium. Brady finished 30-of-50 for 286 yards and two touchdowns. Fittingly, Brady's 50th career game-winning drive produced his 200th victory, tied with Peyton Manning for most all-time. He also became the fifth quarterback in NFL history with 60,000 yards and took a knee to end the game to chants of "Brady, Brady, Brady" inside the enemy stadium. Mitchell was a star of the game, with five catches on seven targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns. He stepped up after the Patriots lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to a back injury. The Patriots (9-2) clinched the victory when Chris Long stripped Ryan Fitzpatrick with 90 seconds left. Trey Flowers recovered at the Jets 34 before LeGarrette Blount ran out the clock with a first down on the ground. Early on, the Jets beat up the wounded Brady badly. The Patriots offensive line allowed two big hits on the first two snaps of the game. Then Brady, already battling a sore knee that forced him to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday, took a vicious hit from Lorenzo Mauldin on a weak side linebacker blitz. Brady, who completed the pass for no gain, was driven hard into the turf by the Jets linebacker. The Jets, meanwhile, took it to the Patriots physically on offense as well. The Jets took their first drive and went 41 yards in eight plays, keyed by completions of 13 and 20 yards from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brandon Marshall. The drive was capped by a 51-yard Nick Folk field goal that not only split the uprights but hit halfway up the netting behind the goal post. On the next drive, Brady went deep on a post route to Gronkowski on third-and-7 at the Patriots 38. Gronkowski was open very briefly in double coverage but by the time the ball arrived, both defenders caught up and the pass fell incomplete. Gronkowski appeared to fall hard and walked off slowly. On the next series, Gronkowski was targeted on another deep pass down the right sideline that fell incomplete. He left the game after that and headed with medical staff to the locker room, where he was treated for a back injury. He did not take the field to start the second half and was ruled out for the rest of the game. Pro Football Talk reported in the second half that the injury is not believed to be serious and his removal from the game was precautionary. PFT reports that he is not expected to miss games going forward. The start got even uglier when Fitzpatrick picked on Malcolm Butler and threw a 1-yard touchdown pass in the back right corner of the end zone to Brandon Marshall for a 10-0 Jets lead. The Patriots finally got on the board on a 28-yard field goal just over three minutes into the second quarter. The Patriots forced their first turnover in four games at a critical time. After Robby Anderson caught a pass for 20 yards at midfield, he struggled for more yards. As he was fighting with Devin McCourty for more yards, Malcolm Butler punched the ball free and recovered at midfield. It was Butler who had the last Patriots turnover with an interception of Landry Jones in Pittsburgh on Oct. 23.

Closing Time noteTom Brady recorded his 200th career victory, tied with Peyton Manning for most in NFL history.

On the very next play, Brady hit Julian Edelman for 18 yards, becoming the fifth player to surpass the 60,000-yard mark. Six plays later, Brady fumbled the snap in the shotgun but recovered in time to roll to his right and find an open Mitchell in the back of the end zone. Mitchell, the rookie who talked earlier in the week about the fight it was going to take against Darrelle Revis to get open, beat the veteran cornerback to record his second touchdown in as many weeks. With the game tied, the Patriots had the momentum and appeared to be marching for the go-ahead score before halftime. But Stephen Gostkowski hooked a 39-yard field goal wide left with two seconds left and the Patriots were forced to walk off to the locker room tied, 10-10. It was Gostkowski's second miss this season under 40 yards and his fourth field goal miss this season, in addition to his three missed extra points. [For a full box score, click here.] The Jets finally showed why they're 3-7 to open the second half while the Patriots started the second half on a much stronger note than the first half. With the assistance of an offensive holding call on the first play, the Patriots forced a 3-and-out and got the ball back in the hands of Tom Brady. Still, the Patriots had to overcome another injury scare when Martellus Bennett went down on the sideline in front of the Patriots bench. He came out for several plays to have his sore right ankle treated and re-taped before returning. The Jets assisted again as the Patriots were facing 4th-and-1 at the Jets 18. Muhammad Wilkerson jumped offside, giving the Patriots another set of downs. But the Patriots had to settle for another field goal attempt. This time, Gostkowski was true from 29 yards and the Patriots had their first lead of the day, 13-10, with 7:37 left in the third. The Patriots got another gift on their next drive when the Jets were called for neutral zone infraction but this time the Patriots couldn't capitalize. The Jets put together an impressive drive early in the fourth quarter, ending when Fitzpatrick lofted a pass for Enunwa over Butler in the right corner of the end zone. Enunwa went high in the air, grabbed the ball and landed hard on his rear. The initial call was incomplete but Jets coach Todd Bowles challenged and won his second challenge of the day, as it was ruled that his butt landed in bounds before his right elbow hit out of bounds. The touchdown with 10:17 left put the Jets ahead, 17-13. The play came on the same weekend four years after Mark Sanchez ran into the rear end of one of his offensive linemen in one of the most ignominious plays in recent NFL history. Enunwa killed the Patriots all day long, finishing with five catches on five targets and 109 yards, including his acrobatic go-ahead touchdown which was the result of a replay challenge from Jets head coach Todd Bowles. After Malcolm Mitchell nearly caught a touchdown pass from Brady on third down on the next drive, the Patriots settled for a 41-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal with 7:02 left to draw within one, 17-16. The Patriots forced a Jets punt and then Brady took the team down the field. The key play was a fourth-and-4 conversion at the Jets 37 with two and a half minutes left. Brady hit James White in the right flat with a pass good for exactly four yards to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Brady hit a wide-open Chris Hogan over the middle for 25 yards to the Jets 8 at the two-minute warning. The Patriots remain two games ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East. Miami beat San Francisco, 31-24, at home Sunday for its sixth straight win and now stands at 7-4 on the season. The Patriots return to the NFC West next Sunday when they host Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium in a 1 p.m. contest.